January 27, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Crowning the Kollectin Queen

By Melanie Camp

After finishing her first season on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Gia Ichikawa said she found herself confused. While the show changed her life, “I was literally a hairstylist working a salon, cutting hair,” and performing drag after-hours, Ichikawa began to battle with her own gender. Was she a cis male gay man who liked playing the female drag character Gia Gunn or was Gia Gunn an expression of a real person, aching to exist?

“Transitions all happen at different times, but they cannot happen until you, the individual, accepts that you are indeed transgender and that you now indeed have a task to do,” explained Ichikawa, who publicly came out as a transgender woman in March 2017.  

The jury is out as to whether or not the playwright, George Bernard Shaw really did say, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself,” and just as well, because, Ichikawa’s journey to self-discovery is not only an example of brave determination but also shows that perhaps life is as much about finding yourself, as it is creating yourself.

Drag Race, while groundbreaking, is a show that favors cis male drag performers over drag kings, bio queens, and transgender performers. Ichikawa became the show’s

third ever transgender contestant when she returned to compete in RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars Season 4.

New York Mag named her one of The Most Powerful Drag Queens in America, in June this year, and as a proud Japanese American transgender woman, Ichikawa’s mission is to help inspire all people, no matter what they are facing, to embrace change. “Just because you start one career, or because you start one thing in life, doesn’t mean you have to be that for the rest of your life,” she told The Pride LA.

Last month, Ichikawa launched a curated jewelry line, called Neon Vice, on the Kollectin App, an online marketplace that allows jewelry lovers to try, through augmented reality, and buy, and also sell jewelry through personalized online stores within the app, called Tiny Boutiques.

Giving her bracelets and necklaces names like Transparent and Love Yourself, Ichikawa expresses what it is to be bold and honor authenticity. Neon Vice is a reminder that we shine brightest when we embrace our true selves.

Ichikawa broke down in tears explaining the struggle so many transgender men and woman face. Risk of murder is high. “A lot of trans women are forced to sex work and prostitution, and that’s the way they are being murdered, because companies and businesses won’t just hire these people,” she said, adding that online market places, like Kollectin, provide empowering business opportunities for those in the trans community. 

“I think it’s a great idea to help employ people that may just not have the confidence to get out there and you know, apply for a job, or maybe they have applied for jobs, and they’re just being discriminated against,” she said.

Embracing inclusivity at Kollectin is more than a business decision for founder Nadia Lee, it is personal. Early in her business career, Lee explained she struggled against discrimination, and the disrespect she experienced is a motivating force behind the way she chooses to run her business today.

“Truthfully, respect to me is very, very important because I think building a business, especially being a woman, twenty-some years ago, I don’t want to date myself, it was really hard to get respect. People would also always say, ‘you have a double minority. You’re not only Asian, but you’re also a woman,” Lee said.

Becoming a multiple-minority is something Ichikawa said she felt one-hundred-percent when she transitioned. 

“At one point, I had male privilege, right? When I gave that up, and I changed my birth certificate and changed my sex legally, and my pronouns went from he to she, all of a sudden all those privileges went away,” she said.

Ichikawa believes while all change is scary, the secret is to get comfortable with the discomfort and said you can build a tolerance to it by, “putting yourself in different social settings that may be new and may make you feel uncomfortable. If you want to make a change in your life, it’s just about building up enough confidence to accept that change, embrace that change, and follow through with that.”

Lee also faced a big decision that led to a significant change in her life. Having studied international relations at college, Lee was on track to work as a diplomat until she had an epiphany at a jewelry trade show in Taiwan. “I made myself a fake business card and said, ‘I’m Nadia from XX company from the U.S., and I’m a buyer.’ And, I snuck into the show,” she said of how she started her first jewelry company, Adia Kibur, almost 20 years ago.

Both Lee and Ichikawa’s stories conjure images of brave heroines boldly striving toward their goals. However, both women know goal-stalking can be daunting, and Lee said this is why it is so important we share our stories.

“Maybe we’re not to that point where we are confident to go out and do things. But, when we hear other people’s stories and when we listen and share our journeys as well, then you don’t feel so alone, and you don’t feel that the task is so daunting,” she said.

