"I would love to say that I am the 'coy Asian girl,' but it's probably more the'aggressive Asian girl'," said Gia Gunn, 23, a resident of Rogers Park, when asked to describe her character on the sixth season of RuPaul's Drag Race premiering February 24th. "I'm in character 24/7. I am the same personality in and out [of] drag," added Gunn, also known as Scott ( Scotty ) Ichikawa.
Rumor has it the recently crowned Miss Roscoe's 2014 Queen of all Queens is something of a sharp-shooter when competing for the coveted title of "America's Next Drag Superstar," but the Windy City Times is anything but Gunn-shy when it comes to finding the T. During a recent phone interview, Gunn revealed the secret to her success ( invest money in your drag ), the details behind signing with Shangela's entertainment management company, and why drag tutorials on YouTube are for basic bitches only.
Windy City Times: RuPaul has said season six is the "most outrageous and sickening cast to date" and that she is "quite frankly scared of these queens." If RuPaul is scared of this groupthen I am running for cover!
Gia Gunn: [Laughs] It is a great cast, although there were a lot of things stirred up [this season] and a lot of great things brought to the table. The cast is super well-rounded and no one is alike at all in terms of personality, appearance, type of drag, anything.
WCT: Describe the first time you were around RuPaul live and in-person. Did you Ru( e ) the day or was it fabulous?
GG: I guess I didn't truly believe I was there until I saw her. It's a breathtaking moment when you are on the runway and there she is in full-drag just like on T.V. It's an honor to be in the presence of someone who has started this legacy. There's not a lot of one-on-one time with you and RuPaul, so I can't say I found her intimidating, necessarily. But when you are on the spotit can definitely be intimidating.
WCT: How many times did you audition for Drag Race, Gia?
GG: Just onceI think my audition tape showcased who I am in drag and out of drag. I provided a lot of clips showcasing all of my different looks and costumes and that probably wowed themand my background in traditional Japanese theater probably caught their attention.
WCT: You mean Kabuki, specifically, right?
GG: Yes; Kabuki is one of the most ancient art forms there is, and it is one of the most varied because there are all these different schools and houses and styles of performing. I was fortunate enough to have an actual dance master from Japanthe real deal, not someone who just opened up a shop here in Chicago. I've been dancing in a group since I was 7 years old, and for a boy doing this it was super-unheard of, but I was born with a passion for it. I think that stood out to my Japanese community in Chicago and I've had a lot of support.
WCT: I'm guessing by now most RuPaul's Drag Race fans in Chicago know the origin of your character name Gia Gunnwhich you've said is a combination of "Gia" from the biopic starring Angelina Jolie and "Gunn" from Project Runway's Tim Gunn.
GG: Yes; I really wanted a name that was simple and to the point, and very feminine.
WCT: As you likely know, the 1998 HBO movie Gia depicts the story of Gia Carangi, considered by some to be the first American supermodel. After she became addicted to heroin, her modeling career spiraled downward, and she eventually contracted HIV and passed away at the age of 26. Is your character name an homage to Carangi, since she led such a fascinating, and in some respects, tragic life?
GG: No, I didn't think about it, to be honest. I loved the name and stuck with it.
WCT: RuPaul's Drag Race can be a transformative experience, physically and emotionally. How did Drag Race affect you?
GG: I learned what it meant to truly be in your own zone and to have no one else there to coach you. Everything was on me, and I'm not used to that in everyday life. I've always had someone there to hold my hand, even in terms of getting therethis was the first time I've been on an airplane by myself. I also learned more about my character. I've never had the time to really think about the details, the little things about my persona. I was always a well-defined drag queen, but Drag Race has put me at a different level, with different expectations from people and I think it's greatit's everything that I have worked really hard for.
WCT: Halleloo, speaking of working hardearlier this year, Shangela, another Drag Race alum, announced a new business venture called Say What Entertainment, a LGBT entertainment-management group that boasts an impressive roster of Drag Race's stars including you, Alyssa Edwards, Vivienne Pinay and others. How did you get involved with Shangela and her talent-management group?
GG: Well, I met Shangela awhile back when she was in Chicago, through our mutual friend Jade. But I really got linked with Say What Entertainment via Laganja Estranja, one of the other girls from season six. Laganja and I are super-closeshe is my season six sister, and I really trust her. Laganja, who is also represented by Say What, referred me to Shangela and she contacted me and we came up with a good plan, which is really important because when you come back from Drag Race there is always this question of "What now?"
WCT: There's no question that Chicago drag-queen talent is part of the Drag Race legacy at this point. What advice did some of the Chicago dolls give you about the show?
GG: DiDa Ritz was with me prior to going to Drag Race, and one of the biggest tips she gave me was "Don't read the blogs. Don't please the haters." And do "me" to the fullestand do not look back. Everyone here in Chicago was so supportiveMonica Beverly Hillz, Jade, we are all close. They encouraged me to let people see who I am behind the fishy talent.
WCT: Who were your favorite guest judges this season?
GG: I want to leave it as a surprise!
WCT: Earlier today, Us Weekly online actually broke the roster of celebrity guest judges.
GG: Well, I didn't know who half of them were. [Laughs] I can tell you there were some good ones, some relevant onesjudges who will actually make sense to people who will have people living to see them on the show!
Note: Celebrity guest judges on season six include Neil Patrick Harris, Adam Lambert, Paula Abdul, David Burtka and Game of Thrones star Lena Headey.
WCT: This season features American Idol season seven grad Danny Noriega competing as Adore Delano. Did you recognize him when she pranced into the workroom?
GG: I'm super-super stupid and very late when it comes to social media and TV shows and this and that, so I had no idea. Some of the girls knew; Courtney Act definitely knew. She was on the same show in Australia.
WCT: Did her experience on American Idol give Adore Delano a leg up on the competition?
GG: It definitely gave her a leg updefinitely! Adore Delano's character is so personable and so well-developed, and I think that experience really helped him. That being saidI also know that being on a drag-competition show is completely different that being on American Idol, okay? [Laughs]
WCT: I know Carmen Carrera, another Drag Race alum, has inspired you, Gia, because she is fishy and feminine. Now, put your reading glasses on, girlwho are the dolls that you don't admire?
GG: [Long pause] Maybe Jinx Monsoonshe didn't deserve to win. I can't say there is anything about her that is a Drag Race winner.
WCT: If you were to teach a class for drag queens competing in future seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race, what words of wisdom would you impart on your pupils?
GG: Amateur queens come up to me at the bar all the time and ask for advice, and I always tell them they can watch all the drag tutorials they want on YouTube, but until they dig deep down inside and find out who they are as a performer, and until they dig deep down inside their pocketsnot much is going to happen for them.
Invest, invest, invest in your drag-queening. I swear it can be as simple as that. If you spend the money, people will respond to that. And remember, a good drag performer comes from withinyou're born with it. You can't simply take advice and apply it and be fabulous. You have to figure it out for yourself and you will flourishat least that is how it went for me.
Season six of RuPaul's Drag Race premiers on Logo, Feb. 24.
A kick-off party will take place at Roscoe's, 3356 N. Halsted St., on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 9 p.m. ( There is no cover. ) Season six contestants Gia Gunn, Miss Darienne Lake, BenDeLaCreme, Laganja Estranja, The Bianca Del Rio and Adore Delano will take the stage. See www.roscoes.com .