*This story has been updated as it initally included a historical inaccuracy.
2021 will mark a change to the RuPaul's Drag Race universe. On January 1, the show's 13th season will premiere and with it will come the first transmasculine contestant to enter the Work Room. That performer will be Gottmik, who follows season 9's Peppermint as the second trans performer ever to compete on the regular season on the show that has spoken openly about their gender since the casting announcement. The moment comes after years of contentious conversation about the show's casting practices which have excluded trans performers as well as other versions of drag like drag kings and bearded performers. But Gottmik's ascent is in no way paying lip service to "do the bare minimum" — some have contended that other performers, like Sonique who appeared in a Holi-Slay special as well as Gia Gunn in All Stars 3, were done simply to appease — but presents a contestant who could actually walk away with the crown.
"I need to be the first trans winner of RuPaul's Drag Race, period," they say in their Meet the Queens video.
Gottmik, who appeared on a digital cover of Out this summer, is a well-known figure in drag and in makeup under his professional name Kade Gottlieb. Most recently he put Lil Nas X is Nicki Minaj drag for Halloween. But he's also worked with the likes of Paris Hilton, Adam Lambert, Kaia Gerber, Heidi Klum, Jeffree Star, French Montana, Kim Petras, Amanda LePore and more. He's even done work for magazines like Billboard and Nylon and is well known in the Drag Race universe having worked with Pearl, Shangela, Courtney Act, Gia Gunn ... the list goes on. The performer maintains a close friendship and working relationship with Gigi Gorgeous and is also represented by Opus Beauty. His makeup skills already inspire over 100,000 followers, on Instagram who take to the platform to create looks based off of his work. The impact of his work, coming into the show bring to mind other queens like Raven, Miss Fame, and Aquaria. But as we all know, Drag Race loves a performer who has a narrative that people can fall in love with and Gottlieb is full of nuances and intricacies to his experience that he can convey to viewers in the Work Room confessionals.
“It’s kind of confusing on paper when you just put it down,” he told Rose Dommu in our cover story of being a transmasculine person who does high femme drag. His is the story that shows the difference between gender and presentation and confronts an idea many might have that those who are transmasculine flee from any feminine activities. "I thought, 'All of these guys around me are so feminine, and no one’s questioning their masculinity or anything…. It makes no sense that just because I happen to be assigned female at birth, I cannot also be a feminine man," he said. And now the performer, who began doing drag at 18 before his transition and garnered a degree in product development from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, can share that story complex story with the world.
"It means so much for me to be on the show right now," he says in the introductory video. "Especially being a trans guy going on — a feminine perspective of a trans guy. The trans movement is getting so big, so powerful, so strong. I'm 'America's Next Drag Superstar' because I'm ready to get on this show and try to win this crown for my community."
He comes in a line of performers that include people like Gunn, and Sonique, as well as nonbinary or fluid performers like Sasha Velour, Shea Coulee, and Gigi Goode. Peppermint notably paved the way for Gottmik most directly. In episode six of season nine she spoke openly about being trans on the series, but began speaking about it on social media as soon as her casting was announced — this broke from previous tradition where contestants would wait until after the show or until an episode where they spoke about being trans premiered. In fact, like Gottmik Peppermint spoke about her history making status in her Meet the Queens clip.
Internationally there are others like 2020 Out100 honoree Ilona Verley who was the franchise's first two-spirit competitor when she competed on Canada's Drag Race, Madame Madness who this year became the first bearded performer with her debut on Drag Race Holland, and Angele Anang who in 2018 became the first trans Drag Race winner globally when she won the second season of Drag Race Thailand. But that this first is coming on the first day of the new year, when we are set to have a historic amount of Drag Race on air only signals good things about the future of the program.