Singer Gia Woods On Self Acceptance & Transcending Labels
The L.A-based Persian pop sensation talks about music, being a part of the Calvin Klein family and taking the LGBTQ community by storm
Pride and self-expression have long been hallmarks of Calvin Klein's messaging over the years, with the American brand pioneering diversity and gender fluidity in the early 90s (anyone old enough to remember the CK One campaigns will know).
Fast track to 2020, the message remains the same, this time with a fresh coterie of faces and names pushing the conversation forward.
For its #ProudInMyCalvins campaign, this year — an initiative from the brand to celebrate self-expression and the full spectrum of LGBTQ+ identities — Calvin Klein tapped models, actors, artists and activists from different backgrounds with a strong message and belief in diversity and acceptance.
Californian based singer Gia Woods is one of those stars who has made a name for herself as a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights through her pop sound.
Breaking into the music scene in 2016 when she released her single Only a Girl, a song that also celebrated her 'coming out.' “Since a lot of songs I wrote weren’t specifically stating ‘he’ or ‘she,’ I remember the day that song was written, I just wanted to be honest,” said Woods in an interview with i-D magazine.
The music video accompanying the track garnered over 10 million views on YouTube and attracted thousands of fans to the burgeoning pop star.
We chat to Gia about her recent EP release 'Cut Season', what style means to her and her involvement in Calvin Klein's #ProudInMyCalvins campaign.
Kia Ora Gia. Thank you for taking the time to chat to us all the way in New Zealand. How has your week been?
Hi, thanks for having me! My week has been a little crazy. The highlight has definitely been getting ready for my EP release.
I've been discussing it all week with my team and also finishing a new music video that's coming out with the EP.
It's surreal because I was supposed to release this EP in June and then be on tour, but obviously with Covid everything had to be put on hold. I think it's kind of a blessing in disguise though because the songs are a bit dark and have more of a fall than summer feeling anyway. October feels like the right time for it to come out.
Life is quite disparate for people around the world, and seeing the situation in the US from New Zealand, it feels like such a heightened time with protests, a pandemic and elections. How are you dealing with life right now?
Yeah, the US has definitely been tense lately. I'm in LA which is a very liberal city so it's been really cool to see people here unifying together, protesting, and wanting to wake up and learn.
It's also really emotional right now, between the fight against police brutality and the stress of the upcoming election, a lot of people are really worried about where we’re headed.
And on top of that, there are the massive fires happening right now. It's definitely overwhelming but I'm taking things day by day.
I'm trying my best as an artist to use my platform, spread awareness, keep learning, and be involved.
You've probably been asked this many times, but how has 2020 challenged you as a creative person living in quarantine? What are the most interesting creatively fulfilling things that you have done — if at all?
This year has definitely made my writing process challenging.
I've been writing at home with my guitar and I've done some Zoom sessions with friends, but it's definitely not the same as having in-person sessions.
The most difficult part is getting the songs recorded. I feel like I have to be really selective with which songs I choose to record because with Covid we don't get as many chances to be in the studio.
Not being able to fully live my life the way I normally would has definitely limited me because I always write about what I'm currently going through and it's been such a weird time.
But I think soon after I've had some time to process, I'm going to have a lot to write about again.
That being said, I did get to shoot a music video recently.
I was supposed to shoot the video way before the pandemic, back in March, but it ended up being pushed back.
Shooting during these times was definitely a nice feeling of normalcy and was incredibly fulfilling. It made me feel hopeful that we can still collaborate and create, using safety precautions obviously. It was a nice reminder that we can make it work.
WATCH: Gia Woods for Calvin Klein's #proudInMyCalvins campaign
Congratulations on being a part of the Calvin Klein family via its thought-provoking #ProudInMyCalvins campaign. Why was it important for you to be a part of this campaign?
Calvin Klein has always been one of my favourite brands, I was such a big fan growing up.
This was their second LGBTQ+ pride campaign and to be a part of it was such a crazy and monumental experience.
It's important to me to be seeing big brands supporting our community like this and I'm really passionate about getting to be a part of it.
I hope the campaign inspires other big brands to follow suit because I feel there's still a lot of companies that have yet to show support the way Calvin Klein has.
You're also in amazing company with the likes of Jari Jones, Tommy Dorfman, Ama Elsesser and more. What's your relationship like with them? How have you all used this campaign to amplify not only your individual voices but as a collective force?
I got to connect with everyone on set which was really fun. A few of us continue to support each other by reposting and sharing each other's work on Instagram.
