Transformations with Gia Cognata

INJ 63 | Transformation


Gia Cognata is a makeup artist, stylist, photographer and writer from Los Angeles. She loves pickles and finding a balanced between the arts and analytics. Despite her passion being happy and correct, she shells out terrible advice to horny teens on Twitter. She has most recently worked in behavioral therapy with autistic children focusing on independence training. I randomly found her on Instagram, where you can find her as @thegiamonster.

Listen to Episode #63 here

Transformations with Gia Cognata

Our guest is Gia Cognata. Gia is a makeup artist, stylist, photographer and writer from Los Angeles, California. She loves pickles and finding a balance between the arts and the analytics. Despite her passion being happy and correct, she shells out terrible advice to horny teens on Twitter. She has worked in Behavioral Therapy with autistic children focusing on independence training. I randomly found her on Instagram where you can find her at @TheGiaMonster. Welcome, Gia. If you weren’t working as a makeup artist, stylist, photographer or writer, what would you be doing?

My zip line camp for men only, I’d probably be doing that. It’s where I’d zip in all the men that need training. We’d zip them into camp and we train them to be better people. I think I would be doing more writing and being able to have free time and do creative stuff. I do enjoy that. Right now, it’s more of the thing I do for extra but I would commit myself full-time.

If you couldn’t be a side writer, you’d be a full-time writer. What would you be writing?

I would be writing about comedy.

In one of your handles, you’re a joke witch.

I’m the Joke Witch. That’s on Instagram.

Tell me where did that come from?

I call myself a Photogenic Joke Witch because as a woman, you have witchcraft in you. Anybody can have witchcraft in them. It’s not women. I don’t want to box everyone in or out. I’m not even sure. You have to be careful. Everyone’s feelings matter.

It’s easy to be outraged.

As a younger person, I used humor to soften the edges of intense situations. Being funny comes from stressful situations. It’s not like, “I’m a silly person. I like to be silly all the time.” It’s like, “I am silly to give release for some tension that’s happened.”

It’s for those uncomfortable, stressful, difficult moments in life. I want to get back to being photogenic because that’s interesting. You’re also a former bad girl.

I am a former bad girl. On Tinder, this guy was like, “What does former bad girl mean? Does that mean that you were a heroin addict?” I was like, “Where is your mind going?” I’m great at a party. I will shut your bar down and there will be nothing to drink there. In 2016, I got sick so I did a whole life overhaul.

People love a good makeover, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes story.

In 2016, I was a chubby, funny girl trying to have a good time and then I grew a tumor in my uterus and I have terrible insurance. I’m on Medicare, which is great because I’m like, “I don’t have to pay because I’m a poor person.” It’s also terrible because you can be in an emergency and they’re like, “We have to keep you alive. We don’t have to do anything else.” I’ve had over 30 blood transfusions. I’ve been sent to the emergency room. They’re like, “This woman has no blood in her body. Give her emergency units.” It was a nightmare. It was a hard time for me.

You’re drinking too much.

[bctt tweet=”Start treating yourself like you would if you were taking care of a child.” via=”no”]

At the time, it was too much especially for somebody that wasn’t healthy.

You’re not taking care of yourself otherwise.

When you get sick, you start bargaining with the God you don’t even believe in. You’re like, “I will do whatever it takes. If it is not drinking, I won’t drink. If it’s running, I’ll start running even though I hate it. I’ll walk uphill. I don’t care what it is. I’ll cut that out of my diet. What do I need to do?”

What did you do?

I did all of those things.

You started running.

At first, I couldn’t because I have low blood and stuff. I would get dizzy easily. Even walking uphill, I was like, “Maybe I’ll pass out.” At first, it was mostly a diet change. One of my doctors suggested that it might be an insulin spike causing these hormonal imbalances. I cut out sugar. I was a cigarette smoker so I stopped smoking. I started to work out every day, even if it was something small. At first, I couldn’t do a lot of stuff. I became depressed and then I started to set these tiny small goals that I could achieve at home because I was feeling very out of control of my life. I’m like, “What’s the point of living?” They had confined me to a bed. They’re like, “You have to live with somebody,” and all sorts of stuff that takes away your independence and feeling, “I can’t do anything. I’m lost. I don’t have any purpose.” I had these little tiny things that I wanted to change and little things that I could control that helped me feel like I wasn’t so out of control.

