Tell me who doesn’t want a bit of Joshua Bassett right now? From Disney kid to pop superstar, the ever-popular musician is making waves, and it’s a wave you don’t want to miss.
Since releasing his debut EP in March 2021, featuring lead single “Lie Lie Lie”, Bassett has been the talk of the town, with punchy pop tracks becoming part of his legacy. Many will recognise Bassett from his time at Disney, whether it be his breakout role in Stuck In The Middle or as romantic lead Ricky in the insanely titled High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. But, as I found, there is so much more to him than the traditional Disney Star turned Pop Star fairytale we have all seen play out before.
Delving straight into our interview, I wanted to find out how his success as an actor has encouraged and gave him the confidence to reach out to other work.“There is a multitude of things I’d like to do with my time! I’m stoked about some recent developments in my world!.”
He plays it cool, holding his cards close to his chest but it’s clear from his excitement that some big news is heading his fans way shortly. It must be a relief to have some good news on the horizon as the past 18 months have been incredibly difficult for Basset as he dealt with savage internet trolls and battled Sepsis all while isolating through the pandemic. “I feel like this year has knocked me down, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I try to remain positive but I’m not gonna lie- it’s been difficult.”
His health difficulties became public knowledge around the time he released his debut self titled EP, I wondered how he has found easing back into post-pandemic life and what things kept him going, recovering while in lockdown?
“Well, I’m still a mess! That’s for sure! Other than that, I couldn’t tell you. The whole year feels like a blur at this point, but I’m lucky to have such a wonderful team. Nate Albert is just as much my A&R as he is my mentor and it’s a treasure to have such wise and experienced people who believe in me and my project!”
With his dream team and Warner backing him all the way, I asked whether he had any big expectations for the EP, an experimental release sharing the first glimpse of his music with the world. “I’m very proud of that little EP, but I think it displays just a fraction of what I’m capable of. I’m beyond excited to share the next batch of music with people as soon as it’s ready!”
Over the past year, Joshua has found his voice as a new pillar in the LGBTQ+ community, opening up about his sexuality and mental health experiences. Having championed loving who you love shamelessly as a means of finding liberation, he sadly had to combat vicious abuse online symptomatic of the systemic hatred that still exists within society. But he didn’t shy away, instead, he shouted louder, became bolder and tackled stereotypes through his own experiences. He spoke about having been taught not to cry as a child and how he had to overcome these lessons to find the confidence to challenge the deep-rooted toxic masculinity he was exposed to and apply himself to learning how to help himself stay well, citing sleep and meditation as his two go too’s.
Discussing his mental health journey he opened up to me, “I’ve struggled with a handful of mental health issues my entire life; lately, I’ve been doing everything I can to stay afloat.” When I asked about how best we can end the stigmas around mental illness he was quick to answer, “I think mental health practices should be taught and encouraged in elementary school but until then I’ll have to catch up on all that I can as a young adult”.
While it is a given that music has been pivotal in helping him express himself, Bassett also acknowledged how sometimes being fully open and vulnerable can be a tricky line to walk, “Nothing beats being able to express exactly how you feel in a song. It can be very therapeutic. At the same time, it can be incredibly overwhelming when accessing your deepest most vulnerable places, and so in that way, it can be tricky.”
With the pandemic still very much inflow, many of us have found isolation a perfect time to look at our lives and deal with personal issues and challenges head-on, I wondered if Joshua had had any moments of self-reflection during the past year and how he’s mastered new energy to move forward and try new things. “I continuously remind myself that I must keep going no matter what.”
Although he has found the courage to speak openly, I sense some apprehension from Joshua when it comes to mental health talk. Like him, although I’m thrilled mental health and mental illness is being talked about more in mainstream media, there is a hesitation to bare my soul completely and trust that the progress we made is cemented. It’s something clearly on his mind, “I know mental health has plummeted for a lot of people and I’m very concerned about the whiplash we’re all about to see.”
Before we leave the interview, I ask if he has any last-minute thoughts, words of wisdom or advice he wants to pass on. “We need each other now more than ever- the world needs healing and community” and as we close the book, for now, he hastily adds “Helping myself and others and knowing that it will all get better is what keeps me going!”
