PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROBERT ANDY COOMBS
Fantasia Royale Gaga
Fantasia Royale Gaga is many things, a showgirl, a Sagitarrius, and the season one winner of Out TV’s Hot Haus. Originally hailing from Jacksonville, for nearly a decade, “The Body” as she’s known has been perfecting her act down in Miami, a mainstay at Palace Bar in South Beach, which is also where she posed for us oceanside. She was on a birthday trip in Puerto Rico, however, when Brooklyn’s Chiquitita called her up for a heartfelt chat about a year of leveling up, early role models for transness, and how she’s navigated requiring respect from her family.
Hi, how are you? I’m good. How are you doing?
I’m good. Do you remember me by the way? [Laughs] We met at C’mon Everybody in Brooklyn. I was telling you that I stole something from you, and you said, “You stole something from me?” I was like, “I did.” And I pulled out this pink rhinestone. Do you remember? Oh my gosh, yes, yes, yes. Because they had fallen off my costume [Laughs]. I do, I do.
Oh my God. It’s good hearing from you. How is Puerto Rico? We are enjoying ourselves a lot over here. It’s my first time in Puerto Rico.
What made you wanna go to Puerto Rico for your birthday? Well, originally I was supposed to go to Paris again, so those plans failed. Then I was supposed to go on a cruise with some of my friends and they all booked their cruise. And when I went to book mines, as soon as I got to the part where it would tell me to pay, it told me it was sold out. So then my other friend was like, “Do you wanna go to Mexico?” And I was like, “Okay, I love Mexico.” Then he was like, “What about Puerto Rico? You’ve never been there?” And I was like, “Let’s do it.”
Oh my God, I need to go to Puerto Rico. It’s so beautiful over here. Oh my gosh.
It’s not cold at all, is it? No, it’s sunny and it’s hot as fuck right now.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. GAYLETTER reached out and asked me to interview you. Did you do a photoshoot too? Yes, I already did the photoshoot. They had a photographer in Miami. I did a beach photoshoot. And it’s my first time doing an actual beach photoshoot. And the pictures that they picked are like absolutely gorgeous.
Oh my God. So I’m excited about that because I’m so particular when it comes to my picture. I’m very, very particular.
I’m the same way. It’s like, if I could do everything I would, but we can’t. Right. So at some point we have to, you know, get a little help.
Well, I just wanted to ask you some questions. Some cute little questions. I won’t take up too much of your time. Do you live in Miami? Yeah, I’ve been in Miami nine years now. Going on ten. And I’ve been at Palace Bar, like, for all those years.
Oh, wow, you secured the job as soon as you got to Miami? So I was given an opportunity to come perform there as a guest spot. And during that time, they really didn’t have a girl like me on the cast.
I mean, there’s not a girl like you in any cast [laughs], so that makes sense. This was way before. I was really skinny then and I had smaller breasts, but I still gave the same aesthetics I do now. I just owned it and, you know, after that guest spot, the next day someone called out and they were like, you wanna work? They started giving me guest spots and then they finally were like we want you on the cast.
That’s amazing. I feel like when people think about Miami drag and Miami performers, they think about women like you. Having that aesthetic that I do, I think it just works perfect in South Beach. I’m just so grateful for it because it’s got me opportunities and to go places that I never ever, ever thought that I would go.
And it’ll continue to do that for sure. You have such a beautiful drive and spirit. You’re a very sweet person. Thank you.
Have you been traveling a lot this past year for drag? Is that something that you wanna continue to do? Yes. This year with me winning Hot Haus, it actually helped a lot with booking places. Like people already knew me as Fantasia, “The Body.” And I already was traveling a lot, you know, as an entertainer. But then when I won the show that just put more opportunities out there. And this year I actually got a manager. All these other years, I never had a manager. I did everything myself. And so I’ve ended up traveling a lot for work. I absolutely love it. I love going to new cities and new states and new countries and meeting people. A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to come down to Miami, so I take Miami to them, that’s how I like to say it.
When you were in Brooklyn and I was watching you, I was like, bitch, I’m in Miami right now [laughs]. You cannot tell me I’m not in Miami right now. C’mon Everybody was my first time performing in Brooklyn. My first time performing in New York, I did Yonkers. The second time was C’mon Everybody. And the third time was Bushwig,a few weeks later.
I’m happy that the checks are clearing for you. You’re getting all the opportunities that you deserve, thanks to Hot Haus, but not even just thanks to them. I mean, the work speaks for itself. A lot of people ask, “What has Hot Haus done for you?” And honestly, it just really added to who I am. Everyone who was a contestant knew who I was because of me being Fantasia, and me being a showgirl. And that was one of the reasons why they wanted me on the show. Winning Hot Haus was so special, especially being a Black trans woman and the show aired during Black History Month. It’s very special to me because I come from a background of sex work. So people who are like me or who may want to be like me, people who see themselves in me, will be able to be like, “You know what? She did that.”
Exactly. That is so special to hear. Because when people see aspects of themselves on television, it helps them, I think, digest themselves a little easier because it makes ‘em feel less alone, right? Correct.
So seeing someone like you, a performer, a showgirl, a Black trans woman succeed and continue to succeed, for anyone watching, I’m sure that means a lot. I just feel like representation is very important because, you know, when I grew up, I didn’t see many representations of people like me on television. For me, I didn’t start seeing trans women and all that until I started going to the gay bars.
Do you remember the first trans woman you saw? I remember in high school, I went to the School of Arts, and the seniors already had started going to the clubs and the gay bars and stuff like that. So they would tell me about these magazines that you can look up, like on the internet. That’s how I really started seeing a lot of trans women.
