By Reid Cammack
“Well, what you wanna do is not necessarily what you’re gonna do.” “What privilege!” “I’m feeling my oats. Let me feel my oats!” There’s no denying that Gia Gunn is a catchphrase machine. In her time on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 6 and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season 4, she gave us more quick, witty one-liners that any fan could ever hope for. But now that she’s done with her run on Drag Race, Gunn is shifting her focus from reality TV to shining a light on the trans community this Pride season.
For her new capsule collection with Kollectin, Gunn is donating 10% of all proceeds to the Trans Wellness Center. The colorful jewelry line, rightfully named Neon Vice, shows off Gunn’s love of glam fashion with the use of mixed materials in large statement pieces. Her jewelry is as bold as her personality. It’s easy to see why Gunn, the HBIC herself, has a bracelet/necklace/earring set named “HBIC.”
Beyond donating to the Trans Wellness Center and appearing with them at RuPaul’s DragCon, Gunn has also been using her large social media presence to boost the visibility of the trans community and call out members of the queer community who aren’t showing their trans brothers and sisters the respect they deserve.
We talked with Gunn right before she invaded San Francisco for Pride weekend and discussed how to support our local trans community, her new jewelry line and her special collaboration with Lyft for the SF Pride parade.
I know Pride is a busy time for a lot of drag entertainers, so how’s your Pride month going so far?
It’s going great. Thank you. I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities and I think my main goal this Pride is just to remind our community to also celebrate your trans community and not forget about it being all inclusive.
I saw you on Instagram yesterday and you were asking the LGB community to step up and support the trans community. I know you don’t have all the answers for every situation, but what are some ways members of the LGB community can step up and support the trans community?
I think really take the time out to educate yourself on what it means to be a trans person and actually take some action too. Maybe go to some of the marches. Maybe go to some of the trans organizations and just show support. Inquire about events or things they have going on that people outside of the trans community can help with.
I know of some (cisgender) male trans activists that are quite active in the community and are actually creating a lot of change for the community and I think that’s just so encouraging. They’re so inspiring to me. There’s a celebrity hairstylist here in LA named Andrew Fitzsimons, who is a hairstylist for the Kardashians and obviously quite successful, but on his off time he has chosen to create a cosmetic donation program for the Trans Wellness Center. He encourages his celebrity clients and everybody around him to donate beauty products to the trans organization. I think it’s just small things like that. But you know, he’s not trans. I think people think, “Oh, well because I’m not trans or I don’t know anything about that lifestyle, then I can’t offer any help or I’m not of any use. I can’t enter those spaces, because I’m not knowledgeable enough.” Living is learning and if you’re really looking to support a demographic of people, reposting things online and just verbally expressing them isn’t enough.
I really liked your Hey Qween interview last month.
Oh, thank you.
You talked really candidly about your journey into educating yourself to become a better activist and learning about social issues that affect the queer community. With your journey, where did you find a good starting off point for researching those things? If someone wanted to start researching to become more educated, where would you suggest they start?
Well, it’s a good question. I honestly don’t think that we have enough resources out there. Definitely not enough. No resources that we can even point each other in the direction to go to. I know there’s a bunch of stuff online. There’s a whole bunch of stuff we can read on social media. Honestly, we live in an Instagram world. Even just following some of these hashtags like #translivesmatter… Just having that pop up in your feed, just having it be a little more present in your everyday life will help link you. These people post articles. They post other links. They post other people’s GoFundMes to help fund their surgeries. That’s the time that we live in right now and unfortunately I just don’t think enough people are sharing enough information on the more positive side of trans issues. I think we’re seeing all of the murders and all of the deaths and all of the more negative and bad things. There’s a happy medium there…
I need to take my own piece of advice and dive deeper into my community here in LA and just start to utilize the resources that are out there for us… We don’t know about these things, because they’re not out there enough. One of my main goals as a trans person with a platform is to also highlight these organizations and give them exposure. Whether they be at DragCon or be online, events in person that I can put my name and my following on and attract a bigger audience to come and find out about these wonderful things. That is a goal of mine. You have to make these easy for people.
This DragCon LA, I brought the Trans Wellness Center to DragCon, so that they were there in front of everybody’s face. They were there, able to answer questions, shake hands and just be present… When you have people in person and you bring the services to the people, it encourages people more and they won’t feel so scared, because I think a lot of people feel intimidated or scared to go into some of these spaces.
You mentioned how you brought the Trans Wellness Center to DragCon and I know you’re donating 10% of each sale for your new jewelry line to the Trans Wellness Center. So how did you get started working with them and taking them to DragCon?
I discovered them through Andrew Fitzsimons. He actually hired me to perform at their cosmetic donation drive that they had last year. That’s when I first met Janet Mock, Isis King, Wendi Miyake – these trans woman with such power. I was new here in LA and I didn’t know many other trans people so that’s what really kicked off the relationship. And then just from following Andrew online, I saw the Trans Wellness Center and I’m like, “What is this?” Rarely do we ever see organizations that are specifically for trans folks, versus primarily LGBT. So that really stood out to me and I started to read up on that.
I wanted to work closely with them someway, somehow. We weren’t even supposed to do DragCon. First, I just went by to donate some cosmetics and then I sat down with Marianna, which is the program coordinator there, and Johanna, which is another girl that works there. We were just talking and I was like, “I want to get more involved with the trans community. How can I get involved? I know you guys have several programs here that you do. How can I donate my time? How can I come in and help out and just kind of enjoy your guy’s services, and maybe even possibly utilize.
