RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars 4 eliminee Gia Gunn embraces villain drama: 'I was just creating good TV'
Gia Ichikawa — a proud trans woman who also participates in the art of drag — gave fans a front-row seat to the Gunn show across her three-episode arc on RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 4. Serving up a calculated, feather-ruffling throwback to classic reality-show villains of years past, Gia Gunn (Ichikawa’s performative persona) quickly and gleefully hit her mark as the spin-off series’ villain, butting heads with Farrah Moan, reading Trinity The Tuck’s plastic surgery to filth, and generally talking a load of blissful s— on her AS4 sisters. But Friday’s episode saw the season 6 alum skewering herself during the perennial Snatch Game challenge, in which her disastrous portrayal of Cardi B’s nail artist Jenny Bui catalyzed her descent into the Drag Race elimination abyss.
EW caught up with Gia shortly before Friday’s episode to discuss her decision to return to Drag Race despite her opposition to RuPaul’s March 2018 comments regarding trans women competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race (which the Emmy-winning host has since issued a statement of “regret” over), representing the transgender community, season 10 winner Aquaria’s Instagram shade, and her controversial portrayal on TV’s foremost LGBTQ-focused reality show. Read on for the full conversation, and tune in to the next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 4 Friday, Jan. 4, at 8 p.m. ET on VH1.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know you have some YouTube tea coming later today. Since this interview won’t post until Monday, I’m wondering if you can tease what that tea is?
GIA GUNN: I’m just clarifying the air and setting people straight. That’s all.
Who are you setting straight?
People that maybe don’t understand the difference between a TV personality and somebody’s actual, real-life personality. There are a lot of viewers misconstruing the difference because they don’t really know how TV works.
On social media you’ve suggested that the Gia we see on Drag Race isn’t necessarily the person you feel you are, and that you’re over being mistreated and disrespected — maybe even by some people on the show. What are people getting twisted?
Especially now, the viewers are so young and they take the show so seriously. They look up to a lot of us drag queens as signs of strength and inspiration, [and] it’s hard for people to realize how Hollywood really works, how reality TV works, and how some of us decide to differentiate who we are as people versus our personality, whether it be in drag or on television.
Do you blame the edit at all?
Absolutely not. I don’t blame the edit at all; I don’t blame anybody. I think everything in life you need to take 110 percent credit for. I step up and take full responsibility for my actions and everything I did and said. I want to remind people that it’s just drag and it’s not personal.
Were you playing into the part of the villain for the cameras and trying to instigate certain things — especially that moment with Farrah at the mirror?
I was just creating good TV, because that’s why I was cast. I played into whatever it is that came into my mind, because I feel that’s what reality TV is. Drag Race is a competition and a beauty pageant. It’s also very much still a reality show, and I feel that drama and over-the-top personality is always what stands out and what keeps people talking. In my eyes, I did my job and I feel good about it.
It’s a weird dynamic. If you look back at the history of reality TV, people like Tiffany “New York” Pollard on Flavor of Love instigated a lot of drama and people loved her for it, but they’re criticizing you for doing the same thing.
Now, the viewers watching Drag Race are 18, 19, and 20-year-olds who honestly believe what they see on TV, and they follow the queens so closely in their day-to-day life. People take it way too seriously. For me, it’s not that serious. Realistically I’m sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the show, which is something I think a lot of people aren’t doing, and it is what it is.… I can go to sleep happy knowing that I brought trans visibility to a show that needs it, whether it’s in my actions and speech or simply being visible and existing. I think people need to focus more on that than the [drama].… My [drag] persona and me as Gia Ichikawa are two different people. People who’ve followed my journey since season 6 have been able to see my growth as not only a drag queen and entertainer, but as a person. What’s happening now is I’m being introduced to a whole new demographic because season 6 was on Logo and All-Stars 4 is on VH1. The viewers are getting younger and younger, and they just don’t know any better.
The issue of representation might be another reason why people are critical of you, because they expect all representation to be positive. When they see deviation from that, in a playful or shady way that the show has been known for, it ruffles feathers.
RuPaul’s Drag Race isn’t a show about gender, and it’s certainly not a show about trans men or trans women. Going into All-Stars, I knew that very clearly. It’s very much still a show about drag. For those who want to see the more inspirational side of me and see what I’m actually made of and what I actually stand for, there’s a time and place for that. RuPaul’s Drag Race is a place to be a drag queen, to have fun, to be catty, to be shady, and to feed into the drama. If it wasn’t for the drama and shade, Drag Race would be so boring and people would be complaining about how underwhelming it is.
If you had issues with things RuPaul said and knew the show wasn’t about gender or trans representation, why did you return?
Because I was given a chance to finally represent a demographic that is underrepresented. I did it for my community and very little for myself.… All press is good press, and as long as people are talking about me, I’m happy. Sooner or later people will get to know me for the person that I am, and not what they see on television as pure entertainment. It should be pure enjoyment for people. It’s about laughing and being entertained. Everybody has a different style when it comes to entertaining, and what I choose to do on TV versus in everyday life or when I speak at universities and spaces that are about trans life and gender equality are two different scenarios.… Going into All-Stars was a chance for the world to see a trans woman of color on a show that has so much power in this world.
Why do you think RuPaul cast you?
It’s no secret that [RuPaul] made comments [about trans people] and then apologized for it. It’s only natural to reinforce the apology by bringing on people like myself and Sonique — and hopefully other trans people on future seasons of Drag Race — to reinforce what she apologized for. Whether it’s sincere on her part or not, I’m not exactly sure, but I think [Drag Race production company] World of Wonder probably realized this is an issue for them and something that we need to capitalize on. People were really upset in the trans community.… We were very upset when those comments were made, and we’re trying to clean some of that up and bring trans men and women into a more positive light than we already are.
Has the show lost some of its meaning to you, then?
Drag Race is the reason why I am the proud trans woman I am today. Is it currently still my reality? No. I don’t think RuPaul gives any of us this opportunity or this platform to forever be in debt of RuPaul’s Drag Race and never be able to move on and create our own brand and be our own empires. I’m thankful for Drag Race and everything that it’s done for so many people in the world, but I definitely am already moving on and looking forward to what I have and what I’m doing in my future. I can proudly say it probably doesn’t have a lot to do with drag.… Drag has always been a part of my life, but it’s definitely not my [daily] reality.
I also want to clarify the Aquaria situation, as she posted and deleted an Instagram story where she was criticizing your All-Stars 4 appearance. What’s up with that?
To be completely honest, I had no idea. I got a DM from her apologizing to me for things that she said. She simply stated, “I’m sorry, I spoke on things that I had no idea about,” and she apologized, and I said, “Ok, no problem.” I don’t follow the queens like that and I don’t feed into any negativity.… I have no idea what she was speaking of, but bless her and bless everybody else.
So you still love Farrah? Bless her, too?
Bless her, bless everybody! Life is too short to be holding grudges, and when it comes to Drag Race and drag queens, it’s just not that serious for me. If you’re not my personal friend… there are no emotional ties. For me it’s a TV show and it’s one big laugh.
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