I have a note here. It seems to me that there’s this theme in your life of transformation.

Every good movie has a transition. The character evolves. It’s all about the evolution of who you are. Back in the day, I can confidently say I was a worse person than I am now. Part of getting to grow older and having the privilege to do that is identifying the things that you want to change. Being a better person is always one of them. It should be on the top of your list. As you’re younger, you get to be a narcissist a little bit. You’re like, “It’s all about me. I’m having a rough time. I need this. I want this.” You’re a little more entitled. This tiny near-death experience changes your life. You get some perspective. You realize that it’s about the small encounters and how you’re affecting people and it changes. I’m 36. When I was 26, I was a nightmare.

Gia, you’re on the hero’s journey. One of the things that I like about this notion of Joseph Campbell is it’s woven through Gilgamesh and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s a common way to create a story. I liked this idea as a metaphor for life in general. A hero, for them to achieve their goal, they have this call to action. It sounds like your tumor was your call to action, so to speak. I may be overdoing it but this thing is that to be a hero, you have to change. You have to overcome some physical obstacle, but you also have to change psychologically or emotionally in some ways. It’s this one-two punch.

Sometimes the catalyst is the same thing. Sometimes it’s different. It’s two separate things where you’re like, “I had a physical transformation as well as this emotional one.” For me emotionally, I hurt somebody very close to me. I hurt one of my siblings and then I was able to stand outside of it and say, “I don’t want to be that kind of person.” I don’t want to be so selfish that the actions that I take instead of keeping someone else in mind, it’s all about what I need and what pleases me and I don’t think about how it affects people.

You have five siblings. Can you tell me what you did to your siblings?

I slept with somebody that she liked, that she had slept with before and then I started dating him. Our relationships crumbled over that and he turned out to be someone unstable. It wasn’t a good situation. It took a long time to repair that. If there is some argument, even if I have laid down and been like, “I am so sorry,” it will pop up sometimes and she’ll be like, “You’re a psycho bitch.” I’m not saying that I’m not, I’m saying that I’m trying to be better. I’m trying not to do things that actively negatively affect people. I’m sure there are some things you can’t control, but if I can control it and I can identify that this action is going to hurt that person, my pleasure shouldn’t come over. I want to be able to have pleasure and not cause pain because of it.

Of course, that’s a delicate thing to do, which is wanting to live the life you want to live. On the other hand, I like to say do no harm. I don’t want to actively harm someone else. I’m not going to take it to the flip where I’m going to make someone happy at my own cost but my rule is, am I trying to live the best life for me without harming or hurting other people’s lives? Sometimes those things are mutually exclusive. You’ve had this mental transformation.

That was in 2012. I’ve been sick a couple of times, but in 2016 I got sick and then I was in the hospital a lot. My white blood cell count was high so they had an infectious disease doctor come and talk to me and that freaked me out. I had been in the hospital for a week and at the same time, I’m bleeding constantly. I’m getting blood transfusions and then I had to have my gallbladder removed as well at the same time. All these things are happening to me. They had me talk to an infectious disease doctor and I remember I was coming off of a lot of Dilaudid. They had given me Dilaudid all week, which is intense. I want to say it’s like heroin but I’m not a doctor. It was intense. Having withdrawals, I want to have more of it, but I shouldn’t have any more of it. My mom is in the room and they’re telling me I’m going to talk to an infectious disease doctor and I am freaking out. I have anxiety. I got freaked out and on top of not having pain pills that I was on, I called my nurse Helen who was a Filipino lady. I was like, “Helen, I need an AIDS test.” She was like, “Why?” I’m like, “Because I have fucking AIDS, Helen.” She was like, “What?”

