"I’M home... And I'm ready to sit on that throne, b****es!"
Gigi Era stomped into the Drag Race Philippines workroom ready to take on the competition.
She was among the two queens from Davao City to compete in the Philippine franchise of the multi-awarded reality television show, Ru Paul's Drag Race. The other is Lady Morgana, an established queen in Davao City.
However, for Gigi, she traces her roots here in the city rather than having been an established drag queen here.
"I mean, life in Davao was really sad and poor, which is totoo... That’s all I can remember growing up, pobre ug kuan... kanang lisod ana (We were poor and life was difficult)," Gigi, who used to live in Toril, said in an interview with SunStar Davao.
After graduating high school in 2000, Gigi moved to Metro Manila in the hopes to pursue a career as a dancer on television.
Then around 2013, Gigi moved to Dubai where she also worked as an airplane cabin crew member.
While working in Dubai, Gigi would meet her fiance, John. Eventually, she would move to Melbourne, Australia with her fiance in 2016.
Getting into drag
Gigi was exposed to drag when she was still working in Metro Manila. However, this was only done during Halloween and at that time, Gigi never thought of pursuing a drag career.
It was when she moved to Australia that she first got into drag.
Around 2017, Gigi said she was tapped to be the head hair and make-up artist for a film being shot in Australia.
"In one of the scenes, they needed a drag queen... They were like 'Oh, we need a drag scene' and I [said,] 'Ok, I’ll do it.' Nag-drag ako sa (I got into drag for the) movie and the rest is history," Gigi said.
As for her name Gigi Era, she got it from her two best friends.
"When I started doing drag, we used to video call and all of that, tapos palagi nila akong ina-accuse na 'gigi-era ka talaga!'" Gigi said, adding that in gay lingo, "gigi-era" means "shit talker." Also, according to the Facebook page Bekimon, someone who is described as a "gigi-era" is someone who likes to "mambola" or flatter people.
Gigi also said "gigi" is short for galunggong, a type of fish that many people, regardless of their class in Philippine society, would like to eat.
As for the "Era," it is the middle name of her mother.
"Parang pinanindigan ko nalang yung pagiging 'gigi-era.' Tapos they were saying... dati pag nag ka-clubbing ako, tapos lagi kong sinasabi na 'Oh my god, you’re so pretty' kahit di naman daw, so nang-gigi lang talaga ako (It was like me justifying being a 'gigi-era.' My friends used to tell me that when I go clubbing, I have a habit of telling some people how pretty they are even though they are not. They would say I was just being a 'gigi')," Gigi said.
She said being in drag allows her to express her artistic and creative side.
"There are no boundaries, no rules," Gigi said.
She also pointed out that drag serves as an "escape" for her.
"You just want to let it out, you just want to have fun doing drag," Gigi said.
Meanwhile, being a professional dancer, Gigi Era is a dancing diva.
"I want to have that dancing diva feels. Gigi is a dancing diva b****. She likes to have pi-ang (sprain) after drag, gusto nya yung napipilayan siya (she's fine with having sprain) after the show, char lang! She kind of has like a Jennifer Lopez vibe or Beyonce," Gigi said.
Gigi Era show
Explosive. Lots of surprises.
That is how Gigi would describe her show.
"Everytime na nagpe-perform ako dito sa Australia alam ng mga tao na... ano na naman pasabog mo? (Those who know me in Australia would always ask what surprises I would bring to the show)," Gigi said.
Gigi shared that in her shows, she likes to amp things up with props like having a blower or smoke machine.
"Gusto ko kasi may eksena na parang blow blow yung hair ganon, I always [check,] can the venue provide a fan? I’ll bring my own? Tapos minsan dinadala ko yung sarili kong smoke machine. Mo-ana na lang sila, asa man to gikan ang smoke machine? Ang ku-an ang blower? (I like having a scene where the wind blows my hair. So, I would check if the venue can provide one or if I should bring one. Sometimes, I would bring my own smoke machine. They would always wonder where I got the smoke machine or blower)," Gigi said.
She also shared how she used fire in one of her first drag performances in Australia.
"Ni-ana gud ang mga Australian na, “Yawa man ning bayuta ni oy!” Naloka gyud sila, (The Australian crowd was surprised, saying 'Who the hell is this person?' They were shocked because) they didn’t expect [it]," Gigi said.
Drag Race Philippines
Like Lady Morgana, Gigi also made her mark when she entered the workroom in a red jumpsuit.
"Gigi is a showgirl, she always wants to bring the gag, everything on stage," Gigi said in her confessional after walking into the workroom in Episode 1.
Gigi recalled that she was genuinely surprised when she found out she will be competing in the first season of Drag Race Philippines.
"I was actually really surprised, and at the same time happy... My fiancé put up my application and then, [it] all started happening. Na shock talaga si [ako] (I was shocked)... Oh my gosh is this really happening? Like am I really in?" she said.