In a world that is currently as turbulent as it has been in a while, coming together, relying on, and needing one another is some of the best advice we can hear, healing truly is the perfect priority, and Joshua intends to continue to make it his.
Words: Alice Gee
“Hi Gorge”, Gottmik greets me over Zoom from LA with her now-famous catchphrase. She became an instant star after her impeccable run on Series 13 RuPaul’s Drag Race, setting a new precedent for what it means to be a drag queen today. From the second she entered the werk room determined to crash the “cis-tem” she challenged the preconceived notions of what it meant to be a trans man in 2021. Blurring the lines between gender in a no fucks given way she was a visual advocate for throwing conformity out the window in a way that was entertaining, educational and fostered greater empathy. In a society where trans people are celebrated for “passing”, Gottmiks position in the middle of a constrictive spectrum, on international TV has given a voice to countless people around the globe and personifies the compassionate change we need so desperately in the world.
I sit with a cup of tea to catch up with Gottmik about her 2022 future endeavours, combating labels, and finding her true identity. As we exchange pleasantries I can think of no better place than to start than the success she’s found on Drag Race and how being the first trans male to appear on the show has impacted the trans community.
“I think me going on Drag Race as the first Trans Male has impacted the community as a whole in a way that I didn’t see coming. I thought I was just going to go on there and tell my story, hoping whoever sees it connects with it, but since getting off the show I’ve been able to travel and meet so many people from every gender on the spectrum. I felt I was breaking boundaries and it opened so many more doors than I ever thought possible. I think it gave people hope, even if they didn’t connect with my story. I’m so grateful I could come and tell my journey on that platform.”
Gottmik, ever modest, seemed hesitant at times when talking about the journey she’s been through and the response she’s received from fans both in and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. I can’t help but wonder whether being a small-town kid who had to find their own way through their struggles has had something to do with it. I was keen to ask how drag has helped established her identity.
“Drag was the way I found my identity across the board. I always knew I was trans, I just never had the language or the vocabulary to voice it let alone how to describe it. Although I wasn’t sure what my identity was, I knew that there was something there with my gender. So finding drag and expressing what I was feeling through a physical art form with my body and finding what I was comfortable looking like, has been such a monumental thing for me to figure out.”
“I just think I was so excited to just go on Drag Race and tell my story and just be me, I didn’t even think about how scary it actually was until after we started. It was probably best that way. Now that I am comfortable with me in and out of drag, my persona is just fully my art and I’m so much more down to explore different places that I wasn’t down to before.”
We hover around the question of identity and the extended difficulties that come alongside finding who you are, falling into a discussion about labels and her personal opinion of how they have impacted her, having previously spoken about being labelled a ‘Tom Boy’ in her childhood.
“For me, gender is just a crazy spectrum that can change every day. So even though I identify as a trans male, and I’m very binary in that way, I don’t love being forced into a label. One day I wake up, and I don’t necessarily feel this way or that way, and I just want to be free, especially with my sexuality. I don’t want to put any label on that so people can’t shove me in a box because I’ve labelled myself.”
With the pressures that come with falling into the limelight, and the unwanted opinions of unknown voices online I wondered if Gottmik had felt any pressures to be bold in her choices on Drag Race in a way to represent the community.
“Yes, when I went in and I saw the show, I was really scared about saying the right things and being the perfect trans role model. When I was talking to RuPaul, I was thinking ‘Oh my gosh’, this is such a moment for me, I have to be the perfect exemplary trans icon. The second that RuPaul said “the way people are going to connect with you is just by being yourself. You already got the job, you just have to show up” it just all clicked that the reason I’m here is that I have put in the work and I have worked hard to find who I am and now all I have to do is tell my story and that’s what people are going to connect with. It’s was as simple as that.”
Whilst we talk about the pressures she’s faced from becoming a household name, many of which adding what I imagine a heavy burden to her mental health at times, I asked when she first remembered or thought she was struggling with her mental health.
