To say Gia Gunn and her time on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars was “polarizing” is maybe to put it mildly.
From shade-filled confessionals to deliberately throwing competitors off their game, Gia Gunn came into All Stars 4 with guns ablaze and something to prove.
As the first contestant to compete on Drag Race while an openly trans woman, this was her opportunity to make Drag Race herstory, and regardless of what you think of this talented queen, it can’t be denied that she’s changed the game.
Gia Gunn sat down with Hornet following her elimination to discuss too-high expectations, coming back into the werkroom as an openly trans woman, and what she considers the biggest obstacles facing today’s trans community.
Here is our RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars elimination interview with Gia Gunn:
So many fans were glad to see you come back for All Stars 4. What made you want to take another crack at the crown?
I’m really looking forward to indulging more and capitalizing on the trans activism side, and I do believe that a big part of being active in the community also comes with and from visibility.
I also wanted to help bring visibility to a show that has so much influence in the world, and we have not seen any openly trans folks on the show. I saw it as my chance to break barriers and hopefully open doors for other people that deserve to be validated in this industry and to hopefully make it onto the show. For me, trans men and women have validated drag just as much as gay men have, since day one. I really [came on the show] with the hopes that it would have that happen.
What was it like coming back onto the show as an openly trans woman this time around?
It just felt real, you know? I felt good to be in my skin, and it felt good just being there. I was able to be there and know that I was an “empire” of sorts for people to come, and it felt super refreshing. It was an honor for me to be able to return but to be able to return in my authentic skin.
Were there any former contestants you were surprised you didn’t see when you walked into the werkroom?
Yeah, I definitely thought I would see maybe Kim Chi; I would have liked to see her. I thought maybe I would see Ongina from Season 1, maybe Nina Flowers, Miz Cracker. Those are a few I really would have loved to see.
Many are calling you the villain of All Stars 4. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?
I think it’s important for people to understand that there’s a difference between television personalities and real personalities and real people. I think I wouldn’t be doing myself any good to fully explain my personal life and fully who I am on a television show that really isn’t about that. It’s a television show about illusion, about fantasy, about transformation — and, up until now, about boys playing in wigs. Therefore, none of that seems too serious to me.
Also, I was there feeling a little bit cornered, a little bit defensive because I was only one out of 10 girls. I can honestly say that I think maybe some of my insecurities did get the best of me. Going back to the show definitely brought me back to a time that was not the most positive for me. It was not what I was expecting.
I do think that I am only human. Emotions arise, feelings come into play and, on top of it, there are cameras in front of you. Being very conscious about that and making some of the most legendary Drag Race television that there has been in history, I think I was very conscious and unapologetic of that, and it worked!
As you look at your All Stars experience in the rearview mirror, is there anything you think you might do differently? Maybe not a regret, but something you may soften or deliver differently?
No, I think it’s more on the backhand. I think I would have maybe planned a better Snatch Game character or maybe I would have chosen different fashions instead of listening to some of my other teammates when it came to what I was going to wear. I also wish I didn’t go in there with [pauses] such big expectations.
Much of the Drag Race fandom is young, and seeing a trans woman come into the werkroom could be life-changing for younger trans fans. What does it mean to you that you could be serving as an example to some of those younger fans?
I think it’s a great honor, and I feel the only word for it is “honored” — to be this icon and this inspiration to these people. All that I ever want in life is to give people faith and to give them something that I didn’t have growing up: a positive role model when it comes to being trans.
I think there’s a lot of negative examples of trans people in general, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little bad about how people are perceiving me, because I don’t want them to think that’s how all trans people are.
It sounds like there’s a struggle between the real Gia Gunn and how she’s portrayed or perceived.
For those who know me personally or those who have followed me since Season 6, they can see a difference between who I am on Drag Race and who I am with my everyday self. With that being said, I know there’s that small window of younger people who are getting to know me for the first time and may be seeing a trans person on television for the first time. It’s up to us as individuals to show people who we are and try to change some of the hate into positivity and love.
To me it’s just a challenge to be able to continue my journey, seek my truth and be unapologetic at the same time and just introduce myself as who I really am. Some may ask why I went onto Drag Race and did what I did — because at the end of the day, it’s a reality show about drama, shade and drag. For me, it was a way of me not losing who I am, but being there in my authentic skin was just enough.
For those who can differentiate between the two, they can understand that. For those who are misunderstanding who I am, I just encourage them to get to know me and follow my journey from this point on.
What inspires you to keep going and put your best foot forward as a trans activist?
I think there are a lot of youth not really being spoken to. I think there are so many drag queens who are great entertainers who are “gaggy” and fierce onstage but are not opening up their mouths and really speaking to people, really helping inspire people and showing that they care. [They’re not] standing up for what is right, providing inspiration and hope to those who may not have it.
For me, growing up as a very confused gay boy/drag queen, I did not have anyone that I could look up to that made sense to me. It was either a gorgeous showgirl that appeared as something I could never become, or as a crazy drag queen that I did not completely understand or identify with either.
What really drives me is the lack of education we have in the world and in the community. Also, the hate that is out there against trans people specifically. That really drives me to kind of break down barriers and set people straight. And, most importantly, educate people on who we are as human beings and show the world that we are talented, educated and have goals and love.
We have many positive things to contribute to the world, just as many as any cisgender man or woman does. It just so happens that we are different. With that difference, though, comes strength. I want to provide people with as much strength as I can provide knowing that there are a lot of people out there who do not have it.