Trans activist and newly-minted Revlon face Gigi Gorgeous has been sharing her story since 2008 when, as a makeup-obsessed Mississauga high school student known then as Gregory Allan Lazzarato, she started uploading beauty tutorials to a relatively new platform called YouTube. It wasn’t long before she had found an adoring audience who loved not only her makeup how-to’s and fun lifestyle videos but also her message of acceptance that resonated within the LGBTQ community and beyond.
Over the years, Gigi shared countless deeply personal life moments with her audience, from coming out as a gay man to her transition to female and, most recently, her announcement that she is a lesbian, but her brand-new documentary This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous is undoubtedly her most raw and private offering yet. The film, directed by celebrated Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple of Shut Up & Sing fame and available on YouTube Red and Google Play now, is as unfiltered as it gets. Combining family footage from her childhood, her own pre- and post-transition footage and some shot by Kopple herself, the film is as much about Gigi’s own journey as it is about the support of her family—and her father, David, in particular.
We spoke to Gigi about This Is Everything being the first YouTube Red film ever to debut at Sundance Film Festival, what it was like working with an Academy Award-winning director and the fear felt by the LGBTQ community now that Donald Trump has taken office.
Why did you first start sharing videos on YouTube?
I was in Catholic high school, wearing a uniform everyday, and I was a very creative child so I took to the Internet. YouTube was just getting started—there were only a couple people on the website making videos—so I decided to join. I started doing beauty videos because that was what I was interested in and it transitioned into me doing lifestyle videos, silly videos with my friends and just sharing my life.
How did the documentary come to fruition?
When I began my transition at age 19, I started documenting everything with my camera—my travels and my journey— and at the end of my transition, years later, I had all of this footage. YouTube Red approached me about doing a film and I said “I have all of this footage already!”
How did you come to work with Barbara Kopple and what was that experience like?
When we decided to do the film, we were deciding whether we wanted to be given a director or choose a director ourselves, so we decided to go through a list of directors. I really wanted a woman to tell my story; I thought that was really important. We met with a few, but Barbara stuck out and working with her was unreal. I’ve always loved her work and I was so excited when she was able to take on the film. I was like “Let’s do it, let’s kill it.” She is a great storyteller and an amazing director, and she did really did tell my story to the capacity it needed to be told.
How involved were you in the editing or post-production?
A lot of the footage I gave was my footage, which they call found-footage in the industry, but a lot of it was footage my father gave, footage that Barbara shot, childhood footage and footage from me as a teenager when I was a diver. I was actually not involved in the editing process at all. I really wanted this to be an authentic documentary taken from the perspective of Barbara rather than the biased perspective of me. I’m such a control freak when it comes to editing, so I just decided to leave it all in her professional hands and it turned out for the best.
And how did it feel to surrender control of the editing? Did it require really letting go?
Absolutely—it was definitely hard. It was freeing, though, because just to give up control, especially to a director of her calibre, there’s so much trust that goes with that. I had to really just let her do her thing. This is her job, she’s been doing this for years, and she’s so successful at it, so I thought I’m in good hands, this is freeing, let it happen.
When you started shooting a lot of this footage, was it more of an exercise for yourself? Was there a point when you realized perhaps you did want to share it with people?
At the beginning, it definitely was more of an exercise for me, just to have something to watch with my family and friends. I used to have these get-togethers with my girlfriends and everyone at my house and we would watch what I shot. When I was done with my transition, I thought OK, we have a lot of hours of footage here, I think I could cut together a movie. The idea progressed from there.
How does it feel now to have footage that you used to watch with your inner circle—a lot of it very raw and private—out in public now?
It is surreal. I’m happy that it’s out there, especially given the time that we’re in right now. This is the ultimate story that I need to tell. It’s my story, my life, and having it done to this calibre—letting people in and seeing the process with my family—and not just shown to my inner circle is very important.
You mention the time we’re living in right now. Do you get the sense from your fans and followers, especially those in the LGBTQ communities, that they’re fearful?
I definitely get the sense that a lot of people within my community are scared. Having all the LGBTQ information removed from the official White House website and the ongoing bathroom laws are super upsetting. It’s disgusting and it’s justified that we are scared.
What advice do you have for them?
My advice would be that we all need to stick together, just as we’ve done over the years. It’s nothing new to us. Love will always win and no great accomplishment has ever happened without a little battle.
How are you coping?
I want to spread love and inspire more than ever and I want to take the voice that I’ve been given for this community to a new level. I think it’s what I’ve been set out to do and the documentary is just the beginning.
You have a history of promoting acceptance and belonging. Can you touch on how important anti-bullying is to you?
Bullying is something I feel everyone goes through but definitely my LGBTQ community goes through it a lot in school and when you’re growing up and everyone’s trying to figure out who they are. It’s really important to find a group of friends to surround yourself with that get you, that shower you in love rather than make you feel like a weirdo or an outsider, because we all know that feeling. The day and age we’re living in right now, people are more accepting than ever, which is great to see, but, of course, bullying still goes on. It’s important to know that you need to love yourself before anything and people that bully don’t love themselves. It’s about rising above that.
The support of your family, particularly your dad, is such a compelling part of the film. Can you talk a little bit about his personal evolution throughout your transition?
Barbara put it best when she said that he and I were transitioning together. And when I heard that for the first time, I was like “Wait, what does that even mean?” but it’s very true. He has come a long way and I’m so grateful to have the loving father that I have. It’s a great story for people who have supportive parents or who are supportive parents, or so they think, to see because he really did evolve as a father and I couldn’t be happier to have that all on film documented for people to watch.
You’ve been attending a lot of screenings for the film. How does it feel to interact with your fans?
When I get people coming up to me saying “You helped me come out” or “You changed my life,” it means the world to me every single time. This film is just another layer in the onion of our love. I literally just made that up [laughs].
What do you hope that people take away from the film?
I hope it gets to people that need to watch it: those who are a bit on the closed-minded side or people that need help with the LGBTQ community conversation, whether their son or daughter is transgender or gay and they’re having a problem with it, or they just need a story about love. It really is a story about aiming for the sky, chasing your dreams and achieving them by having people support you, not doing it alone, because family and friends are the most important. I hope at the end of the day people take away that the world does need more love, acceptance and understanding because those are the most powerful things that we have.
Gigi Gorgeous will be speaking on the WHO YOU ARE IS GORGEOUS panel on March 3 at Toronto’s Hot Docs Curious Minds weekend with Barbara Kopple, Scott Fisher and her father, David Lazzarato. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
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