“Because of growing up trans and not having the vocabulary for it, I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t have any trans people in my life. Like, I’d never really seen on TV anyone that looked or identified as me, so I felt super alone. I was depressed for years. Once I moved away, I met a few trans people, and they just opened my eyes. I still hadn’t met any feminine trans men so I still felt I didn’t see anyone like me and that I was the only person in this world. And then I just woke up one day, and I was like, you know, you just have to trust yourself, no one knows you better than yourself. And so I started hormones. And I felt the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders.”
“I started realising that I just needed that self-trust to be able to take that leap of like faith and choose happiness whilst saying fuck the rest. So that’s what I had to do, and I literally, was almost instantly happier the second I started hormones. I began a journey of self-love and started figuring it out. I remember thinking, one day, I’m going to look in the mirror and love myself, and it’s going to be everything. I feel like I’m finally there.”
As we continue to chat, we find ourselves talking about the horrendous waiting times when it comes to transitioning in both the UK and the US.
“I think it took me like six months to get into the LGBT centre because I didn’t want my family knowing. Thank God for them, because they worked with me and helped me but it did take a while to get an appointment for sure.
“It was really hard. My family’s super conservative and Christian, so I was so scared to tell them. Coming out was hard enough and then on top, I was like, “Oh my god”, I already put them through that, how can I put them through this, it was just like a weird mentality that I had. I feel like a lot of queer people have that mentality. When I came out, it wasn’t the easiest, but my family loves me and I’m really lucky for that.”
Later on in the interview, we found ourselves discussing the incredible outfits she presented on the Drag Race runway and the special items she’s got in the wardrobe ready to whip out on tour. She tells me about a Vivienne Westwood shirt that she proudly wears without a thought to her scars. Having previously battled with my own scars for many years (albeit caused by a very different reason) I found Gottmik’s brazen display of her surgery marks inspiring. I was curious to hear how she has coped with the scars from her top surgery and the expectations she felt towards herself when it came to transitioning and whether she is aware of the inspiring effects it’s having on others watching her journey.
“I am. I definitely at first, when I was getting top surgery, was kind of scared to have scars. I was planning on the second I was out to have laser in the hope they would go away forever. I felt I needed to hide them. But I think being on Drag Race helped me a lot because it made me realise how many people I was helping by just like having my chest out. I had fans message me and say that I inspired them to have their scars out. It’s really empowering for them to see that on TV. I didn’t realise the power that I had by just showing my scars. It kind of made me realise, I worked hard to get to this point. And I worked hard for those scars, and in a way, I’m so proud of them.
“It’s mad how people see scars as a negative and how many feel they should hide them but it’s as part of your journey. Whatever happened to get those scars, you should be proud of how you got to where you are today with them.”
I’m grateful Gottmik was so open and honest in her answer, it was the first ever question I was nervous to ask, worried I may trigger difficult feelings and memories. But I’m glad I did in the hopes others can learn to love their scars. As I bring up her future plans Gottmik tells me she has just signed to Elite Model Management and has some exciting things in store for 2022.
“I was filling documents the other day, and I wrote 2020 on everything. I can’t believe it’s nearly 2022. I’m so excited to get into the world again and to just kill it. I want to do everything so I’m just going to throw myself into every form of art I could ever have imagined. I’m such a fashion freak I always have been and I just want to dive into the fashion industry as hardcore as I ever could this year. Me and Violet Chachki also started a show together where we’re talking about fashion together all whilst working to release a podcast.”
As we wrap Gottmik tells me about her upcoming UK tour with fellow drag star Rosé, whilst I move at the speed of light to check my calendar so I don’t miss it. The excitement is more than apparent. Seeing Gottmik in her element is better than I could have ever hoped from the interview, not only that but the fact she is inspiring so many at the same time as living her dreams and desires. Her easygoing nature is a testament to herself and her journey, which is only going to continue to have a positive impact on those around her.
*We confirmed with Gottmik that while presenting in their drag persona they prefer to go by She/Her*
Words: Alice Gee
Photography: Marco Ovando
We speak with the biggest and brightest names in the industry about everything from how they got to where they are today to their tips and tricks.
For our first ‘In The Industry’ piece I am joined by the one and only John Giddings who is legendry far and wide in the music and touring industry. Having set up Solo Agency, managing three of the five top-selling concert tours around the world, John has found noteriety in reviving The Isle Of Wight Festiival. Speaking with John over the phone (no surprise with what I imagine is one hell of a schedule) I was excited to hear his tales of the industry, advice and some of his favourite moments.