It was all over this infectious disease doctor. I’m like, “I can think of the worst thing. I have AIDS.” My mom was in the room and she was like, “Why do you think you have AIDS? Is it because of all the blood transfusions or having unprotected sex with so many men?” I was like, “I didn’t even think about the unprotected sex with all the men. I definitely have AIDS.” I don’t have AIDS though. I demanded an AIDS test and Helen gave it to me and I don’t have AIDS, which is nice. My mom wasn’t comforting at all. She’s like, “If you had AIDS, you’d be a lot thinner.” That’s what she told me. She was playing to my logic, which was nice but I’m like, “Get out of here, mom. I’m coming off Dilaudid and I think I’m going to kill you.”

Now you stopped smoking, cut out sugars, eating better and started exercising.

I lost 60 pounds.

You’ve had this physical transformation.

I’m hotter. Nobody can see me. I keep forgetting that I’m hot. I’m 36 and I’m owning it.

You do have some before and after photos on Instagram. You’re photogenic. Have you always been photogenic or have you become photogenic or have you learned to become photogenic?

It is a combination of the three. I’ve always been photogenic.

As someone who’s not photogenic, I envy the people who are photogenic.

Are you doing something with your face? You seem fine.

The whole point of someone being photogenic is that they look good in photos.

Part of it is being relaxed. Quite often when I take a photograph, I’m taking it on myself so I’m flipping the camera around. I can see what angle I’m at. It’s a little bit of each. I have confidence in front of the camera because I don’t think that I’m a hideous person. Even if you did think that you’re not, get in front of the camera and be confident.

I did glamour shots. I’m redoing my website and my designer says he needs new photos. A friend and I went out and we did full day costume changes, the whole shebang.

Did you feel beautiful? Did you get outfits that made you feel awesome?

Yeah, I wore some of my better stuff.

That’s what you’ve got to do. It’s the feeling you’ve got. You’ve got to be confident in front of the camera.

[bctt tweet=”Be authentic and people will come and make a connection with you.” via=”no”]

It’s true and it was helpful that I’m close to this person. I didn’t feel embarrassed and she also has a good camera. I haven’t seen the work yet, but if you take enough photos, you need six.

It’s a numbers game. It is like how men date women. It’s a numbers game. If you ask enough women out, one of them is going to say yes. They’ll regret it later obviously because you’re a nightmare, but you’re going to get some.

Naturally, you are photogenic.

There are tips and tricks and stuff that you can do. There are angles and ways to take photographs to flatter your body type and what you like and what you don’t like. You downplay the things that you don’t like. You want to feel comfortable.

I assume lighting has to be huge.

It’s all about lighting. Blast your face with lighting and don’t let anyone see your flaws. I would walk around with a big torch around my face. Blast your face with lighting.

Front lighting is the key.

Shadows are not your friend unless you’re trying to be spooky, which I never like. I wish I had a spooky picture up on my Instagram because I want to scare those people. I’m trying to make them horny and I’m killing it. I can’t get a job because of my Instagram but I’m nailing my sexy shots.

What prompted the sexy shots? You did this transformation. At what moment did you decide, “I’m going to start taking my own personal glamour shots?”

I am confident in my sexuality to begin with. That was already there and then I became more comfortable with my body, which I think you should always be. It is hard to do. You’re supposed to be comfortable at wherever you’re at but I wasn’t. I gained this new confidence. I took before pictures too. I knew that transformation was going to happen because I had set goals.

You said, “I’m going to change myself,” and you knew you were going to so you took the photos.

I took before photos. I have some where I’m like, “That looks crazy.”

Did you do the classic diet before? In the back of a magazine they have before and after photos for diet pills, but what happens is it’s not an equal playing field. The after photo, the people’s teeth are white and they’re smiling and they’re tanned. In the before photos, they were frowning.

They’re like, “Being in this body is the worse. I look like a pile of flesh.”

I have an ex who once said that she felt like a bag of soccer balls. I thought that was funny and being harsh on oneself. Did you try to make your before photos good or did you take them? Did you stack the deck?