Calvin Klein has a long history of diversity and inclusivity through its campaigns — long before these values became buzzwords. In your opinion, how can brands be better genuine allies to the LGBTQ+ community? How can the fashion industry globally be better with regards to this?
I think the fashion industry can be better by outwardly showing support, raising our voices, and working with people from the LBGTQ+ community not just because of their status or the number of followers they have, but to really just share their stories.
Everybody has their own individual story and brands should be showcasing all kinds of people to reflect that.
There's definitely still some fashion brands who haven't fully shown their support and I'm surprised by that.
The only way to make it normal to be inclusive is to amplify different voices from different communities.
The fashion industry has a long history of showcasing one specific type and size. Change has definitely started, but there’s a long way to go.
On the runways you still see the same kinds of shapes and sizes, it'd be nice to start seeing something different.
What are the conversations like with the people who resonate with your music on a personal level?
It's crazy but I get a lot of messages from people telling me that I helped them become more themselves or that my music helped them recognize who they are in terms of their sexuality.
My biggest hope is to share my story so that it helps others become comfortable with getting to know themselves.
I want everyone to know they're not weird for being different and they're not alone.
Growing up, I didn't have anyone to look up to or talk to when I was discovering my sexuality.
I get messages from people saying, "Oh I just found your song and it's helping me," and that feels pretty amazing.
What has your journey been like coming out? What have some challenges been along the way and how do you try and pull through them positively?
It's wild because I thought when I came out through my first song Only A Girl that it was going to open up the door to be more myself around friends and family.
But my family thought it was just a phase and that the song wasn't genuine which really hurt. I thought that I was being pretty clear by putting out a song and video that so boldly stated my sexuality.
I was genuinely coming out and being the most honest version of myself, so that wasn't exactly the reaction that I had expected from my family.
It's still sort of an unspoken thing with my mom. I know she's aware of my sexuality but we don't really talk openly about my relationships or anything like that.
After putting that video out, a lot of people would tell me not to talk about sexuality too much because it was going to box me in.
But others would encourage me to go full force and let it all out.
I would have moments where I felt I was walking on eggshells trying not to make my career centred only around my sexuality.
Every interview always felt focused on that and I got worried that it was the only thing people thought was interesting about me.
But of course it's a part of me and I'm now at a point where I don’t care how much I talk about it because I want it to help people.
I hope people can find universal messages in my music as well.
I talk a lot about my relationships, and yes my songs are all about girls, but I hope that anyone can listen and relate.
And I'm done worrying about if I'm being "too gay". I'm confident with who I am and I don't care anymore if I'm talking about something too much.
I want to be 100% myself and genuine no matter what.
How does fashion and beauty make you feel as a person? Where did your love for it come from?
Growing up I was a tomboy and didn't really care about clothes.
My older sister would always put me in dresses and put makeup on me, but I didn't really like it and just thought it was annoying.
When I was in my teens I started learning about different styles through the internet or seeing models and artists in magazines. I got inspired and started opening up to different ways that I could dress.
I started being experimental and wearing clothes that were super different from everyone else at my high school.
I would kind of get death stares but that gave me this high feeling like oh I can be whoever I want and dress however I want.
Who were some of your style icons growing up and why?
Grace Jones, Bjork, Madonna, Naomi Campbell, and Victoria Beckham.
All of these women seemed so powerful and they each are so confident in their own unique styles.
Growing up who were you're the people that influenced the most to live your true authentic self?
In a lot of ways my sister always pushed me to try different things.
She was always showing me really cool music and always supported my passion for it.
She pushed me to be in my choir class, which I wasn't going to do, and if I didn't do it I wouldn't have been discovered by my first manager or where I am today.
What are your plans for the rest of 2020?
Who knows? Every time I make a plan, it falls apart! You really never know what's gonna happen.
My only plan is to release this EP and have as many people hear it as possible.
I hope that it makes people feel less alone, nostalgic, excited, and more.
This EP really has every emotion that you could feel.
What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given to you, and what is it?
The best advice I've been given is to keep my blinders on, trust my instincts, and not compare myself to everybody else.
Someone who I'm very close to has always told me that and it's been so important because I've always made music without paying attention to what other people are doing and just made whatever I wanted to.
What are you currently listening to, or what are the top 5 songs that sum up your mood right now?
I'm currently listening to Daft Punk, Lana del Rey, classic Britney Spears, Simian Mobile Disco, and old Timbaland. I'm honestly always listening to older music more than current music.
Favourite quarantine meal?
Pasta always makes me happy no matter what mood I'm in. If someone brings me a plate of pasta, especially if it's spicy fusilli, I will be the happiest person in the world.