Gigi Gorgeous narrated her transgender transition as it happened online. Now she’s ready to show it, too.
The Canadian YouTube star, with 2.2 million people subscribed to her channel, is best known today for her confessional video blogs, make-up tutorials with celebs like Kylie Jenner, and deadpan comedy riffs on beauty, fashion and culture. But fans who have followed her from early video posts in 2008 watched her morph from homosexual male Gregory to Gigi, one of the first transgender personalities to publicly document the change.
“First and foremost, she doesn’t hold anything back,” said Adam Wescott, a partner and co-founder of Select Management Group, and someone who has worked with her since 2012. “We’ve seen that as long as her channel has existed.”
But she didn’t put everything on full display.
Although Gigi armed herself with her video camera throughout her transition, the chronicles of the most raw portions — the surgeries, family moments — she kept to herself. That changes this year, when a documentary about her transition will premiere on YouTube Red, the subscription arm of Google’s massive video site. The film, which doesn’t yet have a title or release date, will combine those private video with footage of her childhood and present-day reflections.
Gigi sat down with TheWrap for a Digital Star Pop Quiz, discussing the coming documentary, differences between traditional and digital celebrities, and her political crush (hint: it’s definitely not Donald Trump). The following is an edited Q&A.
TheWrap: A documentary about your transition seems like it’s both intensely personal but also a rare time you’re not the one in the director seat, so to speak — how is this different from what you’ve done before?
Gigi Gorgeous: It’s definitely a very, very different side of me, a complete 180. Like anyone online with an Instagram account, you only put your best foot forward. But this documentary reveals everything — the good, the bad, the ugly, the happy. A lot of people haven’t seen that side of me. I’m very nervous about that.
TheWrap: What made you feel ready to show those sides of yourself?
Gigi Gorgeous: I’ve been so open on YouTube, and that helped me grow. But when I transitioned four years ago, I was a little bit more standoffish. I’ve drawn a pretty defined line where my personal life ends and my social media career begins.
It just took time. That footage was not meant to show anybody, it was just for myself and my family and friends. But as time went by, I was feeling ready creatively. And I thought it could be such an educational and powerful story. It’s been years in the making.
TheWrap: Shows like “Transparent” and “Orange Is the New Black” and personalities like Caitlyn Jenner have raised the pop-culture prominence of transgender issues. Did that influence your willingness to open up?
Gigi Gorgeous: The movement is really really growing, with a lot of conversation in the mainstream. But I feel like where I stand, online, people are looking for inspiration and a support system. The people who watch me are giving me instant feedback, it’s not like looking at an icon.
TheWrap: Do you consider yourself a celebrity?
Gigi Gorgeous: No, I don’t. I’m just Gigi from the block. It’s because my relationship with my fans, it’s super close. When you’re talking to your fans such an intimate level so frequently, there’s no question that they’re going to become more connected and attached to you, just as you are to them.
I was at a party with a roomful of celebrities, and I was talking to an actress I’d just met. This group of girls come up, and they were screaming, but we just ended up talking. They didn’t say anything to the traditional actress because they didn’t know what to say. With me, the conversation is always open. When you’re sharing most of your life, your fans feel more like your friends.
It’s something I love. I hate the chi-chi celebrity “don’t talk to me” attitude.
TheWrap: Is it hard to be that open but also separate your public life from your private life?
Gigi Gorgeous: You would think it would be hard, but I’ve been doing it for a long time. Things I like to keep private are family or relationships — the things that people can use to hurt you. I look out for my happiness a lot, and people aren’t the nicest sometimes.
TheWrap: Being transgender, you’re more exposed to trolls, people who exploit the anonymous nature of the Internet to lodge particularly vicious attacks. How do you cope?
Gigi Gorgeous: Wherever you go online, every single corner, there’s so much hate where there’s positivity. I have a really thick skin. There’s only so many things people can say to you, it just gets old. But of course, things sting every now and then.
TheWrap: As your documentary shares parts of your life that you previously kept private, does that make you more vulnerable?
Gigi Gorgeous: I never take on a project that doesn’t scare me a little bit, and this one scares me a lot. There’s a new phase of vulnerability, but that’s what helps me keep growing.
TheWrap: Are you following the U.S. presidential race?
Gigi Gorgeous: I’m actually not at all! But if Donald Trump wins, I’m moving to back to Canada.
TheWrap: On the flip side, everybody seem to have a crush on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — do you?
Gigi Gorgeous: Oh, I love him, he’s such a sweetheart. I have a little crush on him too.