You never feel confident in a before photo, Peter. You’re like, “No, it hasn’t even started yet.” I didn’t. I wish it was a beautiful glamour shot while I was like, “That’s right. Check out these curves.” I didn’t. It’s the sad side shot from a bad angle that I could never achieve again. The side by sides doesn’t match up. At a certain point, you’d toss away the things that you took the photo so you can’t compare like, “I know the difference. I don’t need it.” There came a time where I was constantly trying to prove to people on the internet that had said like, “You didn’t lose that much weight.” There were several only men, women contact me all the time to be like, “What do I do?” I’m like, “Believe in yourself. Believe that you can do it then you can do it.” People tell you that and it’s crazy. If you do believe, it will happen. Make small and achievable goals in any arena of your life. If you want that to happen, make small goals. You can reach the end.

The other thing is that the problem with transforming your body is it’s not unpredictable. It’s difficult. If you cut out sugar and you start working out and you cut back on drinking and you start eating salads and drinking water and doing all these things and you do it for a year consistently, your body will look different at the end of the year. The problem is it’s hard to cut back on drinking and it’s hard to cut back on sugar and it’s hard to get a salad every day. Working out for the average person is not pleasurable and so on.

It’s one of those things where you have to start treating yourself like you were taking care of a child. You don’t want to eat your vegetables, but you have to because that’s how you get vitamins. As far as explaining it to a child, they don’t know that but we are fully aware of the things that we need to do and we disregard it because we aren’t caring for ourselves. There has to be care involved. I care for myself. I want to take care of this thing that is carrying my brain around constantly because I have to have anxiety. I can’t have it without this body and this brain and I have to be worrying constantly.

I didn’t have a major health scare, but I got the flu and it was bad. As someone who doesn’t get sick often, it set me back and it set off a little bit of a crisis of confidence in a sense. For a lot of years, I had been slacking a little bit where I started asking myself, “Is health number one?” I’ve been asking that question and it shapes a lot of decisions both in terms of eating, those kinds of lifestyle choices, exercise and so on. I still got the flu again but nonetheless, I bounced back faster from that and it wasn’t as devastating. You knew you were going to put this out there in the world.

I’ve always been comfortable. It’s that other people aren’t comfortable with it. The whole world wants to know why you’re so comfortable with your female body. Cover it up. It’s confusing for the world. They see more and more women embracing that and I’m like, “You have to let it happen a little bit.” I don’t want to have any but I’m sure some discretion can be taken. Let women embrace their bodies. I don’t understand the judgment aspect of it.

The thing about social media is it’s opt-in.

People are coming to your page and actively getting mad at the free content that you’re providing like you’re some Chipotle that got their order wrong. I’m like, “This is free. If you don’t like it, go. I didn’t charge you for anything. Why are you complaining to me? I don’t have customer service. If I did, I still wouldn’t give a fuck about your opinion because I don’t follow you and that’s why because I don’t care.” There’s a whole roomful of people on Instagram I’ve never met.

First of all, my social media presence is meager and it’s pretty straight down the middle. It’s not polarizing in any way. I very rarely have anybody act in a troll-like manner with me. I did Joe Rogan’s podcast before it was the thing. That one experience was the only time I ever had a number of people talk shit about me on Twitter.

How did it feel?

I remember pausing and thinking about how I was going to deal with it. It seems to me that there are three options. You block people, you ignore people and you engage with people in some way. I chose to ignore it. It was minor and it was a meager thing. You have people who comment on the photos.

One of my favorites is when men will comment something like, “Yummy.” I’m like, “What am I? A pizza? This isn’t a picture of a pizza. What are you doing?”

Do you use comedy when you’re responding to them?

Sometimes, I’m a bit of a troll myself so I’m inviting it. I’m known to put the hammer down and men will feel like, “You’re inviting this kind of reaction by posting those.” I’m like, “No, have some discretion. I’m a stranger. I guess if we’d been giving hand jobs to each other for 25 years, we could talk to each other like that, but we’ve never met. Just enjoy the free photo that you find yummy.” I don’t need to hear about it. Why do I need to know that you find it delicious and want to eat me?

