Hi, did you know that Gigi Goode is better than you? That was a reference to her opening line in the Droop commercial by the way, so don’t get mad. But statistically speaking… The 22-year-old performer, birth name Samuel Geggie, made history on the 12th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race earlier this year when she became the third performer to win four maxi-challenges on a regular season after Sharon Needles and Shea Coulee. Although she didn’t take home the crown, Gigi cemented herself as one of the fiercest queens to ever sashay into the werkroom thanks to her high-fashion runways and unconventional style of comedy – take her bonkers impersonation of Maria the Robot, for example. (Fun fact: Gigi became the first queen to win Snatch Game, the Ball Challenge and the Rusical in one season.) “I could not be any happier with how it all went down,” Gigi tells me over Zoom from her surprisingly nonchalant childhood bedroom in Woodstock, Illinois. “Nearly every single concept was mine and mine alone… I’m very satisfied with my performance.”
My drag, ultimately, is to put a smile on somebody’s face. I want to fall on my ass, eat my hair or just do something really stupid.
We’re talking with Gigi one day before she reunites with her season 12 sisters Crystal Methyd and Jaida Essence Hall for Drive N Drag, a one-of-a-kind, socially-distanced drive-in tour with several fan-favourites from the Emmy-winning series – including Asia O’Hara, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo and Yvie Oddly. It’s the first time she’s seen Crystal, the other half of Crygi – the most championed drag couple in recent memory – and Jaida, who ultimately “LOOK OVER THERE!” beat her to the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar and the hundred-thousand doollahz cash prize. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gigi – and the rest of the season 12 contestants – haven’t been afforded the usual post-Drag Race rollout. Following the show’s finale each year, it’s tradition for the competitors to embark on worldwide tours and to prep their stalls and merch for the queer event of the year (DragCon), all before launching solo careers of their own; whether that’s in the world of fashion, music, television or film. Instead, she’s been perched on her sofa, like the rest of us, in her PJs. But unlike most of us (we don’t want to make assumptions), she’s been doing it in and out of drag. “I’ve hardly worn heels, because I’ve only had to do drag from the chest up!” laughs Gigi. “It feels like I haven’t done drag for four months when in reality, I haven’t done drag from the waist down in four months.”
The spread of the virus has resulted in queer venues around the globe being shut down, as well as Drag Race’s flagship convention, posing a significant threat to the drag community’s source of income. To combat this and ensure their livelihoods, countless drag entertainers have been flexing their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent for virtual extravaganzas, giving fans an opportunity to see their favourite queens from the comfort of their living rooms. While Gigi loves putting on a spectacle for her fans and the artistic freedom that comes with the format, there’s one specific part that she misses the most – being in front of a live audience. Her show with Crystal and Jaida will be the first time she’s performed to a crowd since the season 12 premiere all the way back in February. “When I got cast for the show, one of the first things I thought about was that moment in front of an audience,” admits Gigi. “Since being on the show, I have not heard applause, which is my favourite part of drag. I rely so much on audience interaction when I’m performing because I’m not a dancing diva. I don’t pull all those stunts!” True, she’s not a Kennedy Davenport-esque dancer, as you saw from her kooky Starships showdown against Widow Von’Du, as well as her genius lip-sync to A-Ha’s Take on Me in the finale. While she’s not much of a kicker or flipper, Gigi proved that she had several other tricks in her repertoire. Besides storming the runway each week, she subverted expectations for all of the ‘she’s just a fashion queen!’ naysayers with her comedic prowress in Gay’s Anatomy and her aforementioned Snatch Game, and blew away guest star Nicki Minaj with her clever wordplay on 2020’s hottest new rap anthem, I’m That Bitch. She also won both Rusicals. When we ask Gigi if it was her aim to break out of the ‘fashion queen’ label, a label that receives unnecessary contempt in relation to the show – and drag in general – she hesitates.