I remember one of the first times that I met Charlene Incarnate in Brooklyn, that was when it clicked for me. I was like, Oh my God, this is what I’m striving for. You know, the life, the essence. For me, it was the magazines. That’s how I knew like, Oh my gosh like, I can be this beautiful. Some of the women they had in there were like Miss Continental. They used to put all the pageant girls in those magazines. Growing up, I didn’t know anything about trans women. So I thought I was just like gay and confused and battling my identity. I didn’t know anything about actually transitioning. Every time I would put on heels or put on lipstick, I felt like I was a woman. But I didn’t know that was even possible until I saw those mags.
Wow. Thank you for that. Sorry if I’m getting real and personal. No, I love it.
Yesterday and today have been really difficult because, you know, it’s the holidays and we’re gonna see family soon. And I’m seeing some of my family for the first time since way before I started transitioning. I’m talking maybe like 15, 17 years. I’m really nervous and I think there’s so much pressure societally for us to act or talk a certain way or look a certain way. I can feel all of that pressure on myself. And I’m wondering, have you ever felt that pressure? And if so, how have you managed to get out of that? So, when I made a decision to start transitioning, being that my family had no knowledge of trans people, it was pretty difficult because it was like, “not only is he gay, but he wants to be a girl.” That’s how they saw it. I’ve always been a person who had very strong confidence. Even in the times I felt unsure of myself. So for me, when I went around my family, I think that at first they took me for a joke, like, “oh, he wanna dress like a girl” and this and that. How they even found out that I started dressing up was that in high school for Halloween I dressed up and I used to wear heels and stuff to school. Of course, I would put ’em on once I got to school.
There were so many times where I suppressed who I was, just to try to please my family, but I didn’t realize that I have to live my life for me. And I realized that you’re not family because of blood, you’re family by the respect. Cause someone that you can meet just yesterday, y’all can connect and have such a close relationship. I consider that family. So, for me over the years, being that I was so close to my family, I used to suppress who I was, and then at some point I just like, fuck it. When I would go around the family on the holidays, I would get dressed up. And if somebody had a problem with it, or if somebody said something smart, I would be like, “Well if you got a problem with it, that’s on you.”
So I went through that for so many years. But then my family really started respecting me when they started seeing that this is serious. Like, oh my gosh, she’s changing, her features are changing. And she has this whole world that loves her, so how can we not love her? But, one thing that I still battle with to this day with my family, it’s pronouns.
That’s crazy to me. That is a reason that makes me not want to go around my family.
Of course. It’s the pronouns, not because of the love that they give. Because they still give me love.You go every day in the world being respected as she/her, and then you get around your family, who you really want to see, and then it’s he, he, he and him, him, him. And it came to the point where I cut off a lot of my family. The only person I care about right now is my mom. My mom loves me. My mom tries her best with pronouns. But when it comes to my other family, when I do come around, it’s like, “You’re gonna respect me or don’t say shit to me at all. Like, nothing.”
Yeah. So that’s kind of like how I dealt with my family with transitioning. Now when I go around and now that, you know, I’m so popular and they see me all across the TVs and the internet. I feel like that helped with them respecting me more. I just went home for Thanksgiving and this was one year that I honestly can say that I went home and I a hundred percent felt so good and so comfortable. Everybody was respectful. Everybody, you know, showed me so much love. They were so happy to see me. And they made sure they were on it with the pronouns. And you know, just for a minute, they forgot, like, what I am, and they remembered who I am. I’m your family. I’m a trans woman, but I’m your family. And so what? Trans people are people.
Mm-hmm. Trans women are women. Like we exist.
Exactly. And you gotta get over it.
I think, it’s just like you said, you have so much love for your family and you want them to share the same love that you share for them back to you. But navigating pronouns and dead naming also, which is very common for a lot of trans people navigating their families, it’s just a constant trying to prove yourself, right? But why prove yourself? It’s just ridiculous that you have to do that. And that’s where I had to draw the line. You know, I’m living my life for me. I’m 35 years old, before you know it, Imma be 40. I can’t continue to live with my family. I can’t continue to try to please them. I can’t try to be who they want me to be because that’s not me. I’m me. You just gotta get on the ball or just don’t talk to me at all.
Well, and you are beautiful and you are everything. Thank you.
They will digest it. And they’re digesting it. Oh yeah, and they have. The majority of them have. I think it took for me to click out on them one good time and to explain, and then now it’s kind of like, “Okay, we get it.” And at the end of the day, it’s about respect. You know?
100 percent agree. That’s like, the bare minimum, right? That’s all we ask for.
Do you have any advice maybe for anyone starting their transition? The main advice that I like to say, and that I live by, is don’t ever let anyone dictate how to live your authenticity and your truth. That is the advice that I stick to with myself every day. And that is the advice that I give trans people, the newer up-and-coming trans people, and just like people in general. Just never let anyone dictate how you live your truth and your authenticity.
I think we also have to choose happiness, right? Yeah. You have to choose happiness, and you have to be totally happy with who you are. Because if you’re not happy with who you are, there’s no way that you’re gonna be able to project that for others to be happy with who you are.
It’s hard to spread love to people when you can’t even give it to yourself, huh? Yes. Thank you so much for this conversation, Fantasia. I really, really appreciate it. Oh my gosh. I really love it. Right now, I’m having real hot flashes because I’m so damn excited [Laughs]. I love talking about this kind of stuff. Because I remember when I was that little girl that just needed some advice, so to be able to share my story, this is really emotional and I’m really happy about it. I’m just really happy with where life has taken me and I’m just taking it all in and trying to enjoy it and share it with the world [Laughs].
Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Bless you, Fantasia. Have a great birthday.
Fantasia Royale Gaga at her first beach photoshoot in Miami Beach.