Isn’t that what the heart button is for?

It says, “I like this photo,” but it doesn’t tell you how yummy and I think that’s where herein lies the problem because certain people need you to know how they’re feeling.

[bctt tweet=”You’ve got to take risks and sometimes they’re not going to be a home run.” via=”no”]

Do you think that these guys think that this is a pickup line?

It’s a way to engage. I will punish that behavior in the hopes that it’s not something that they continue to do. Honestly, what happens is that they no longer do it to me and then they continue to find someone else.

It’s like a bully.

It’s my fault. They’re like, “I won’t like your stuff anymore. I’ll unfollow you.” I’m like, “Go ahead and unfollow me. I didn’t even know you existed.”

Is this where your zip line come?

Yeah, for men only. It’s a reformation.

I’ve been working on a project idea and one element to it was about resources for men. It’s not a great time to be a guy right now and yet, you still are a guy. How do you navigate this world? How do you evolve with the times?

We’re asking you to do it quick. I understand that. It’s like a truck hit you. You’re like, “We were raised by these men that said it’s okay. Keep the women in the kitchen.” I have an old school dad that sometimes he will say sexist shit to my face and I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Gia, if you acted less smart than you are, men wouldn’t have to feel like they’re competing with your looks and your intelligence and all this other stuff. Dumb it down a little bit and get married.” I’m like, “Dad, what are you saying to me right now? Where are you coming from?” He came from that generation.

You’re like, “Dad, you sound old right now.” Dads aren’t the right people because they were raised in a different time.

We have to start raising men differently. It’s hard to expect this turnaround. On certain things I’m like, “You can’t touch a sleeping woman. What’s wrong with you?” You can do that easily and that’s not the problem. There are little tiny things that we can start raising men to be more aware of themselves instead of being like, “This is what I need,” checking on other people’s needs.

If you were to ask a man, where do you learn? How do you progress? How do you become a better man? We’re way off on a tangent now, but this is an important one. There are not great resources because right now, a lot of the stuff is very libertarian. They’re the Jordan Peterson of the world and the Joe Rogan of the world and all that stuff. Where is it that a man can learn to maintain some level of assertiveness while also developing sensitivity and developing a real complete form of masculinity in a world where also the signals are mixed?

There’s a balance that needs to be created.

Your zip line camp is going to do this.

My zip line camp is just a joke. I’m not going to zip men. Part of the joke is that at the top, every time a man tries to escape, there’s a zip line at the top that they can’t resist because men love zip lines. They zip right back in and then they’re like, “What the fuck?” Every time they get out, they’re like, “I zip in again.” Part of it is that women have to change as well. We expect a certain thing but we’re asking something different. Both parties are at an impasse and I’m like, “You both have to evolve.” For men, it’s a lot about listening. You are problem solvers and you want to be like, “This is how we solve it. I’m going to tell you why you’re wrong. The issue is here.” Instead of, “I’m willing to hear the experience that you had.” That’s it. A lot of times women are like, “This is my experience. If you could hear it, that’s all I’m asking for.” I do it to my parents all the time. I call them up.

Figuring out consent is another one because women aren’t a single homogenous group. What’s okay for some is not okay for others and what we have to do is figure out which is which. In your case, it’s not okay to say yummy in response to your photo.

That’s my personal feeling about it. If you want to comment yummy, my suggestion is that to be comfortable with the person that you’re commenting on. If it’s a stranger, you have to read the room. I understand that people have a hard time doing that. I get it. I have worked within the industry of communication and having miscommunications. I understand that some people struggle with it and some people struggle with it more intensely. I’ve worked with autistic children. There’s a real disconnect there about what they’re reading. They don’t read the right thing that’s happening so what they’re putting back out is a mismatch and people are rejecting them. They’re so desperate to have a human connection. That’s what I learned about working with autistic children and behavioral therapy. The basis of what everyone wants is this connection.

