The designer and LGBTQIA+ rights advocate speaks to HUNGER’s EIC about working with David LaChapelle, starting fashion line Strike Oil and making face masks for front line workers.
Born into the illustrious Getty family, expectations have always been stacked pretty highly for Nats Getty — making it all the more admirable that she’s chosen to forge her own path. Working as a model throughout the 2010s, her androgynous look inspired the likes of David LaChapelle but her biggest breakthrough would be as a creative herself. Mentored by LA street artist Mr Brainwash, she’s found her artistic voice with Strike Oil, a lifestyle brand for “misfits and outcasts”. In her personal life, she’s also breaking boundaries: married to YouTuber and trans activist Gigi Gorgeous, Nats is helping to educate an online following about the need for queer joy and acceptance in an increasingly polarised world.
Below, she has a frank and open conversation with HUNGER Editor in Chief Rankin about being queer in 2020 and discovering her creativity through modelling.
Rankin: How has 2020 been for you?
Nats Getty: I mean 2020 has definitely been a hell of a year I mean it’s been crazy and uncomfortable and so may negative things but I have to say it has been very formative. I was in the middle of a production for a collection for my line and the pandemic hit so I immediately stopped but then saw that there was a shortage of masks. People in need on the front line people having to reuse their surgical and medical equipment just broke my heart so instead of making clothes I had my sample sewers making washable and reusable masks that I donated to different hospitals, elderly facilities and LGBTQIA+ centres in Hollywood. I did a drop off every week and so even though it was in the middle of the pandemic where everything was going completely crazy and nobody knew which way was up I sort of navigated that completely to my roots, which are philanthropy and always being part of the solution rather than just sitting. In the misery and the unknown, I kind of embraced it.
R: Yes, I found it interesting looking at who wallowed and who was reactive. I was very proactive in my own small way. I gave myself two weeks of misery and then I went; “I don’t think I can do misery anymore.” What do you think about your new potential Vice President?
NG: I mean she ticks every box, I could not be happier or more hopeful. I don’t know if I could survive another year much less four years of this bullshit. Fingers crossed that this is the ticket that wins, because she is fantastic. I’ve been following her for longer than just since she got picked as the running mate, I think she’s amazing and I fully see her as president one day.
R: Are you quite political as a person?
NG: Yes, well my mum kind of always engrained me, she gave up her US citizenship and she just has Irish and so when she did that she lost her right to vote. So the second I turned eighteen she would rally me and all my friends and be like; “I need you to go and vote on behalf of me.” I always found it so important to vote and especially in the last few years I’ve realized how important it is to vote on things that aren’t just the major “who’s going to be president” elections and that every decision matters. As the world has gone downhill, I’ve realized how important it is to be a part of those smaller conversations and decisions that impact everyone.
R: When did you realise you wanted to become a creative?
NG: I was in university double major and wanted to go to law school, I had great grades and was obsessed with political science. I remember in boarding school I took art for my GCSEs and both of my art teachers begged me to continue not to take it because I was doing so badly and failing in their eyes and I remember that put out my creative fire for a while. Then I started modelling.
R: What was it about modelling that got you on your creative path?
NG: I think I was about 20 and obviously I am very androgynous and at LA at this time specifically it wasn’t such a thing…
R: I mean it’s still not a thing in LA really, to be androgynous in LA is a whole other culture.. how do you cope with that?
NG: I mean it definitely has been interesting. It’s kind of interesting that my roots are here and I’ve entered these different worlds, I feel like I’ve lived a hundred different lifetimes in LA. W I was going out when I was sixteen, or twenty-one, getting tables every night…that feels like a hundred and fifty years ago. That scene was crazy and I was running around, like God only knows who, and then moved to New York for a year or two and I fucking hated it. Then getting into the creative scene here meeting artists, and then modelling, it was super fun but different because I was the only person that looked like me that was doing it. I was doing more like just photo sessions with people, I wasn’t walking as I refused to wear heels, I just wouldn’t do it. It was my job as a model to work with the photographer and work with the team but I always made sure I stayed as true to myself as I could. That was interesting to navigate because some people were taken aback by it because some people think models should be like a hanger.