So my first visit to the Trans Wellness Center was very positive and our meeting went very well. One thing just led to another and they said, “We’re actually going to be at DragCon this year.” And I said, “Why don’t we just team up? Why don’t I have you at my booth so that we can give maximum exposure to you guys and really come together as a community?” Cause it’s a lot of work to do it alone… All in all, it was a really great experience for both of us. We got a lot of great, great, positive feedback from people that attended DragCon. I feel really, really great.
Now I’m working with them in donating the 10% per sale for my new jewelry line, just to kind of keep it going. Kollectin wanted to help support the community, especially during Pride. They’re actually the ones that asked for an organization. Because I already had this ongoing relationship with the Trans Wellness Center, I decided to do this with them again. But I do look forward to branching out and trying to work with different organizations and different trans groups. Just so we can spread the awareness and so I can equally use my platform for all different organizations.
That’s awesome that Kollectin was the one to suggest donating to an organization.
They are very supportive. They haven’t necessarily worked with too closely with somebody from the LGBT community. I’m kinda their first. They just really want to give maximum support.
How did your collaboration on your jewelry line with them come about?
So I actually have a social media agent who gets me brand deals and collaborations. She introduced me to Kollectin and after several meetings we decided to collaborate and give it a try. In a nutshell, what they’re doing is giving influencers a platform to create and curate their own online boutique without having to have the back end and all the headaches of the business side. It’s quite cool what they’re doing. I see it being quite beneficial even for trans people. A lot of trans people aren’t able to get up and get hired like everybody else. I think it’s more businesses like Kollectin that create these systems where people can sell merchandise, but don’t need the huge overhead or the huge investment. I really see them growing and hopefully being able to employ or benefit another trans person out there that’s having difficulty in getting employed.
Do you have a favorite piece from your collection? Some of your pieces give me a lot of neon, Lisa Frank vibes.
My favorite piece is the HBIC set. They’re just big and bold. We have a matching earring set with the necklace and the bracelet. I like it because it combines different elements that we don’t always see together, which is rhinestones with clear, resin vibes. Even some metal on there too. I love all those different elements but it’s hard for them always to come together. With the HBIC stuff, it’s really cute in the way they put it all together. For me, that’s definitely my personal favorite. We have it in neon green and neon pink. It comes in two different colors.
I also really love the Transpired hair pins, just because they were specifically picked for celebrating trans pride and obviously with the name Transpired, it’s just a little bit of a reminder. Again, remind people, especially this Pride season, to not forget about your trans community.
You have a really exciting weekend coming up with SF Pride.
Yes! I’m actually so excited. It’s my first.. well my second SF Pride… but first SF Pride in this body and in this truth. I’m actually really quite excited. I’m coming down with my boyfriend. It will be his very first Pride festival in general. We’re really looking forward to coming down and introducing him to my trans friends there and also their partners. Over here in LA, we have a little bit of a struggle with finding other couples that are like us. I really look forward to going down there and introducing him to this new world and kind of experiencing it together. And of course in SF, there’s so much community there and so much history. So many great vibes. And obviously with it being the celebration of 50 years, I couldn’t think of a better place to be other than San Francisco, so we’re really quite excited.
On Saturday you’re going to be with T-Mobile for their “vogue off” contest and on Sunday you’re going to be with Lyft on their float. Lyft was teasing that you have a very special performance for us. Can you give us a little hint for what you’ll be doing or what you’ll be wearing?
Yes, so I’m going to be giving a very cute, like Ariana Grande, princess vibe. I have custom Lyft accessories that are being made. So I’m really trying to drive home the whole Lyft thing, because I actually take Lyft all the time. I obviously support them because they get me home safe. I also just appreciate what they’re doing in terms of trying to support trans people as well. From what I understand, they’re going through some things on the back end in terms of training some of their people in their office. Which I think is super necessary nowadays, especially with people in customer service.
Is there anything else we should be watching for with Gia Gunn? Anything exciting coming up?
I’m really looking forward to starting an online series. I’m going to be interviewing other trans people around the world and other trans allies. And getting other peoples stories out there and introducing these people that have inspired me, that maybe the world doesn’t know about yet. You asked me how I found out about the Trans Wellness Center. I want to get people like Andrew and Isis and my drag mom. Just these really beautiful people that I’ve encountered in my life that may not have been on television or have super big names, but are very meaningful people and deserve for the world to hear their story and to know about them. I know that one big way that I can use my platform to really help other people, is by doing that.
I want everyone to look out for my new online content that will be coming out soon. Just continuing to share my story and really trying to connect with my community. Far beyond Instagram. Far beyond Drag Race. Not exactly sure what that’s looking like yet, but I know for sure that it’s going to start that online series. Starting there in terms of connecting and showing people a little more of who I am as a person, versus a drag queen or an entertainer. I do think there are a lot of similarities, but there are also some differences and I just want to show people that. I want to help other people that are working so hard to gain exposure and gain visibility.
Catch Gia Gunn at SF Pride all weekend
T-Mobile Pride Kick Off | Drag Queen “Vogue Off” Contest
Sat, June 29 | 2pm
T-Mobile San Francisco Signature Store | 1 Stockton Street
SF Pride Parade | Performing on the Lyft float
Sun, Jun 30