GiGi Monroe’s First Night
GiGi Monroe breaks out of the normal drag queen stereotype.
Sure she’s a diva and understands where the reputation comes from, but that’s not all she is, or rather James is. James like running, hiking, and being a boy – but more on that in a bit.
It’s GiGi that’s taking the reigns of hosting Godfrey’s College Hump Night tonight and filling the stilettos of the dearly departed Tiffany Devereaux. Born and raised in Massachusetts, GiGi lived in Atlanta for 12 years where she first put on the wig in 2004 for the city’s gay pride festival.
Fresh from a cross-country road trip and moving to Richmond from her home base of Los Angeles, GiGi sits down to chat with GayRVA.com. She makes Richmond and Godfrey’s her home through May 14.
GayRVA: What took you to LA and now brings you to Richmond?
GiGi: I moved out there about a year ago and it became a base for me to travel from. I felt like I’d tapped out the drag market in Atlanta, so I wanted to find new opportunities.
The drag community in LA is more theatrical and more based in character illusion which is an area that I recently had gotten more interested in… to impersonate someone and recreate an exact performance. I started doing cruise ship work, casinos, and a lot of traveling. It’s worked out really well…I’m keeping my apartment in LA.
I first came to Godfrey’s four years ago and would book a tour here three to four times per year working from Richmond to Virginia Beach. I’ve gotten to know the people here the last four years and it’s been a second home. I fell in love with the community and Godfrey’s.
Who’s your favorite celebrity to personify?
Reba McIntire – She’s very quirky and it’s really fun to impersonate those quirks. She’s an extremely unique performer and entertainer so I can really get into it.
Richmond seems to be experiencing a drag renaissance over the past couple years – what’s your take on that compared to other cities you’ve lived in?
I think Richmond is unique in that there are a lot of new performers. People are very interested in getting into the art form. In a lot of other cities like Atlanta, drag is dying out.
It’s refreshing to see that there’s a new generation of drag performers that are excited, and they have fun and they want to learn more about the art. I’m really looking forward to working with them while I’m here and offering any help that I can.
Is that one of the reasons you left? Why do you think drag is dying in Atlanta?
It is and I don’t know why exactly. I think it might be an oversaturation that just led to audiences getting tired of seeing it. Partially, it was the economy and bars not being able to support the show cast like they need to or pay them enough to make it worthwhile.
I think everywhere has experienced some of that, but it’s definitely interesting to be in a place now where the drag community is growing instead of shrinking.
Richmond’s small but connected and everyone seems to know everyone. People in Richmond show respect, appreciate, and come out to support.
There’s still a lot that I don’t know and I’m looking forward to getting to know Richmond outside of the bars and what the community has to offer.
You said between performing and making costumes, drag is your primary source of income. You don’t hear about a career made from drag very often?
In LA, most of the queens that I worked with were solely entertainers and I had never experienced that before.
Where I came from in Atlanta, there were maybe five people I could count on my hand out of over 50 – which speaks to how much respect is given to the shows and the entertainers.
After two years of doing it along with a full time job, I realized I hadn’t slept in probably a year. I was working five to six nights a week and my day job was suffering for sure.
I decided I need to go with my heart and my passion and do it. That was four years ago.
What was your day job back then?
I worked at Lambda Legal – I was a fundraiser.
What have you gotten to see in Richmond so far?
Every time I come to town, I always go to Ellwood Thompson’s for at least one meal, and I love to go around to Carytown. I’m vegetarian and love to eat healthy stuff.
So is a healthy lifestyle important to you? That’s not the first thing that would come to mind when someone thinks “drag queen.”
I don’t smoke, I don’t drink very much. I try to always be mindful of what I’m putting into my body, so I eat really healthfully. I have some sort of exercise to keep my body healthy and good for the stage, so it’s part of my job.
I try to make sure I get enough sleep and I’m very spiritual. I try to stay in tune with myself on a deeper level on a daily basis and that really helps.
So it helps you create balance?
It’s easy to become a night owl and forget that there’s a whole world outside of nightlife, but I’m a lot more balanced now than when I was trying to work a full time job and the clubs five or six nights a week.
It’s just as important to take care of myself and have my own identity of James during the day and still do some of the things I enjoy outside of drag.
What are those things?
I love hiking, outdoors activities, running, going to see theater and other live performances to get inspired.
I love being a boy too. I love maintaining that balance gender-wise. When I have a few days off, I don’t shave and I love it. Then I have my hyper-feminine moments in the shows and it’s a really nice balance for me.
People have a perception that drag queens are always effeminate, so you break that stereotype.
That’s a huge assumption that’s out there and sometimes it is true.
I think a lot of times when people meet me as James, they’re really suprised to hear that I do drag for a living.
Likewise, after a show, people are shocked when they seem me walking around because it’s such a transformation.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people that do live that persona on and off stage, but for me I like to show people there are all different ways of doing it.
Tell me about GiGi and what we can expect tonight?
When it’s just me and I’m not in character-mode, I can be really funny and flirty. Being in drag gives me a total shift in confidence – it’s a very powerful role for me.
It will be my first time hosting the show, but I’ve been in the show on Wednesdays over the past few years during my travels. The kids give me so much energy so I’m sure tonight will be the same. It will be the first time they hear my voice and I hope they like it.
Photo courtesy of GiGi Monroe
Kevin Clay is the editor and publisher of GAYRVA.COM. He is a Richmond native, loves the city and knows it's on the edge of greatness. Don't hold back RVA. You can follow Kevin on GAYRVA's Twitter or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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