In the age of curated social media accounts, “authenticity” is a buzzword that has all but lost its meaning. We purport to show our real lives to our followers, but inevitably showcase the best moments —or even exploit our lowest ones — under the guise of being genuine.
Giselle Loren Lazzarato, known to all of us as Gigi Gorgeous, was a high school student in Canada experimenting with makeup on YouTube before oversharing became status quo. Back in 2008, when authenticity on the internet was still, well, authentic, Gorgeous began posting stream-of-consciousness videos where what happened in her head came out of her mouth seemingly unmediated. Whether it was talking about the best Body Butter or coming out as a transgender woman, Gorgeous was among an early wave of YouTube stars who paved the way for our confessional internet culture today.
Ten years after Gorgeous’ foray into the medium, being “authentic” on social media has come to mean that we exhibit some parts of our lives and hide the others. But in a moment when most of us are becoming practiced at withholding certain aspects of our existences, Gorgeous and her fiancée, Nats Getty, wonder, actually, if they keep too much private.
Getty certainly is no stranger to balancing the public with the private. She’s an artist with a philanthropic streak that she shares with the rest of her renown kin, the Getty oil family, who recently donated $1 million to GLAAD. The heiress’ famous family was in on her surprise proposal in early March, when Getty asked Gorgeous to marry her at an estate in France, complete with a fireworks display and a helicopter ride.
As perhaps the most visible lesbian couple for a generation of digital natives, Gorgeous’ and Getty’s image as LGBTQ women in love has become even more imperative over the past year since Donald Trump took office. Over the course of roughly 14 months, his administration has walked back protections for transgender students, sought to ban trans people from serving in the military, and backed businesses that have discriminated against same-sex couples because of so-called “religious beliefs.”
This assault on LGBTQ rights has galvanized the couple to be “loud and proud,” according to Getty, and question if they should broadcast even more about their relationship. “I think it is absolutely crucial, now more than ever, to be visible because people need to see this shit,” Gorgeous tells GO. “We’ve fixed things, and things have gotten better, and now they’ve taken a couple steps back, but that’s not to say that we can’t all come together and fight this.”
As trans women face an epidemic of discrimination and violence in particular, Getty says she’s ready to yell “from any rooftop” that she has “the most amazing girlfriend in the world.” “I think that in terms of us being in the public eye, it is important for us to stand up and make a statement because people need to see that,” Getty, who identifies as a lesbian, says.
Gigi Gorgeous has come out three times, first as a gay man, then as a trans woman, and most recently as a lesbian in 2016 — about half a year after she began dating Getty. In the decade since Gorgeous began vlogging, she’s amassed over 2.7 million subscribers to her channel and 2.3 million on Instagram, thanks both to her command of makeup and her frankness about her identity, which has included discussing gender affirming procedures and bringing viewers along when she got laser hair removal.
Getty is a foil to Gorgeous’ loud and outgoing personality, though she’s had a similar thread of openness in her work. On social media, she’s often pictured making art at the couple’s home or upcycling garments, with an undercurrent of social awareness running through. After the Pulse massacre, for instance, Getty painted a mural to honor the 49 victims, which was displayed outside the nightclub. Whereas some in her position might shy away from their famous last name, she’s embraced the brand. Getty is the designer behind the line Strike Oil, a play on the family business. While she isn’t as ready for her close up as Gorgeous, Getty isn’t hesitant to post photos of their public displays of affection, like making out or sending Gorgeous thousands of roses or projecting in lights “will you marry me?” on the side of a French chateau.
The couple’s candidness, however, doesn’t mean they aren’t savvy about what they choose to show. Getty has a penchant for graffiti and her own colorful — if not outright zany — androgynous personal style, while Gorgeous is just so fun to watch because of her flawless maquillage and designer accoutrements. Their accounts give a glimpse into luxurious trips, a fancy home and a life where there is never not good lighting. And they’ve parlayed this savvy into opportunity. In 2017, Gorgeous became an ambassador for Revlon and a social media correspondent for MTV’s rebooted “TRL.” Getty, for her part, is pushing forward as a designer and beginning to creative direct for another brand.
Perhaps it’s because of Gorgeous and Getty’s joint ability to broadcast and command their images on the internet — or their grand romantic gestures toward one another — that their authenticity is questioned.
“I think people think that we are not real. It blows my mind because how can you think that?” Gorgeous says incredulously on a phone call in February. “But people throw out reasons why we’re dating. Like, ‘Oh. You know, Gigi’s only with Nats because of this.’ Or ‘Nats is only with Gigi because of this.’ And it’s like, are you guys kidding me?”
“I think that the main misconceptions that I’ve seen or read in terms of comments is literally exactly what Gigi just said. That we have different reasons for being with each other that have nothing to do with actually just being in love, which I think is ludicrous,” Getty adds.
Gigi Gorgeous and Nats Getty’s romance began exactly the way you’d expect an influencer and artist-socialite to cross paths: in Paris during fashion week. The pair had met in passing before, but in Gorgeous’ words, they “officially” met and fell in love in early 2016 when Getty’s brother, August Getty Atelier, was showing his collection. Getty had been her brother’s muse until she was replaced by a new source of inspiration: Gorgeous, who was his friend. Over 10 days in Paris, Getty says she “got a kind of different view and understanding of Gigi outside of YouTube.”