If I were caught sending any kind of hate, to anybody for any reason, my mother would dig a hole in the backyard and bury me for three days to teach me a lesson
“Yes… and no. No, because I love being a fashion queen and fashion is my window into the world,” Gigi begins. “It’s how I love to be presented. I want to be a model. And yes, because when I’m performing in LA at little dive bars in Mickey’s or West Hollywood, I come out looking very poised and then I shut that shit down instantly. I will lay down on the floor or hop on someone’s back and make them run around the club. I just really believe in not taking drag too seriously. It’s supposed to be fun and my drag, ultimately, is to put a smile on somebody’s face. I want to fall on my ass, eat my hair or just do something really stupid.” She adds: “Before I walked into the werkroom, I knew that I would be labelled as the fashion girl and I was excited to show that there’s a way to break categories that come with drag queens. I feel like my season broke a lot of those barriers.”
Conversation quickly turns to how Gigi was perceived on the show. Despite high satisfaction with her performance, she’s “semi-uncomfortable” with coming across as – in her words – “cocky”, using her opening line in the Droop commercial as an example. As is the case with the queens each season, she has been inundated with hateful comments from so-called ‘fans’ of the series about her on-screen behaviour, which she expected. As a hardcore fan of the show, she’s witnessed the abuse previous contestants have endured on social media. Gigi knew it came with the territory. What she didn’t expect, however, was for her mother, Kristi, to be a target too. “When I came back from filming, my mom really dove head-first into the world of drag and got a Reddit account,” she explains. “She would type in my name and send me every single thing that anyone said about me, positive and negative, and it came to a point where I had to be like, ‘Mom, stop. I don’t need to see this. You don’t need to see this.’ The other day, she got a comment off someone saying, ‘You’re such a horrible mother for raising this drag queen,’ which is just crazy to me. Why would you say that to someone? You can think that. That’s fine, but I feel like people nowadays have realised they can say what they want without repercussions. If I were caught sending any kind of hate, to anybody for any reason, my mother would dig a hole in the backyard and bury me for three days to teach me a lesson.”
RuPaul has said that Drag Race has been bringing families together since 2009 and honestly, if I weren’t on Drag Race, I don’t know if I would be talking to my father. I don’t know if my brothers would have any interest in my life
During her Drag Race stint, Gigi continuously praised her mother, an experienced fashion and interior designer, for teaching her how to sew and craft looks (they collaborated on all of the incredible pieces she wore on the show). Gigi once said that she saw her drag ‘going to Vogue’ and thanks to Kristi, it happened earlier this year. Ever since, the seamstress has been in high demand. Several other Drag Race alumni have directly contacted her to construct looks and replicate her accomplishments with Gigi, including Michelle Visage, to which Kristi simply replied, ‘No thanks.’ “She has no interest in making any money or making anything for anybody else,” the queen explains. Their success resulted in “conversations” within her household, specifically between her father and older brothers. “RuPaul has said that Drag Race has been bringing families together since 2009 and honestly, if I weren’t on Drag Race, I don’t know if I would be talking to my father. I don’t know if my brothers would have any interest in my life.” Delving deeper into their personal struggles, Gigi describes her relationship with her father as “shaky” due to his religious upbringing and “closed-minded” sense of self, which came as a shock considering his brother, who was openly gay, introduced her to LGBTQ+ culture – as well as RuPaul. “It’s really weird. He said some harmful things to me when I came out, to a very impressionable, young 12-year-old boy who would believe anything,” admits Gigi. Now, that’s changed. “Since being on Drag Race, he’s understood and watched and learned how much joy it brings me and other people, and now he understands that it is a viable source of income,” she says with content. “I’ve finally heard the words, ‘I’m proud of you,’ which is something I’ve never heard him say to me. Going from my mom having to let him know when I’m coming up the basement stairs in drag to go to a show so that he can leave the room and not have to see me, to him sitting a viewing party wearing a Gigi t-shirt – and giving me full support – is crazy. And my brothers are now superfans of me. It really has brought my family so much closer together.”
