Every week, NYLON writer Michael Cuby will conduct an exit interview with the queen eliminated from RuPaul's Drag Race Season 13. After making it to the final four, Gottmik’s competitor Symone won the crown.
Long before viewers would fall in love with her bubbly personality, Gottmik had already made headline-worthy history for RuPaul’s Drag Race. The Arizona-born, Los Angeles-based drag queen was the franchise’s first trans masculine competitor, a huge feat and promising step in the right direction after host RuPaul came under fire for his comments about trans queens on the show. A celebrated makeup artist to the stars (including Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, and Tinashe, just to name a few), Gottmik celebrated the momentous occasion by announcing that it was “time to crash the cis-stem” as soon as she sashayed into the Werk Room.
Throughout the competition, Gottmik consistently slayed, winning both the ball and Snatch Game while completely avoiding the bottom two. Her gag-worthy runway looks never failed to wow the judges, who praised her impeccable makeup skills and forward-thinking style sensibilities. But it was the things she didn’t know she’d be good at that left the strongest impression. Though she was terrified of doing a roast and equally nervous about competing in Snatch Game, Gottmik surprised herself by killing both, making Ru crack up in the process. By the time she reached the finale, Gottmik had evolved into an entirely different drag queen.
Ahead of last Friday’s finale, NYLON hopped on the phone with the top four finalist to talk about making history, realizing she was actually funny, bonding with RuPaul, how Drag Race helped her overcome some of her gender dysphoria, and why wearing the instantly iconic Little Black Dress on the Drag Race Main Stage was such an important moment for her.
You're in the top four. You made it to the finale. How does that feel?
Oh my god, it's the best thing that's ever happened in my entire life! I literally feel like I can take over the world now. It’s insane.
Going into the competition, did you always imagine yourself making it to the top?
Going into the competition, I was just so focused on being there and making a statement with my story and my journey. I mean, I obviously wanted to win, but it was almost like a competition with myself. And then, when things started flowing and going, when I started killing it, I was like, Wait. I want to win this shit! So towards about halfway through, I was like, Here we go. Buckle up, because I want to be America’s Next Drag Superstar.
Was there a specific moment that triggered that shift in your mind?
I kind of feel like it was around Rusical time, where I just let go and had fun and started connecting with the judges. I was like, Oh my god, all I have to do is have fun. That’s when it started clicking into place. I think it was the week after I killed Snatch Game, and I was like, "See ya!"
You've made history on the show as the first trans masculine competitor. How does it feel to be paving new ground on a show that is already groundbreaking in its own way?
Being the first trans masc person on the show has literally been a dream come true. As I was kind of saying before, going into the competition, I was just so focused on saying the right things. That was just my whole reason for being on the show at all. But when I realized that all I have to do is just go and be myself and that's what is going to make me connect with the audience and tell my story in the best way possible, everything was just so much easier and so much more fun. It just flowed. So definitely Drag Race taught me that all you have to do is be yourself and you won’t even have to worry about saying the right thing. You just have to be authentically you and everything clicks into place.
How has the response been from the trans community?
Oh my gosh, the response from the community has been even better than I could've imagined. It is so insane. I mean, there's also a lot of hate and confusion, but I feel like all my hate comes from [people] just not being educated about my story and about the trans community — it's a weird, ignorant, fearful hate that I get. But for every hate comment, there are literally 50 people defending and loving me and giving me twice as much love. It’s just so crazy how big the Drag Race fandom is and how supportive and amazing they are. And the louder we are about loving trans people on the show and in the drag community — especially the even more amazing trans women and trans women of color — the more people from all over the spectrum will get to be seen on TV.
I think your story — as a trans masculine person who enjoys female impersonation — is so important in helping to dispel this idea of a gender binary because it really complicates the idea that a person can only fit into one category or gender expression. But did you ever worry that those haters you mentioned would be confused about that?
Yeah. I mean, at the beginning, I was a little bit nervous about saying the wrong thing because I knew it was kind of a different concept. So I was like, Okay, we have to say the right thing and stand the right way and look the right way. Just everything like that. But I just started letting go and telling my story and every single person on the cast was just so supportive. I never even thought about it really until we started getting into these in-depth conversations. I think it came off really authentic on the show because it genuinely was. We all were having so much fun and supported each other so much.
I was so blessed that I was able to stay on the show for the length of time that I did so I could tell my story from so many different angles, because society does try to shove people — and especially trans people — into this gender role box that doesn't even exist. Me putting on a wig and heels is just so crazy for people. But it's like, no, I'm just like every other guy in this Werk Room. I’m doing the exact same thing but it's just crazy because no one has heard of that before. That’s why it is so important for people like me to come on TV and just be authentic and open.
You won two main challenges this season, both of which are considered the challenges to win: the ball and Snatch Game. What does that feel like?