R: It can be a very kind of abusive relationship, I’ve seen people being abused and seen people essentially being used as a hanger
NG: Yeah exactly I think I went into it with the mentality like that was not going to be me. My agent would get mad at me and I’d be like; “it doesn’t matter I don’t give a fuck.” It was a very interesting time and that’s what pushed me towards my creative artist lifestyle. Knowing how dark things got for me when I was doing what I loved, if I ended up being a lawyer I can only imagine how terrible things would’ve turned out…
R: Was there anyone you met along the way who said; “yes you can do it”? Did you have any positive mentoring?
NG: Yes, I worked with David La Chappelle. He did a show with my brother [fashion designer August Getty] and they were going through comp cards picking models and randomly he picked mine out of a line-up and he said; “this is a girl I want the whole show to be about, this vibe, this energy.” That blew my mind, I felt like this outcast model and David La Chappelle wanted to shoot me and do a show around my vibe. Then I worked with Mr Brainwash, I started working with him really closely for a while and that was a huge turning point in my life because I was obsessed with his art and he really took me under his wing.
R: How long have you been doing your line?
NG: I started Strike Oil kind of on accident as I just started painting over one of my YSL jackets as I was so over everybody having one and looking the same as everybody else and it just grew and grew from there. I was modelling at the time and wearing it on shoots and photographers would be like “I love that, I want one for the next shoot,” and people started requesting them. In the last year and a half, it became an actual collection, not just one-off pieces but a full head-to-toe and lifestyle brand.
R: Can you tell me about the name?
NG: Yeah so I was in a college class one day and the professor out of nowhere brought up this quote that I had never heard of and it goes “rise early, work hard, strike oil.” It’s by [my grandfather] J P Getty and I wasn’t even paying attention but when I heard it, I loved it and immediately got it tattooed on me. For a long time, I took it quite literally and then realised that to me striking oil isn’t waking up and finding the biggest and most booming business, it’s kind of a way of life. When something beautiful happens, whether it’s financially or emotionally or creatively, or you feel good about something I consider that striking oil.
R: Did you feel that way when you meet your wife?
NG: Definitely. I‘ve been really honest in the past about struggles with addiction, depression, anxiety, body issues, eating disorders, and when I met her I was in a very dark and sick place in my life. I was extremely unhealthy and I met Gigi (Gorgeous) at LAX on the way to see my brother at fashion week. There were ten of us going and I was coming straight from the club the night before, I hadn’t slept, but I looked over and saw what I could only describe as an angel. And that was the first time I felt hopeful and joyful. I smiled and that, in itself, was a monuments occasion because I don’t remember smiling for six months and then I saw this amazing human being and, instantly, I was a cheese ball. We spent ten days together and after those ten days, I was head over heels in love with this person.
R: Do you think your relationship with Gigi help sort you out?
NG: Definitely, I mean for the most part that was definitely the beginning of recovery and it wasn’t like “oh I became this crazy co-dependent person switching drugs out for this woman,” it was more that I found what was beautiful in the world again and she opened my eyes to a way of life and living that I had forgotten about. I used to be super happy but then I started hanging around with the wrong people and doing the wrong things but she reignited that joy in me, times a million.
R: How do you feel being queer in today’s world? When I read about hate crimes in this country going up I’m like; “it’s 20 fucking 20.”
NG: It’s unbelievable. When I came out, I was in a restaurant in LA and me and my girlfriend just kissed and we got pretty much attacked by the table next to us. The manager came over to us and said; “this is a family restaurant, get out.” I went home to my mum sobbing and she didn’t know what to do, she wanted to go to the restaurant with a baseball bat. This was over ten years ago and around the time we were on the way to having gay marriage legalised. Everything was looking so hopeful and then out of nowhere this rapid decline and just hatred pouring towards this community: especially the transgender community and, within that, the transgender people of colour who experience daily hate crime.
8 September 2020