Entertainment

Drag Race Diva Turns A Hunk Into a Mega-Kween

As Gia Gunn tells Kyle Krieger: "Drag isn’t just about dressing up as a girl. Drag is about being fierce."

For many fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the Chicago native Gia Gunn will always be best known for her dramatic entrance announcement. “Just got off the boat. You know, a little trip from Asia. Just landed like fresh tilapia,” the season six contestant excitedly proclaimed as she sashayed into the workroom, slamming down a giant bag made of hula-hoops in the process.

That proclamation would go on to define the queen for the remainder of her stint in the competition; she was quickly grouped in with the “fishy” queens – a term used to describe drag queens who embrace an ostensibly impossible feminine aesthetic, one that could sometimes even be mistaken for cisgender womanhood. While some of her fellow competitors that season may have favored clubkid extravagance or genderfuckery, Gia could always be counted on to go for the high-femme glamour. Her ability to perform “realness” was a driving force of her initial success on the show, helping to continually elicit positive feedback from the judges.

On the other hand, Kyle Krieger, a Los Angeles-based model, hairstylist, and popular YouTube personality known for covering everything from healthy living to trans allyship, has spent his life trying to hide his more feminine traits. Growing up, he struggled with internalized homophobia and, in response to bullying he faced from peers, took to drinking as a coping mechanism for the shame he felt. But now, more than ten years after he got sober, it’s hard to imagine him ever being that victim. Standing at around six feet with bulging muscles covered in tattoos, and a perfectly angular face that sports a well-tended beard, he is an arresting figure of brute masculinity. One needs only a peek at Kyle’s Instagram, which boasts over one million followers, to see how comfortable he has become with showing it all off.

But on a typically sunny Thursday in L.A., when Kyle met up with Gia to get a full drag makeover, he prepared to throw all of that masculine performance away. Kyle had agreed to shave his face and his chest, and as the contour piled on, found himself confronting his own reluctance to embrace his feminine side.

Photo by Alyson Aliano

At least he had Gia there to coach him through the process — and in many ways, there was no one better to go down this path with. The queen, who came out as a trans woman earlier this year in honor of International Transgender Day of Visibility, represented the perfect foil for Kyle, egging him on like a true, proud drag mother.

But Gia’s identity as a trans drag queen comes with its own set of complications, as the rapidly-increasing visibility of trans and gender-nonconforming people has reignited a previously dormant debate. Now, as these communities continue to fight for basic rights and equality under the law, there has been a more openly critical analysis on the entire idea of drag and the potential transmisogyny of “female impersonation” by cisgender gay men. RuPaul’s Drag Race, in particular, is not exempt from this criticism in fact, it has arguably played a central role. Prior to its seventh season, every episode of the popular series began with an announcement that revealed the challenge for the week. “Oooh girl, you’ve got she-mail,” Ru used to coo, using the transphobic slur as a pun. After a number of trans women came out in protest of the message, it was finally pulled from the segment. In its place now is the much more palatable, “She done already done had herses!”

But while some trans women object to the practice of drag altogether, Gia actually cites the art as pivotal to her eventual discovery of herself. “I found my gender identity, who I am, through the art of drag,” she says. And luckily, the show seems to be finally catching up. In its most recent season, the producers cast their first out-and-proud trans drag queen, Peppermint, who would go on to finish in second place during the legendary finale. Though tensions between the drag and trans communities can run high, Peppermint allowed viewers to see that many members of the drag community are open and supportive of trans women thriving in the industry. Gia’s thoughts on coming out as trans after already establishing herself as a drag queen echo this sentiment; not only did she feel personally empowered through the process of coming out, but she’s also found that she is still just as embraced with love and support as she was before.

Photo by Alyson Aliano

At the beginning of the makeover process, Kyle confided that the prospect of doing drag made him uncomfortable. Though he dabbled in the art form alone in the privacy of his own home, he had avoided doing anything publicly. For Kyle, the idea of performing femininity posed a direct threat to the outer masculinity he has invested so much into cultivating. In response to Kyle’s admission, Gia explained that drag can be a transformative experience for all — expectations of gender and sexuality be damned.

By the time Kyle saw himself at makeover’s end — clean-shaven with a fully beat face, standing tall in a floor-length black ball gown, dripping in costume jewelry, and topped off with an impeccably coiffed blonde wig — it was clear he could feel that transformative power as well. If even only for a few hours, Kyle had allowed himself to shed the exhausting pretensions of performed masculinity, opting instead to embrace the beauty of his femininity in the moment. As Gia Gunn told him, drag isn’t just about “dressing up as a girl.” No. “Drag is about being fierce.”

Michael Cuby has always been a social media addict, but is now finally putting his vice to good use as the Community Manager for themHe is also a writer whose work has appeared in PAPER, Teen Vogue, VICE, and Flavorwire.

Original Article – Them

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