Gigi Lazzarato, better known as Gigi Gorgeous, always knew she wanted to be in a movie. She just never thought the movie would be about her.
The YouTube Red documentary This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, which premiered at Sundance, is the transgender YouTube star’s big leap to the silver screen where she bares all — literally. With the help of Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple ( American Dream; Harlan County, USA), the 24-year-old Toronto native gives her 2.5 million subscribers a behind-the-scenes look into a transition journey that took her from makeup tutorials (led by a teen boy named Gregory) to shopping for bras at Victoria’s Secret after breast surgery.
We spoke with Gigi about the most difficult parts of watching the film, how her perspective has changed since being denied entrance to Dubai, and what it was like not having control over the camera.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
You first launched your YouTube channel in 2008. For someone who's been sharing her life with the internet for nearly a decade, what makes this different from what you've already shown us?
This documentary is definitely a more real, raw, vulnerable look at my entire life with my family, my transition, my surgeries. Every aspect that I’ve hidden is in this film.
Was starring in a film always something you wanted to do?
Well, I always wanted to be in movies, but I never thought that in a million years there would be a documentary about my life. I started filming at the beginning of my transition and I just filmed for years after that. When I was done with my transition, I was kind of like, “Wow, I have so much footage here. I’d love to make a feature, because I don’t think anything like this has ever been done before.” So when YouTube Red came out, I thought it was only natural to go with them, and then we stumbled across Barbara Kopple.
You chose not to see the film until it premiered at Sundance. How did it feel to not have control over what would be shown or how you might be perceived?
It scared me a little, but I ended up loving it. It was so much fun just to have a surprise waiting for me. I knew Barbara was an amazing storyteller and that she could handle this much footage with her camera crew along with all the footage of my past years online and transition. I was definitely in good hands.
When you saw the film for the first time, were there any moments that were particularly difficult to watch?
To be completely honest with you, I definitely wish my ex-boyfriend didn’t make it in as much as he did because I’m now happily with my girlfriend, Nat.
The part that was most emotional for me was watching my mom [who passed away from cancer in 2012]. Anything regarding my mother is always hard for me. There were so many pictures [in the film] that I had never seen, and sharing the story about the day that I lost her was excruciating to watch.
One of the parts of the documentary that struck me the most was how incredibly progressive and supportive your family is. How do you think your journey would have been different had they not been?
I definitely would have been alone for a lot of it. I was very independent — as you saw in the film — I was ready to do everything by myself, even though my dad was telling me to my face that he wanted to be there for me. But I would have been lonely [if he hadn’t]. I don’t take that for granted one day.
Many people within the LGBTQ community are scared to be living under a Trump administration. Living in Los Angeles, are you experiencing any similar fears, and if so, what actions are you taking to overcome them?
Honestly, I think it’s completely just for everyone to be scared right now. I know I’m scared and there’s a lot to fear, but if we stick together, I think we can overcome anything. What I’m doing to try to help and make things better is putting this film out. It will educate a lot of people. If they watch this film, it will hopefully change a lot of people’s minds [about what it’s like to be transgender].
At the very end of the documentary, we saw a snippet of your story when you were traveling to Dubai last summer and were turned away. How did that affect you?
It’s really unfortunate that I couldn’t go to Dubai. I’ve heard great things, and the fact that they’re so backwards in that sense is really disappointing. That’s why I put them on blast on my social media. I truly felt disrespected and scared. But it was really a huge eye-opener for me. Nothing like that has happened since, but it definitely made me aware of my surroundings and that those [types of] things are possible.
In the film, you acknowledge that not everyone has things like an accepting family or money for surgery. What would you tell young LGBTQ people who might lack these kinds of resources?
I would tell them that family and love is the most important thing. Everyone’s transition looks differently. For my transition in particular, there were surgeries to be done. That’s not to say that every transgender person needs surgery — or anyone needs surgery, for that matter. I think a great majority of people who are getting surgeries don’t need it. They’re beautiful. They need to love themselves. But what I would say to these people who don’t have resources is that love is the answer. Loving yourself is the first step.
Watch This Is Everything now on YouTube Red.