“That was before we had even kissed or anything, but I just knew that I had completely like fallen in love… It was like almost instant for me,” Getty says.
For Gorgeous, falling in love with Getty abroad was “the last thing that [she] could have ever planned to happen.” When they got back to the United States, Gorgeous spent “literally every single day” at Getty’s house. “I had never really met anybody like Nats before… I think I’ve always been drawn to people who are authentic and unapologetic and unique,” Gorgeous says. “Even down to her aesthetic, she was just super different than anyone I’d ever known.” If Gorgeous and Getty don’t show everything about their relationship, it’s because they’ve had less-than-camera-ready moments that conceivably taught them to toe the line. While authenticity in Gorgeous’ early days of YouTube meant showing “everything,” as the title of feature-length documentary about her life, “This Is Everything,” suggests, today it may mean selecting certain parts because sometimes being yourself gets you into trouble.
In November, the couple posted an image of themselves holding a friend’s baby as a joke, with the caption, “Thank you so much to our beautiful surrogate.” Several outlets, including this one, reported that the infant was, indeed, the couple’s. The photo was a joke that went awry; Gorgeous says she “regrets” putting her phone down right after posting the photo.
Another regret is opening up about their relationship when they broke up. Less than a year after the couple got together, Gorgeous posted a video saying that she and Getty were no longer dating. For Getty, that period was one of the “most brutal times in my life,” she tells GO.
Since then, the couple have come full circle. On the day they were heading back to Paris — where they got engaged — I caught up with Gorgeous and Getty on the phone to talk about the rough patch in their relationship, their plans for marriage and kids, and how they’ve been received by other LGBTQ women.
Alex Berg: Gigi, you were forthcoming with this on YouTube — that you did go through a rough patch with each other. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Gigi Gorgeous: I think it was all about communication. For me at least, I think it was just a tough time, a chaotic time. There were a lot of other personal things going on. And I think it just led to us taking a break, and it’s something that I hate. It’s almost cringeworthy to think about because it was a really dark time for me. And it was totally, I think, meant to happen because it brought is back in such a better way. Like, I remember the first conversation we had after getting together and not seeing each other for like a week or a week and a half, or something like that, whatever it was, two weeks. I was just like, ‘Oh my God, this is all making so much more sense now. Why didn’t we just talk about this.’ And like, you know, ‘Let’s just promise to make this better and kill it from here on in.’ And I think the reason why I shared that online was because I was getting so many questions about it.
Gigi: And it was just killing me, breaking me down even more. So I was just like, ‘Let me just address this.’ And then, literally the next week or something like that, we got back together. And I was like, ‘I shouldn’t have made that video.’
Alex: Do you still feel that way? Do you wish you hadn’t made the video about it?
Gigi: Well, I have a lot of regrets about stuff that I’ve done on YouTube. But documenting your life, that’s just gonna happen. So I feel like now I wish I hadn’t made that video, but in the time, I was like, ‘I have to.’
Alex: Nats, looking back on that now, how does it make you feel?
Nats Getty: It was one of the most brutal times in my life, too. Looking back, I realize that it did need to happen because I feel that our relationship has turned into, like, something so mature. It’s so amazing. And without it, I don’t know if that would’ve happened or maybe it would have happened, but it would have taken a really long time. But it gave me some serious perspective. And even though it was super painful, I would prefer to have gone through a painful moment and have way more perspective and such an amazing relationship now than to have just not.
Alex: You mentioned that the reason that you decided to address [the breakup] publicly, Gigi, was because people were asking you questions about it. Are there parts of your relationship that you don’t show to the cameras, that you deliberately keep private?
Gigi: I can say I definitely don’t think that we share everything. And I feel like with all of the public knowledge that people have about our relationship — like, you know, all the intimate details that we’ve shared up to this point — I feel like that’s enough. There are some things, obviously, that we need to keep private. And I think keeping a light heart about things, not really harping on everything and still having fun, it keeps it light and keeps it not too serious, if that makes sense?
Alex: Yeah. Nats, how do you navigate keeping things public and showing your audience the kinds of things they want to see and what they enjoy, versus making sure you still have parts of your relationship that are left for you?
Nats: I mean, in the beginning of our relationship, it definitely was a little bit of like a culture shock because I wasn’t on YouTube or anything, really. But I just went with it because it’s a part of Gigi, and I love everything about her. So I just got into it, and I think that when she’s filming or something for YouTube or posting pictures, or whatever, it’s just all in good fun. I personally love posting pictures of me and Gigi together on Instagram because I love pictures of us together. And that’s pretty much the extent of it. I love Gigi, so here’s a picture of us together.
Gigi: Not to say that it’s not that deep, but it is kinda like it’s not that deep. I love posting, too. Even if it’s like a crazy picture of kissing or it maybe makes people gag. It’s like, I don’t care. I love it. I’ll just post it because I love her.