Some of the kids that I worked with, they desperately wanted friends. They wanted friendship. It was me being like, “This is what we’re going to do. We’re not going to do that thing that you said.” They want to invent these scenarios in order to work their way in instead of being brutally honest in themselves. It’s like being a guitarist and singing and then somebody taking your guitar away and being like, “Just be up there.” You’re like, “I don’t feel secure.” They create these scenarios sometimes that are like, “Don’t do that.” I had one kid that was like, “I’m going to go down underneath the library and I’m going to meet this group of kids. They go down there and they played this video game. I’m going to go down there. This is how I’m going to get in. I’m going to ask them what time the library closes.” He’s a junior in high school. He’s like, “That’s how I’m going to start talking to them.” I’m like, “You’re a junior in high school. They know you know what time the library closes. You’ve been going here for three years. If you want to go down there and introduce yourself, maybe download the game they’re playing. Do that.”

He was like, “That game sucks and I wouldn’t play that game.” I’m like, “We have to compromise. You can’t push yourself and be like, “That’s terrible.” You have to play their game. You get good at it, which I’ve done before with men. I do it all the time. I got good at Call of Duty. Do I love Call of Duty? No, but my kill to death ratio is amazing. I got good at it and then I suggested things that I wanted to do. You have to give and take. That’s part of the problem that’s happening. Men are like, “I don’t want to learn how to do that.” I’m like, “Sure, but we’re going to teach him how to pick up his clothes, learn how to play Call of Duty. We’re going to teach them to be good with consent and stuff.” We’re going to meet in the middle. We’re solving problems.

The norms are getting worked out and good conversations are happening, getting this kind of feedback. We say this stuff as a troll, but sometimes this stuff is well-intentioned but miss-handled. You can’t get a job. You’re having a problem with your employer. You’re studying for the LSAT?

I’m starting to do that. My brother graduated from Southwestern.

You do not strike me as a lawyer title, yet you come from a family of lawyers.

I do. My whole family is good at arguing. Put us in a room and we’ll do it. When I see something that’s happening that I don’t feel right, I will get involved. I’m like, “This needs to stop now.” I was taking a comedy class a friend of mine was teaching, Ed Galvez. I almost got him fired. They make you sign an agreement and they tell you, “If somebody comes in here with an opinion that you don’t agree with, don’t chastise them. Be chill. If they’re going to be not funny, let them be not funny.” I was like, “I’ll sign this knowing good and well that I wasn’t going to follow it.” I’m like, “I’ll hear someone say some shit that I don’t agree with.” I signed it and then it started happening so quick. It was this one guy from Canada. I couldn’t stand the old man. He looked like Mr. Burns and he wasn’t for me but I held it in. It was the last few weeks of class. He went up and he did a whole stand upset about how he’s worked harder than minorities and women and people thing.

It was this whole misogynist nightmare set. I let it happen and I didn’t say anything. Then it went into where we were supposed to critique him and then he was defending his position being like, “No. I’m a political science major.” Then he said this, “I know what’s ruining this country are feminism and equality.” I lost my shit on this old man. I wouldn’t let anyone else speak. I yelled at him. It set me off and I totally forgot that you record your set and the feedback so he immediately took this recording of me being like, “Take this shit and go fuck yourself. Just because this is a room full of women, don’t feel comfortable bringing that shit. If it was a bunch of minority men, you wouldn’t have said that. Don’t feel comfortable around me bringing that bullshit because I will not stand for it one second. I don’t care if I signed a million fucking agreements that said I would let you have a stupid fucking opinion.” I ranted for a very long time.

How did the school deal with this situation?

I received an email. I saw him outside and then I felt way looser. We were both walking towards the office where it was. I was yelling at him and I’m like, “Don’t talk to me. I’m not hearing this shit.” He started acting like he was physically scared of me and that’s when he took the recording into the office and then they emailed me. The HR emailed me and a couple of people and they were like, “Either you’re both in the class or you’re both out of the class.” He didn’t want me to be in the class so he was like, “I’m not going back there.” I went to a different class. They refunded his class and another class. He got money back. I’m like, “No way.” They were like, “We agree with your position, but we don’t agree with your tactic.” I was like, “That’s true.” I can’t disagree but I haven’t heard it. I would love to.