(A) When did you realise that the music industry and events was a profession you wanted to go into?
(JG) When I was about 13/14 I was in a group and I realised I wasn’t a musician. Me and my friend became social sec’s at the local college and he got a job in the music business. At the time I thought if I go to a university and become a social secretary, I can get into the music business. I studied philosophy and sociology and although I still don’t know what they are in a way, I did become a social secretary and I got a job in the music business.
(A) I love it, so different to how others may have thought you found your way into the industry.
(JG) It’s the truth though, I’m the only person you’ll ever meet who went to university knowing what they wanted to do for a living. Nobody [knows what they’re going to do], our daughter’s been through the whole thing, she was head girl, got 1st in classes now she’s got no clue. How do you know what you want to do at that age, my wife always says to me ‘how are you so determined to do it?’ and I can’t even remember knowing it, I just remember walking into a pub and saw the Sex Pistols and thought ‘f*cking hell, this is cool’. What you have to realise is that nobody helped me at all with anything I ever did. And I’m determined in my career to help every single person that asks for help because nobody helped me and you’ll find people don’t give you the time because they’re arrogant. I really believe the more successful you are the more humble you should be, you can’t change the past you can only change the future, it’s very simple. I promote a gig in a field and I’m grateful people pay me to come.
(A) What should you expect from your day-to-day?
(JG) You can’t expect anything. Everything is your job, you must realise there is no limit, it has to happen. You say ‘I’m not going to do this, it’s not my job’ you’re in trouble, you can’t think that way, otherwise your event wont happen.
(A) What would you consider a few of your biggest mistakes?
(J) I think I’m one of the luckiest people alive, although I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, I’ve won more than I’ve lost. The three biggest mistakes I’ve ever made are;
1- When the lawyer from Take That called me up and said they’re reforming and I said “is Robbie Williams in the group?” he said “no” and I said “No thank you.”
2- I was offered Culture Club by Virigin Records, and I thought Karma Chameleon wasn’t going to be a hit.
3- And the third one was The Pretenders, I went to a rehearsal and they were terrible, but I booked their first ever gig and didn’t go. But you need to see a group in front of an audience and see how they react. But they’re the three worst things I’ve ever done, and I’ve never told anyone that so it’s a world exclusive.
(A) What’re you most excited for being back at Isle Of Wight Festival?
(JG) I love working with a team to achieve something. When you put an artist on stage and they perform a brilliant song and the audience go wild I get a shiver up my back. I think it was worthwhile stressing about it. To deliver entertainment for people is one of the best things you can ever do, it’s a satisfying experience. You know when Freddy Mercury played Live Aid and said ‘anyone who says they’re doing this just for the starving in Africa is lying.’ You’re doing it for yourself and for other people and everyone benefits.
(A) How do you think the atmosphere at IOW post COVID will differ from the past?
(JG) Not much. I love when you go into a field and enjoy a group, talking to the stranger next to you because you’ve got a shared experience. You go to a football match and they’ll probably kick your head in.
(A) And before we go what’s a few of your career highlights?
(JG) That’s really hard. Erm, David Bowie at Wembley Stadium, my first ever Wembley Stadium show. I had to go on stage and announce the health and safety, and I was so scared I read the first page twice, my legs were shaking. Another would be when we won the best festival award at one of the first festival awards. It was a magic moment because people told me not to do it and advised me against it. My wife always says to me ‘why’d you bother?’, but I just believed in it, and I was naive. I judge a lot of the decisions that I made when I was younger. I formed my own company off my back, I had f*ck all money, I just took a leap of faith and believed in myself. I thought ‘if it all goes wrong I’ll go and grow mushrooms on Dartmoor’. It’s not arrogance, it’s gambling. I told someone the other day to stop betting on horses because they were losing a lot of money, and they said ‘John, you bet on people with two legs every day of your life’ and I’d never thought of it like that.
John isn’t just straight talking, dedicated to the cause of bringing fans entertainment but he is the perfect example of what can be achieved when you’re determined and passionate about what you love. You can follow John and his industry endeavours on Instagram.