Alex: Speaking of the community, how do you feel you’ve been received as a lesbian couple by other LGBTQ women?
Gigi: I think it’s definitely inspiring, you know. With this whole new age of authenticity, I think people are striving to be as authentic as possible. I know that now there are more labels available on Facebook for gender than ever. We’ve come so far in the past year or two years. So I think it’s really, really inspiring. It literally just shows that there’s another story out there, that people have changed, and that things are changing. And people are kinda like, ‘If she can do it. I can, too.’ And that’s what it’s all about: seeing somebody’s story and being inspired by that.
Nats: Whether it’s people at the GLAAD Media Awards when we show up or when we’re out in West Hollywood, or whatever it is, like, online, I have always felt extremely accepted. And I feel that if I wasn’t, I don’t think that I would pay any attention because I’ve always kind of had the mentality of, I’m living my life as myself. I’m living my life with the person that I love completely. And so that’s kind of enough for me. But thankfully and luckily, I have felt really accepted and completely fine.
Alex: I don’t know if either of you are familiar with this term, Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists. Have you encountered any of these people? I’m wondering because sometimes they’ll come for articles I write. I’m just curious if you have had any experience with them. Nats: I certainly have received some fairly hideous comments on most of my pictures or posts, or whatever it is. But at the end of the day, that’s their loss because I know that Gigi and I, together as a team — if I do say so myself — we’re pretty amazing. And so that’s just the mentality that I have, and I’ve always had it where — especially when it comes to Gigi — it’s like, ‘if you’re gonna hate, that’s literally your loss and nothing else.’
Gigi: It’s just ignorance and a complete lack of compassion. And I think it literally just goes back to the feeling of being on the schoolyard and being called a name from a child who is ignorant and doesn’t know the reality of the situation. I think I’ve definitely gotten a lot of nasty comments over the years, but in regards to this, definitely because it is different. And you don’t see it every day. And that that term you used is such a mouthful, and I think it’s so negative.
Alex: It really is.
Gigi: It’s so much negative energy to be putting out into the world. I think it’s sad, and it is their loss.
Alex: Looking ahead at your relationship, do you have any plans down the line? Eventually, is marriage important to you? Are kids important to you? I know you got into a little trouble for making a baby joke on Instagram.
Gigi: Absolutely. That was a complete joke, and we made a video clearing it up. That’s another regret I have: posting that to Instagram and then putting my phone down and not seeing how people took it. Marriage has always been something that’s been really important to me. I haven’t been one of those little girls that would plan my wedding dress down to every detail, but I’ve always had kind of like this fantasy and goal of being a wife and having this beautiful life with my life partner and the big white dress — and kids, of course, a big family. And creating this legacy for us.
Nats: I completely agree with Gigi. I have to say when I met her and we started dating, I changed a lot as a person. And I started seeing myself in the future having this family and being a very committed wife, which is crazy to me because I’d always wanted to get married and have a family, but I have never thought of myself as being this just amazing couple. But now when I look at my future, I see myself with Gigi, married with kids, but not just leaving it at that, but really being this amazing couple that people look at and are like, ‘Whoa. They really have their stuff together.’ Like, ‘Their relationship is really strong.’
Alex: Do you ever feel pressure with the public attention on you to disclose information about your relationship? Do you ever feel pressure to deliver on this idea of who you are as a couple?
Gigi: I honestly feel a little. Like, sometimes because I feel like I think I’d be lying to say no. That’s why I think that it’s super important, especially for what we share to be lighthearted and keep it fun. So when we are feeling or I am — I’m speaking for myself — I am feeling that pressure, that I can just be like, ‘No, no. You know what? This is not that serious…’ What we share is on us — and nobody, nobody else should have a say in how we should be acting or what we should be posting. Like, ‘You guys aren’t kissing in this photo.’ None of that.
Nats: Yeah. For me, it’s the internet. And having people that I don’t know weigh in on our relationship can be complicated, and it’s still something that I sometimes have to stop and try and wrap my head around. But at the end of the day, I view it in this simple way: I’m in love with Gigi, and we are in a relationship, and we love it. And I don’t ever see myself with anybody else ever, and that’s it.
Gigi: At the end of the day, we know we are strong, and that’s what matters. Everyone else’s two cents can be left at the door, honey.
Photo by LA-based photographer, Ricky Middlesworth’s work is fast becoming a game-changer in the entertainment industry. His clients run the gamut from product marketing campaigns to movie studios, celebrity editorials, book covers and television publicity. Most recently, Ricky has shot recurring projects with Disney Studios.
Fashion Stylist: Cheyenne Parker
Hair: Frankie Payne at Opus Beauty using Kevin Murphy products
Makeup: Hilary Montez
Alex Berg is a writer, host and producer covering national news, LGBTQ culture and feminist issues. She’s currently the line producer for BuzzFeed News’ daily morning show #AM2DM and her writing has recently appeared in NBC News, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, THEM, and Teen Vogue. Through the course of her decade-long career as a journalist, Alex has interviewed hundreds of news-makers and celebrities, from members of Congress and candidates for office to Disney stars and punk rockers.