I am so proud of the challenges I won and did well in because I think I really slayed on every major one. Like I said, one of my major turning points was the Rusical. And then, I won Snatch Game! Going into the show, I was like, Oh my gosh, Snatch Game is so scary. It’s the first thing you think about when you get the call to be on Drag Race: What am I going to do for Snatch Game? And I've never even impersonated a celebrity before! So I was like, What am I going to do? And then, for the ball, I went to fashion school. So going in, I was like, I have to slay the ball. That'd be so embarrassing if I have this narrative of ‘I went to fashion school’ and I show up and do so bad.
I'm just so proud of all of these moments because they're really important to not only the show, but to me. So it was really amazing. And the roast! That was one of my favorite moments on the whole show too. I slayed that and it opened up a whole new world of my drag to me. Drag Race is literally like a bootcamp and I never wanted to leave. Let me tell you. I discovered so much about my drag in that amount of time. Imagine if I could stay forever?
Yes! You seemed especially nervous about the roast but ended up killing it. I was kind of shocked about how scared you were because you have such a natural sense of humor. I’m very curious: did you really not know that you were funny?
Going into the show, I knew I had kind of a natural sense of humor because I was just funny with my friends. But I had never sat down and written jokes or gotten on the mic and had a set. I've never done anything like that in my life. So thinking about my first time having to sit down and write jokes being on national television, I was like, Great. Here we go. Buckle up.
You already knew Paris Hilton coming into the show because you've done her face before. Has she seen your Snatch Game performance?
She has. I actually did a YouTube video transforming into her and I FaceTimed her at the end of it. I was like, "Hey gorg!" I made her say, “Gorg” and everything. She’s so supportive and loves Drag Race and loves the community so much. She’s so down for any type of joke. I made sure it was a gorgeous, respectful moment though because she is such a smart, amazing human being. She's out there changing the world right now. So I was like, I'm going to play the Simple Life version of Paris, but also not go too deep. She's such an angel of life, so it was a weird little ground I was playing on.
I loved seeing you embrace your natural makeup, especially considering your story about how you started doing the white paint clown face as a response to your gender dysphoria because you didn't want to look too feminine. What was it about the environment of Drag Race that helped you redefine what was possible through your drag?
That’s something I kind of even wonder too, because before Drag Race, I really was not down to wear just “pretty girl drag.” But I went into the show already knowing that I was going to do mostly pretty girl drag and skin-tone makeup and not my clown white face because I was like, I'm a makeup queen. Michelle Visage is not about to give me a makeup critique! That’s the last thing that needs to happen in this life. I was like, I need to switch it up immediately and not give her the opportunity.
But I think it was just the fact that we were all so respectful of each other, that we were all taking each other so seriously as competitors. I just looked around and I was like, “These are some of the best, most talented drag queens I've ever met in my entire life and they're not scared of what I'm doing, so I shouldn't be. I shouldn't be scared of looking gorgeous. I should be able to use that to my advantage as well.”
When I started doing that, I was like, I'm not even thinking about it as triggering me anymore. That was a really crazy personal growth moment because, before the show, I would look in the mirror and be like, “Not happening here!” But now, I love it. When I went into the show, I was like, I'm never doing skin-tone makeup again. This is just for the show. And now, I'm like half and half. I love switching it up. It’s so amazing. Like I said, Drag Race is like boot camp. It got me good.
What would it have meant for you to win?
Oh my gosh. It would mean the world to me for so many reasons. One, because I've grown so much and worked my ass off to get here. But also, I was on the show representing that drag is an art and not an identity. I think I've done a really good job at hammering that into people's heads and crashing the cis-stem and getting everyone to think outside of this societal patriarchy box that everyone's trying to put us in.
If you had to choose, what would you say was your favorite moment from Drag Race and what was your least favorite moment or one you wish you could do over?
I think my favorite moment is kind of just a bunch of moments: just any time me and RuPaul were having genuine talks. If it was during judges' critiques, where we'd just be laughing on stage together, or if it was the Tic-Tac lunch, where we were truly just dying. We get along so well and those moments are just so magic and I will literally cherish those forever.
As for things I would redo? I’m really proud of every single thing I did, but I would love to go back and have the confidence I have now at the beginning. Even watching how I said, "Time to crash the cis-tem!" at the beginning when I entered the Werk Room, it's just not how I would scream that now.
You had so many iconic looks this season. Is there a specific one you’d point to as your favorite?
I think one of my favorites, for sure, was my little black dress. I was just so proud to go out there as a trans masc individual and have my scars out and be fully naked on the Main Stage of RuPaul's Drag Race. It was just such a moment for me. I was living. I was like, "Trans bodies are beautiful. Hi! How are you?”
As Michelle Visage would say, it was “an iconic fashion moment.”
Exactly. And it was just so stupid and funny, which is so my humor. I just loved that look. Sitting down with that list [of runway looks], I saw “Little Black Dress” and was like, Well, alright. Little black dress. Here we go!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.