Steven Smith meets actress, model and trans activist, 39 year old Nicole Gibson. Nicole is currently featured in Starbucks UK’s #whatsyourname campaign.
Starbucks says that writing your name on a cup and calling it out is a symbol of a warm welcome. In addition to increasing LGBTQ+ visibility, the campaign supports Mermaids, the organisation for transgender and gender-diverse young people in the UK. Sales of Starbucks’ mermaid fin-shaped cookies will raise around £100,000 for the group.
The ad — the winner of Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising Award, guaranteeing a million quid’s worth of commercial airtime — first aired on Sunday in the UK. It has also sparked considerable praise on social media from trans people and their allies.
Nicole has starred in Silent Witness, along with LGBTQ+ activist Heather Peace, and a host of other TV shows including Catastrophe where she played a Brazilian prostitute.
Let’s cut to the chase, you look stunning in the Starbucks UK ad campaign. What I want to know is, how would someone romance you? What’s your type, if you have one?
Thank you very much! I’m rather chuffed with it. I got to keep the dress, so I’ll be walking around looking like the campaign until spring.
I find romance early on in a relationship a bit cringy. I’d like my husband of 30 years to romance me, but until then, I just like to have a laugh – a dog walk, a trip to an animal sanctuary, even Go-Ape. Anything where we can have a giggle. I go to enough bars with my girlfriends. I don’t need to do that with a man too.
I like him to be a man’s man, none of this no socks with smart shoes malarkey. I’m 5’11” so I tend to go for my height or taller. I have a real thing for thick eyebrows and big brown eyes. Gosh, actually the list is endless.
What’s the most awkward date you have been on, and the best?
The one where I paid for absolutely everything! I’m a 50/50 girl; I don’t expect a guy to pay for me but at least pay for himself. This one didn’t even reach for his wallet. I was horrified and felt completely de-feminised!
At what point did you realise that you had to transition?
I was already presenting myself as a woman but I was in my mid 20s when I was standing outside a bar chatting to my high school crush, and it just struck me that I was never going to get the men I wanted if I didn’t take the plunge. The very next day, I booked an appointment with my GP who didn’t hesitate to refer me to the gender clinic and the rest is history. If you’re wondering, I didn’t get the guy.
What advice do you give young people who feel they have been born in the wrong body?
Talk to someone. I am so lucky with the support I’ve had from family and friends. But I’ll spend my life wishing I’d said something sooner. My mum would have listened.
Our gossip queens tell us that you’re actually a fan of Boris Johnson and the conservatives. Is this true, and why?
I wouldn’t say I was a fan of Boris, but I’ve made no secret of voting Conservative, and I’ve had my fair share of stick over it. I weigh up all the options, and that’s where I’ve always ended up. Is this where I mention I voted leave too?
Do you think we would ever see a transgender member of parliament?
There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t. For it to happen, the public would need to see a trans person who will put the same fight into everything that they do for trans issues. I know plenty of worthy candidates.
How did you get involved with the Starbucks campaign?
I’m looked after by the wonderful Julia Champion at Champion Talent. I auditioned just days before the shoot. It was the first casting I’ve been to where everyone interacted before each of us was seen. I’ve never come out of a casting having swapped numbers, but I met the most amazing people and was enthralled by their stories. Each of our stories is different, and we all come from different backgrounds, but it’s interesting how we all go about fighting for the cause in our own way.
You are becoming quite a big TV star with several shows under your belt, and you worked with LGBTQ+ campaigner, Heather Peace, last year in Silent Witness. What was it like working with her? Do you see yourself taking on roles that are not transgender?
Silent Witness is the biggest role I’ve had to date, mostly because I’ve been a huge fan of the show for years. I met Heather on my first day on set, and we had a great chat about everything she’s up to. From her radio show (which I ended up doing an interview for) and the LGBTQ+ festival she was performing in. I remember Heather from London’s Burning days, so I had to not appear starstruck, which I have to admit was the most acting I’ve ever had to do!
I’ve only ever played a trans character, and I’m perfectly content with that as each of them has been so different: activists, prostitutes and even stroppy madams. Acting is acting. If you can do a good, convincing job, then there’s no reason why any actor can’t take on a part. The more trans actors playing regular parts will help my own campaign of us all just blending with society. You won’t hear me moan when a non-trans actor gets a trans role. I’ve been chuffed to see the brilliant Rebecca Root take on non-trans roles without a peep from anyone and quite rightly so.
What does the future hold for you?
In my mind, the future is that they bring back Footballers Wives and I’m in it!
There is no doubt you’re a beauty. What are your beauty tips?
I’d love to say it’s because I eat really well, don’t touch a drop of alcohol and exercise daily, but I’d be lying. I’m an Ambassador for Vie Aesthetics, a clinic in Harley Street and Essex, and they’ve introduced me to the most fantastic treatments. So many trans women go under the knife in a procedure called Facial Feminisation Surgery, but Dr Liakas at Vie showed me that a little non-surgical tweak here and there using fillers and Botox can really feminise your features and are much safer.
I urge other girls in my situation to try non-surgical procedures before having their faces entirely reconstructed. To me, transition isn’t about killing off the old you. My soul, heart and mind are the same person as before. I’d hate to be unrecognisable. I even decided not to have voice coaching. I’d hate to call my mum and have her not know it’s me.]
I love a margarita
Best place to visit in London?
I love the bar at Flemings of Mayfair. And can’t beat a curry at Dishoom.
Biggest turn off?
Chewing with an open mouth and biting a fork.
Return to Paradise with Anne Heche, Joaquin Phoenix and Vince Vaughn
Your biggest fantasy?
Don’t be naughty, Steven!