Alongside her maxi-challenge wins, Gigi also made history for the show when she came out as gender-fluid, becoming the first contestant to do so while competing. Shortly after conquering the Snatch Game as Maria the Robot, she confided in Jaida about her gender identity, admitting that embodying an android was a struggle because she relies on looking feminine in drag. In her confessional, she further explained that she’s “always teetered between male and female” and that she’s “both” and “neither”. Reflecting fondly on the moment, Gigi says she remembers “exactly how I was feeling” at the time, describing it as an epiphany, of sorts. “My entire life, I have never felt the need to put a label on my gender, my identity or my orientation. It’s never been something that’s important to me, but I knew it was important to other people. Sitting in that confessional room and having that conversation, it was very strange because it was not something that I felt like I needed to address. I was Sam. I was Gigi. I was whatever. I still feel that way.” Her confession attracted praise from fans and fellow contestants including Drag Race UK star Divina De Campo, who said it was important “to show that there are there are other ways of existing” to the cis fanbase. “I got a lot of messages from people thanking me for coming out and saying something like that on such a big platform,” continues Gigi, “because I think for a long time, gender fluidity and the whole gender binary has always been very invalidated, especially to people outside the queer community. I never thought it was that big of a deal, and for me it wasn’t. But for other people who are struggling with that, it is a big deal, because they don’t have the freedom that I had growing up to just be whatever they wanted to be. It was very powerful.”
I’ve realised that, with having this platform and just saying anything, there’s a big chance that a lot of these followers are 13-year-olds whose moms may be Karen
Unsurprisingly, Gigi recently hit the one million mark on Instagram, joining an elite group of past competitors such as Adore Delano, Bianca Del Rio, Bob the Drag Queen, Jinkx Monsoon, Manila Luzon, Naomi Smalls, Shangela and Yvie Oddly, among others. While it was cause for celebration for Gigi, as it was the moment her family finally grasped the impact of Drag Race, it was also a moment of realisation. Not only has she been catapulted to success on the biggest drag platform in the world, and touted by many publications as a ‘star on the rise’ in the fashion industry, she’s now an influential voice for an unprecedented number of people. In May, amidst the protests for Black Lives Matter and the growing concerns over COVID-19, Gigi issued a statement on Twitter, informing her followers that she “finds it difficult to speak on issues like this eloquently” because she doesn’t consider herself “qualified to contribute to the conversation,” adding: “However, my anxiety can’t excuse willful ignorance.” When I ask about the tweet, she’s more than happy to explain. “I realised that I was not very proactive in learning about things that were going on in the world for a very long time, simply because I was in this bubble where I didn’t have to worry about those things,” she says with confidence. “I’ve realised that, with having this platform and just saying anything, there’s a big chance that a lot of these followers are 13-year-olds whose moms may be Karen, you know? If you see someone you’re following, really speaking about these issues, odds are they’re going to go to their parents with these issues and change can be made in a really impactful way. If you have a million followers, why not use that to inform or to spread awareness or share a link to donate something that potentially a million people could donate money to?” If you scroll down Gigi’s social media, she’s been doing exactly that, whether it’s speaking up for the Black trans community or demanding that “all cops should be required to have at LEAST a masters degree in criminal justice/law enforcement.”
With this newfound confidence, Gigi plans to “take over the world”. How she plans to do that in the middle of a global pandemic, she’s not entirely sure, but she’s determined. “That’s kind of the main goal,” she jokes. What about All Stars? I have to ask, right? “I want to do All Stars, but only after my drag has evolved and changed. I don’t want to do All Stars 6 and I’m probably not going to do All Stars 7. I want to wait until I’m a different drag queen.” Fine with us, because the eighth season will premiere in six months at this rate. Anyway, she doesn’t need it. Before we sashay away from the Zoom call, Gigi teases some “incredible projects” in the near future, projects that she “legally cannot talk about because they are childhood dreams come true.” What that could be, I have no idea. As I stated earlier, Gigi’s talent isn’t limited to the runway, so for all we know she could be starring as Madonna in an upcoming biopic, featuring on Nicki Minaj’s album or just taking another trip with Gary on Brimstone Airways’ flight 666 non-stop to Hell. Whatever the future holds for Gigi Goode, we’re on board.