Gigi said after receiving the news, she immediately started to prepare for the competition.
"It's just me and John that made most of my outfit, kasi (because) I don’t have the resources of Filipino designers," Gigi said.
When she entered the workroom, Gigi said she was pretty intimidated by the cast. She was the eighth queen to work in the workroom after Corazon Filipinas, Turing, Eva Le Queen, Marina Summers, Lady Morgana Perez, Precious Paula Nicole, and Brigiding.
"I was very intimidated and a bit petrified, like, 'Oh my god! Totoo ba to?' (Is this real?) But then again, I was like, 'You know what? I’ve been in the industry longer than these b****s, I can do this. I know what I’m doing,'" Gigi said.
Gigi would go on to perform a song and dance number during the talent show in the queen's first maxi challenge in Episode 1.
She would also go on to become one of the season’s most unforgettable memes after an iconic remark she made in episode 2 of Untucked, a side series of Drag Race showing the back stage conversations of queens while the panel of judges discuss who wins or goes home for the episode.
In this episode, there was a heated argument between Brigiding and Minty Fresh. After their heated discussion, Minty Fresh was seen leaving the conversation. Brigiding turned towards Gigi and asked, "Did she say I'm crazy."
"I wasn't listening," Gigi answered. This clip and screenshots of it would later go viral on Twitterverse becoming a very related meme.
"Wala man gyud ko naminaw. Pero nagtanaw ko sa kagubot sa salamin. 'Naunsa man ni sila oy?” Ni-ana nalang gyud ko, 'Wala ko'y labot sa inyong mga tigiay karun, kay mag lipsync ko karung gabhi-ona' (I really was not listening. But I could see the heated discussion from the mirror. I wondered what was going through them. But I told myself 'I will not mind their fighting because I have a lipsync to prepare for)," Gigi said.
A desire to help
Post Drag Race Philippines, Gigi said she hopes to help the LGBTQ+ community here in Davao City.
"Daghan kayo ko'g gusto tabangan na taga-Davao oy! Pahumanon lang nato ni akong kagubotan (I want to help many Dabawenyos. Let me pull myself together for now), let me help myself and let me help them," she said.
Gigi said she still wants to travel the world to learn more.
After her travels, she envisions establishing some sort of an art center for the LGBTQ+ community in the city, especially the young generation.
"It's not only for drag. [It is] like [an] art center na para gusto ma-develop ilang skills sa painting, sa dancing, acting... [Daghan] from Davao kasi, sa generation ko ha, moadto ka'g manila it's like your Hollywood dream, murag didto matupad imong mga pangarap (It will be like an art center where they can develop their skills in painting, dancing, and acting. A lot in Davao, in my generation, would have to go to Metro Manila to reach their dreams, it was like Hollywood to us then)," Gigi said.
A message to supporters
From one drag queen to another, Gigi encourages Dabawenya queens to get out of the mindset of "I am a provincial queen, I am just from the province" because it could hold them back from dreaming big.
"I think from now on dapat arisgada (be more determined)! If you know you got something, and feeling mo na (that) you deserve it, just go for it and ayaw pasagdi na naay mo pugong sa imong hope ug dreams (don't let anything hold you back from reaching your hopes and dreams)," she said.
She added, "Kung unsa ka daghan ang gwapa sa Dabaw, daghan sab ang talented nga drag queen sa Davao, ug dili ta magpa ores tanan (If there are many beautiful women in Davao, there are also talented and beautiful drag queens. And we are also very competitive)! Kay (Because) I want to break that impression na (of) 'Ay, taga-Davao [lang] ko (I am just from Davao!'"
The dancing diva pointed out that when Dabawenyos are outside Davao City, they must be proud of their roots and hold their heads up high.
Gigi said when she is able, she would be willing to help Dabawenya drag queens reach their dreams.
"Now that I am here... Your tita, nanay, lola, tiyanak, Gigi will be happy to help you! Kasi nga, ako na growing up in Davao, wala talaga akong access (Because when I was growing up in Davao, I had no access to these things).. All we had is this creative mind and dreams," Gigi said.
She also encourages those who will get into drag to do it "properly."
"Drag is a serious drug, at the same time you can have fun and make money. Just be creative daghan kaayo'g kanang way or pamaagi (there are a lot of ways) nowadays especially [with] internet... ako lang gyud masulti (What I can say) is do it! Enjoy the experience as well!" Gigi said.
She is also thankful to all her supporters who watched and cheered for her on Drag Race Philippines, which airs its finale today, October 12, 2022.
From Davao to Australia, and then to Drag Race Philippines, Gigi Era is a proud Dabawenya queen burning the stage with her firey and explosive performances.
"OFW queen, she's back at home again! From Davao to Australia, my name is Gigi Era... If you're feeling homesick, just watch me how I flick. 3, 2, 1, ikaw ang number one!"
- Gigi Era's verse in Pop Off, Ate!