Gigi Gorgeous’s evolution on YouTube has been a little different than most.
After coming out as gay in high school and then starting her channel of beauty tips and skits shortly thereafter, Gigi later came out on camera as transgender in 2013, and then as a lesbian in 2016. Usually, such private journeys remain discrete from the workplace, yet for Gigi, as a YouTube celebrity, displaying that personal level of honesty has become the foundation for her brand, which, most recently, has expanded into film with her documentary This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.
Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple pieces together never-before-seen footage of Gigi’s transition in order to display a portrait of family love and loss. As open as Gigi has been on her YouTube channel, she hasn’t really put her two brothers or father in the spotlight–let alone go into much detail about the passing of her mother when Gigi was 19. Couple that with intimate accounts of her transition and it’s no wonder how This Is Everything had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival as an official selection.
“I felt passionate about making this documentary because when I started [started my transition] I never really planned on sharing this footage–there were hours and hours of it. But then when I was done with my transition I was watching the footage back and I was like, this could be something,” Gigi says. “This film is going to hopefully get to people that need it and let people know that they can achieve any goals that they set for themselves.”
Gigi’s story and the optimism she radiates from it are the guiding forces in building out her brand. Like most people who started a YouTube presence in the company’s early years, Gigi couldn’t possibly foresee her channel becoming a beacon in the LGBTQ community, least of all her actual job.
“I had no idea what I was doing–I was just having fun and I wanted to have a laugh with my friends. Now I take it way more serious,” Gigi says. “Being given a voice for my community, I want to set a good example for people but still have fun while doing it.”
The visibility and influence Gigi has earned for herself is built on a platform enforced by considerable reach and revenue: According to recent figures, Gigi has more than 7.2 million followers across YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and she’s doubled her year-over-year earnings over the past three years, pulling in a seven-figure income in 2016 through Google AdSense and brand integrations. Although the base of Gigi’s brand and income remains rooted in YouTube, her management team is carefully steering her into new ventures, starting with the documentary, along with Gigi signing a one-year deal as a brand ambassador for Revlon.
“That’s really where we’re seeing things headed,” says Adam Wescott, Gigi’s manager and executive producer of This Is Everything. “Rather than the one-off video integrations with lower-end products, we’re really starting to see bigger brand names, longer term deals, and then building businesses off of YouTube.”
Over the years, Wescott and his partner and founder of Select Management Group Scott Fisher have been collaborating with Gigi on developing next steps for her brand. While Gigi’s key tenants as the talent remain being authentic and inspirational, Wescott is adding structure to that by building those ideas around consistency, accessibility, and relevance. In addition to continuing to diversify content on Gigi’s YouTube channel with popular video themes like story times, come-along-with-mes, Q&As, or girlfriend/boyfriend tags, Wescott is looking construct a lane for Gigi parallel to YouTube that will grow her brand without detracting from YouTube.
“It actually has been to the dismay of some YouTubers’ careers to move too quickly into other platforms. They forgot about their YouTube audience and you can look at the numbers and see the plateau and the drop,” Wescott says. “The idea with Select Next and what we’ve now proven with the documentary is how do you create businesses and projects that are bigger than the individual themselves? [Gigi] is tasked with being a self-creator 24/7, so she’s on camera, she’s editing, she’s directing, she’s producing, she’s doing everything. So the idea of creating a product like the documentary that can live without her personally investing her time long-term, that’s the goal there.”
Gigi and her team are currently exploring options for a book, TV show, and beyond. No matter which project Gigi takes on next, This Is Everything has set a standard for not only quality of production, but also the direction of Gigi’s brand.
“I’ve always educated and given advice by telling my story and I think this film tells my story to an entirely new capacity–that’s going to be the most powerful tool I can use,” Gigi says. “This film really has taught me to inspire. I think before I always had it in the back of my mind, but watching the film over, any project I take on now, I want to inspire because I think that’s what’s most important.”
Watch This Is Everything on YouTube Red.