YouTube sensation Gigi Gorgeous’ fortunes have risen with a new, more intimate kind of celebrity: fame that is built week by week through social media, without any middle man negotiating access to the star of the show. Since doing her first makeup tutorial on YouTube eight years ago, Gorgeous has amassed a following of nearly 2.5 million subscribers, many of whom feel they know her well. But a new documentary pulls back the curtain much further than the bubbly confessor ever has before, revealing intimate footage of her transition from living life as a boy in Canada to a transgender woman in glitzy L.A.
This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, directed by documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple, debuts on YouTube Red on Feb. 8. TIME spoke to the star—more formally known as Gigi Lazzarato—about why she decided to share footage from her “vault,” how to deal with the haters online and what she wants this movie to mean. (The following has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)
TIME: How much did you know about what the film would be like—did you just turn over all your videos or were you more involved in putting it together?
Gigi Gorgeous: I was absolutely not involved in the editing process and the post-production. I didn’t even give over all my YouTube videos. It was just assumed that they would be downloaded and used in the film. I did give over hours and hours and hours of my personal footage that I keep in my vault, as I like to call it. Because I literally let nobody see it.
What was it like seeing the film for the first time?
I was just as anxious and nervous as the rest of my family, since it’s about us and they were all filmed, very intimately. I had worked so hard on keeping a lot of my film from my transition a secret. And to have it all edited and put together in 91 minutes, to see my entire life—from baby footage to the person I am now—is absolutely crazy … It was magical, sitting by my father at the world premiere.
The importance of family—with your dad being so supportive, for most of the journey—seemed to be a big theme.
Yes, most of it, for sure. Not all of it. He had a struggle himself, which you see. I didn’t know, going into this, that it was going to be focused so intensely on family, but I’m glad that it is because it turned out to be a love story between my family and I. Having my family behind me—having my two amazing brothers and my father back me up on every decision I made, even though sometimes they might not have agreed with it—was an absolute blessing.
How did you feel about sharing all the footage not just of your transition but before the transition? Some people in the trans community are very sensitive about even sharing their birth names, much less before and after film from surgeries.
I decided to keep everything authentic and unapologetically me years ago. When I decided to transition, I could have deleted every single old video of myself, but I’ve been given an opportunity to be a voice for the transgender community—it is in my power now to educate and also to inspire other trans girls and boys around the world … Every part of the transition is important, the moments before, the moments during and the moments after. It’s all relevant.
Why did you first start sharing videos in public?
I just needed a creative outlet, to be honest. Me and my best friend, we were in a Catholic school and wanted to express our teenage selves … Over time it has shifted in so many ways because the website has grown so much. I started using YouTube when I really wanted to reach out to the world, and I found a group of people who had the same interests as me. And I think a lot of people who are lost or need inspiration or advice can find a community or a family online, just as I did. At the end of the day, YouTube is family.
What was it like for you to grow up while social media was getting so big?
It’s crazy to me, because time has really flown and I’m so happy to see that YouTubers and influencers are turning the page, and rolling over into mainstream media. We all really, really root for each other, because we all come from YouTube. To be driving around L.A. and seeing my billboards is insane.
Will having the film out there change the relationship you have with your YouTube followers?
It will only make it stronger. I’ve gradually shown more and more of my personal life, my real self, my not-on-camera personality. And that’s what this film is, it’s a raw look into my life.
How do you deal with the haters online?
It’s just about trying to stay positive. I’ve built up such a thick skin. It’s very easy to take one comment—whether it be a really mean comment that digs deep or just something rude—and really run with it. It’s so easy, if there are 100 comments, and 99 are nice, you just run with the bad one. I try to see that the love outweighs the hate … I would hope me opening up my life in such a vulnerable way in the film would ignite more positivity, but you never know. People are going to say whatever they want to say.
There’s some nervousness in the LGBT community right now—in terms of what Trump’s win will mean for the political landscape. How have you been feeling since the election?
We are living in a lot of fear right now, and it’s fine for people to be scared. But the most important thing is that we stick together, with love, and be positive.
What do you hope people are going to take away from the movie?
I think understanding and acceptance are the most important words. Love trumps hate, in many ways, in every way, and you can be your authentic self. If you put your mind to it and you put your work in, all your dreams can come true.
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