When a show has as wide an audience as RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s inevitable that viewers will have their personal favourites – so it’s always refreshing when a queen is as near-unanimously popular among fans as Gottmik.
Along with eventual winner Symone, Gottmik (who uses “she/her” pronouns while in drag) was responsible for some of season 13′s most memorable moments and runways, and is well and truly riding the wave of popularity that Drag Race has afforded her.
Already an established makeup artist before Drag Race, Gottmik recently joined Ru and Symone on stage at the MTV Movie Awards and has made over stars like Cara Delevingne on her YouTube channel.
She also made herstory as the first transmasculine contestant to compete on Drag Race, which she reveals came with its own pressures.
“Going into the show, I felt a lot of pressure,” she tells HuffPost UK. “But then RuPaul literally told me, there’s no need to have pressure, because the reason are connecting with my story and stuff is because I was being authentically me.
“I wasn’t putting on a front, I was just talking about my experience, and so that’s all I have to do. And I can’t stress out about being myself!”
When we catch up with Gottmik over Zoom for our Over The Rainbow interview series, she’s in somewhat less glamorous surroundings than you might think for a queen of her status.
“I’m actually in a mall parking lot outside a Party City in Washington DC,” she explains (after an obligatory “high gorge”). “I’m in half makeup getting ready for the show tonight. And every 17 years there’s apparently like a cicada psychopath mating fest, and we are here on the 17th year, and I’m really scared, it’s actually dramatic.”
Cicada infestation and parking lot backdrop aside, here Gottmik opens up about some of her queer icons and how her first Pride event “changed her life”...
What is your favourite Pride memory?
My favourite memory of Pride is my first Pride ever. I was 16 years old, and I hadn’t figured out my sexuality or gender or anything yet. But I just knew that I was in the community someway, somehow.
I went to Pride alone, I met some people there and hung out with them – looking back, I was a ballsy little teenager in Phoenix, Arizona. The feeling of not knowing what I was doing, but I knew I needed to be part of it, was just so crazy to think about it.
And it was so much fun. I saw my first drag queen ever in my life, and that kind of inspired me to start practising makeup. Like, I think that Pride day really just changed my life.
Who is your LGBTQ hero?
[Growing up], I was just really obsessed with drag. I loved drag so much, and I was obsessed with RuPaul for literally as long as I can remember.
I love people who take up space and are unapologetically pushing themselves into the mainstream, even if people think they shouldn’t be there, and that’s what RuPaul did with the show – she made a full show about drag queens, in a space where people probably didn’t want that at the time. But she was like, “here we go, start your engines”, and did it anyway, so I am so obsessed with the unapologetic attitude and vibe that is RuPaul.
What is your go-to Pride anthem?
I’m sharing a dressing room with Vanjie and Asia O’Hara right now on tour, and we are being Pride divas. I’m not joking, at least once a day we have Strong Enough by Cher on a loop for, like, four plays. And we dance so hard and do full rainbow eye makeup. There’s nothing gayer that I could imagine – when I was just describing that, that sounds insane.
I am the biggest Cher fan ever. I literally only have like three people that I would kill to have the opportunity to do makeup on, and she is one of them. I would love to paint Cher, she is my icon, her journey with Chaz is so amazing to me, I just love her.
Who are the other two? It’s definitely Cher, RuPaul and Dolly Parton, for me. Imagine if I painted those three, I’d literally have to quit after. And they’re all drag queens, literally, so I’d be able to go in.
What is your favourite LGBTQ film?
I have the gayest taste in movies, everything has to be gay, for me. Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig And The Angry Inch are my three that are always on a loop for me. I want Hedwig tattoos, that’s how obsessed I am. But I think my ultimate would be Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.
Priscilla means so much to me, because it’s weirdly kind of deep. The way that they start their journey thinking it’s one thing, and then their relationships develop and they learn to live with different types of people, and then kind of realise that they’re getting along with these straight people that they thought were the worst things in the world, and all that.
And that opens my mind up too, because I am guilty of that sometimes too. At a bar or something, [I can be] like “oh gosh, this seems a little straight up in here, I’m getting nervous”... and then end up having the best time of my life, and so I think that’s what all those movies are all about.
What was an LGBTQ TV show or TV moment that made you feel represented?
I think the first time that I was really gagging about any queer TV was when I watched Queer As Folk when I was pretty young. I’m pretty sure I was in high school, and I remember watching it with headphones on, and when they had sex I’d be like, “oh my god, this is so scary, my parents are going to walk in”.
I was so scared to watch it, but I was obsessed. And I could still watch it 100 more times to this day. It just covers every single queer issue in the entire world, it’s my favourite show.
Who would be your ultimate queer icon?
I do love Cher and Dolly, like I was saying. They are allies through and through, and full drag queens, and I love looking at them, listening to them and watching them turn it for the past 300 years.
But queer icons that are turning it for me currently are the whole cast of Pose. Every single one of those girls is fully not just making iconic television that makes me want to cry every day of my life, but out of the show, they’re all insane activists and are such amazing people.
Indya Moore – my mind is blown every time they post on social media. They teach me so much, just from their Instagram page.
What is your message for young LGBTQ people this Pride month?
Trust what you’re feeling, and know that you’re valid. I know that for so long I felt like, just because I didn’t see someone that was like me in the media, that I was crazy, and I wasn’t valid, and I shouldn’t be able to take up any space. And I just don’t want anyone to feel like that ever.
Just because you don’t see it – you just might have to be that person that paves the way. So believe in yourself and you’re valid, gorge.
Visit Gottmik’s website for information on her upcoming UK tour.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.