For Ichikawa, faith is the key to persevering through the discomfort. “Once the change works out, we’re happy, you know? But it’s just getting through that and having the faith. So, I have the faith and keep going…Like my mother tells me, embrace the discomfort of life. You know, you have to embrace the things that make you uncomfortable.”

Follow Ichikawa as Gia Gunn on Instagram @Gia_Gunn

Curate your own Kollectin Tiny Store; download the free Kollectin app and sign up using the invite code GiaGunn at kollectin.com.

Go to anchor.fm/beautiful-hollywood to listen to an exclusive Beautiful Hollywood podcast with Gia Ichikawa and Nadia Lee, recorded at NeueHouse Hollywood, the private workspace and cultural hub for creatives and entrepreneurs.

Follow Beautiful Hollywood on Instagram @BeautifulHollywood

Related Posts

True Blood Getting A Reboot- E.P.I.C Pride Show, January 27th, 2021

January 27, 2021

January 27, 2021

E.P.I.C Pride, Highlighting the latest LGBTQ news in Entertainment, Politics, International affairs, and Culture. *True Blood Getting A Reboot *John...

L.A. Queer Woman Being Deported From Bali

January 24, 2021

January 24, 2021

Former Los Angeles resident and graphic designer Kristen Antoinette Gray is being deported from Bali over her viral tweets that...

WeHo To Commemorate Roe V. Wade Anniversary

January 24, 2021

January 24, 2021

The City of West Hollywood and its Women’s Advisory Board will join with the National Council of Jewish Women, Los...

Iconic Talk Show Host Larry King, An LGBTQ Ally, Dies At 87

January 23, 2021

January 23, 2021

Larry King, the iconic talk show host and LGBTQ ally died on Saturday Jan. 23rd.  A statement was posted on...

FBI Investigating Blast At Anti-Gay Church

January 23, 2021

January 23, 2021

An El Monte church that had been threatened this month with an arson attack over its condemnation of same-sex marriages...

Gay Man From Huntington Beach Stormed Capitol Now “In Fear Of His Life”

January 21, 2021

January 21, 2021

32-year-old Kristopher Dreww a gay hairdresser from Huntington Beach was one of many who rioted the Capitol Building on Jan....

Sarah McBride Now Highest Ranking Trans Official – E.P.I.C Pride Show, January, 20th, 2021

January 20, 2021

January 20, 2021

E.P.I.C Pride, Highlighting the latest LGBTQ news in Entertainment, Politics, International affairs, and Culture. *Sarah McBride Now Highest Ranking Trans...

Missing Compton Trans-man

January 18, 2021

January 18, 2021

UPDATE: Luckie Alexander Fuller has been found as on Jan. 19th, 2021. Luckie Alexander Fuller, a local Los Angeles transman...

WeHo Will Commemorate MLK Jr. Day With Virtual Donation Drive

January 17, 2021

January 17, 2021

In January 2021, the City of West Hollywood will continue its tradition of joining hundreds of communities across the country...

The Pride Poet’s Corner “Some Super Contextual New Year’s Resolutions” By: Brian Sonia-Wallace

January 17, 2021

January 17, 2021

Some Super Contextual New Year’s Resolutions By: Brian Sonia-Wallace a Don’t wash the dishes. Don’t go for a walk. Wear...

WeHo Renaming The West Hollywood Library

January 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

The City Council of the City of West Hollywood approved an item to submit a request to rename the West...

LA LGBT Center Receives $100K Grant

January 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

The Los Angeles LGBT Center has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the S. Mark Taper Foundation to support the...

How to Make Sure Your Business Survives No Matter What 2021 Brings

January 12, 2021

January 12, 2021

One thing we learned from 2020 is how insufficient our contingency planning really is. Yelp did a survey that suggests...

Oil Can Harry’s Studio City’s Gay Country Bar Closes

January 9, 2021

January 9, 2021

Oil Can Harry’s, the iconic and beloved gay country western line dancing bar, located in Studio City, is closed for...

LA LGBT Center Administers First COVID-19 Vaccines

January 9, 2021

January 9, 2021

The first of 400 doses received by the Center were dispensed by Dr. Ward Carpenter, co-director of health services at...