Inclusivity Was Front Row at NYFW, Says Trans Makeup Star Gigi Gorgeous
Most fashion folks have mixed feelings about New York Fashion Week. It’s overcrowded and disorganized. The weather is somehow always bad. I’ve been bulldozed by multiple street style photographers attempting to get shots of influencers. So why do we do this? To get inspired. By the clothes, yes, but also people the people. Fashion has an uncanny ability to bring together a delightfully strange mix of creative individuals who are sharp, focused, and passionate. Like Gigi Gorgeous.
I met Gigi Gorgeous, a makeup tutorial vlogger, three years ago when we sat on a panel together at a beauty industry convention. When she walked on stage, the audience had the enthusiasm of me at a Spice Girls concert circa ’96. She was their goddess. Three years later, Gigi’s following has skyrocketed—she has 2.7 million on YouTube and deals with Crest, Pantene, and L'Oreal.
Lazzarato came out as transgender in a YouTube video she uploaded in December of 2013, saying, “We choose who we want to be/ There is a point in your life when you reach deep down who you want to be." She fully transitioned after her mother died in 2012, compelled by the tragedy to be true to who she is.
Lazzarato has been especially excited by this runway season, one of the first to take major strides toward gender inclusively and away from the binary breakdown of men's and women's fashion. For the first time, the CFDA's official fashion calendar key notes whether shows feature men's wear, women's wear, both, or unisex/non-binary clothes. Traditionally women's wear-focused shows cast male and female models, and androgynous pieces were abundant throughout the week. At Gypsy Sport, 10-year-old LGBTQ activist and self-proclaimed "drag kid" Desmond Napoles (also known as Desmond Is Amazing) stomped the runway. At Telfar, designer Telfar Clemens staged a concert instead of catwalk to showcase his unisex line. We spoke to Gigi Gorgeous about her front-row view of this increasingly gender fluid fashion week.
VIDEO: See All the Celebrities Sitting Front Row at New York Fashion Week
Is this your first NYFW? No! I started coming when Kendall Jenner just started modeling. I came for a sponsorship with Just Dance [a game series derived from Lady Gaga's song "Just Dance"] when I was probably 17 or 18. Then I missed a few years. It’s probably my third or fourth consecutive year.
The CFDA calendar added a new category this year: They marked shows as women’s, men’s, and gender non-binary, a step forward in an industry that's been widely criticized for its exclusivity. What was your reaction? I think visibility is key in our community, and I think telling your story like I did with my documentary and as I’ve seen so many other people do on Youtube—even a simple coming out video. I think every little aspect helps because what I do may not resonate with somebody. Maybe somebody else’s content will resonate. I think it’s all kind of an amalgam of the storytelling that’s brought us here, and I think that it’s much needed. I actually think it would be almost a little bit shady if [the CFDA] didn’t include that! Facebook has so many different labels—I saw they had like 50 or 60 different labels [In fact, Facebook leaves the option as "custom" so you can fill in whatever pronoun you want to be referred to by]—and I was like what?! I didn’t even know there were that many! But I think it’s beautiful and it’s time.
What does it feel like to be attending NYFW shows at a time when gender is so much a part of the runway conversation? It is really surreal. If I’m being completely real, I always feel like whenever I’m in really glamorous situations or attending some fancy party or speaking with somebody I look up to or something like that—for example, today, at the Badgley Mischka show, I sat beside J. Alexander, who I had met many times before, but he never ceases to amaze me. I grew up watching him on America’s Next Top Model. So even just me walking in and him saying “hello” is so surreal. I feel like I’m cheating the system—like, should I be here? Does anyone really know who I am? I feel like I’m committing a crime being at this fabulous event.
You’re definitely wearing ultra-fabulous clothes, like the bright cobalt blue jumpsuit you wore to the Bagdley Miscka show. It feels like I’m wearing a costume. I almost feel like a clown, in a way. But I feel like a lot of the looks that the designers put me in, I just feel like, ‘this is not me.’ But I love it. I look in the mirror and it’s still me.
Have you seen a change in fashion's inclusively? I see a change happening, especially with editorials in magazines that I see. I always loved them growing up. Me and my friends in high school would always look at them, and I feel like it’s come a very long way in maybe the last 10 years with the androgyny factor. And I love it. I personally love it when I look at a picture and I can’t tell if [I'm looking at] a male or a female. I think that’s really inspiring. I feel like because of my friends and because of my environment, I’m seeing more of it. Hari [Nef] is in Gucci. That’s amazing, and [I'm seeing] more of that.
Are you seeing a change in the professional opportunities that you’re getting? Definitely. I think that the more stories that are being told and the more representation and visibility that the community is getting, especially the transgender community, I see so much more work. Being the first transgender spokesperson for Revlon, I think it speaks volumes about their brand and their morals and integrity of where they want to go and what they see for the future. I used to steal my mom’s Revlon makeup when I was like 13. I think it won’t be anytime soon that “transgender” won’t be in the title of an article. Like, "transgender model," but that’s fine. I get asked that a lot actually. “Is [using labels like that] OK?” I love it. I think it’s a privilege to have “transgender” in front of my name. I love it. Don’t not announce it—I need it.
At the same time, do you feel like you hear certain things and think, "If someone says that one more time or asks me that question one more time…” Being transgender instantly puts this label of plastic surgery on you, and a lot of people think: Are you done yet? With getting your face done or getting sexual reassignment surgery or your breasts. I documented so much of it. But that was my transition. Some people don’t want it or don’t need it or don’t see it as necessary. The plastic surgery question—it was gender-confirming for me; it wasn’t cosmetic—so I think a lot of people feel like they can ask you that. And you don’t go around asking a cisgender person that, like, "Are you done with your plastic surgery?"
Back to NYFW, what shows have you been to so far? I’ve been to Badgley Mischka, Anna Sui, Dennis Basso, Libertine—it’s been a whirlwind. Badgley Mischka was absolutely stunning. We went backstage, and I asked both the designers, "How much are those dresses?" So tacky! They just both laughed. But, I could honestly see myself wearing something like that. Tonight is the Blonds. It’s kind of like the club scene, I feel, of New York. People put their nose up to shows like the Blonds, I feel. I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews, and I’m like, Are you joking me? How can you shade such an iconic brand?
So you're finding joy in the midst of seriousness, right? It’s also kind of contradictory. How are we going to take things so seriously but then also say you can do anything you want! You can create anything you want! Can we?