Have you heard the rant?

No, I haven’t heard myself yelling at him but I’d love to. I’m sure it was wild.

I’ve given up asking this question, but I think you’re the right person to answer this. Do you have a rival frenemy or even an enemy? Do you have somebody that you feel like you’re in competition with? The reason I’ve stopped asking the question is no one wants to answer it.

Personally, the person that I compete with is my old self constantly. It would be a situation where I’d be like, “That’s something old me would do.” I hate the old me. The old me sucks. Quite often, if I see things that I used to do and other people, before I even get to know you, I’ll make a judgment because I’m like, “I hate the old me and you do that shit old me does, so you’re out.”

You see your old self with others.

[bctt tweet=”Part of growing is identifying the things that you want to change.” via=”no”]

They were doing old stuff that I would do like narcissistic behavior and caring about yourself more than how you’re affecting other people. It bothers me. My family does it a lot. You’ll call and say, “I had a shitty day.” You want someone to hear you out. I’m having a bad day, “My day is worse and here’s why.” I’m like, “No, this isn’t a competition for how shitty your day was. I’m saying my day was shitty. I acknowledged that my day was shitty and we can move on. I’ll hear it out.” Having this response, I can’t do it anymore with my family. My dad does that a lot and my sister is constant. It’s like, “This is about me.” I’m like, “Shut the fuck up.”

This law is creating an adversarial situation idea. That truth and justice and fairness come out of competition for justice. I know I don’t know you but I’m puzzled.

It’s part of the analytic. It’s the part of my brain.

You got this artistic side.

Which will come in handy. My brother graduated from law school and one of his professors said that one of the best trial attorneys he’s ever met was a former comic. Part of being in a trial is you’re on stage and you’re trying to sell something. You’re trying to sell a story. Being my authentic self is easy for me. It’s easy to walk in and say, “This is why this is going to happen. Let me tell you why you’re going to see it my way.” If you’re authentic and if people like that, they’ll make a connection with you.

I do agree with you about this idea of some performance element. Is that the kind of lawyer you want to be?

For sure, I would. Look at me. I’m going to sell you a narrative you never thought you would believe in.

How’s the studying going?

I’m gearing up to do. I got in a car accident. I made a job shift and then settling into what I’m going to do. Everyone makes a shift. I love researching too. If you tell me that you have a problem, I will be on it. I’m like, “Let’s find out what’s happening to your body.” I do it with health or any issue. I’ll look it up. I want to know why and what’s happening. If it’s your dog, I’ll look it up. I don’t even care. I’m like, “Your dog has septicemia. Is it this type or this type?” They’re like, “I don’t know. My dog is dying.” I’m like, “Did you ask the doctor?” They’re like, “No.” I’m like, “I’ll find out.”

You’re going to trade in Google for some leather-bound books.

They did Google too. Now it’s more Google. Google from a beautiful library somewhere. In that way, you can access the leather-bound books. A lot of it has been made a lot easier because of the internet access to information, which is this weird juxtaposition where it’s this beautiful thing that you can access. You can ask it anything and you can get the correct answer. You have to fish for it, but you can get the correct answer for something, which I love having. I like being right. There’s nothing more than I like being right or winning. On the other hand, the piss and shit of the world exist there. The most terrible things that you could ever think or say about yourself is on there. People are attacking each other. It’s a nightmare. It’s like, “I don’t know how to balance these things.”

The great promise of the internet was democratizing information and allowing free communication. As a result, you get both these worlds as results of that. You’re on this hero’s journey. One of the elements of the hero’s journey typically is that there are people, individuals, things and beings that serve either the purpose of trying to thwart the hero. That’s why I was asking about the rival frenemy or the enemy. It can propel the hero sometimes and it also can be an enemy. You’ve had this change in your life. Who are the important people who have helped?

I would say friends and family. Sometimes I think that some people encourage you because my brother is like, “Gia, you’ve got it. You could do this. You could go to law school.” I’m competitive. I’m a killer in a class. There’s nothing that I can’t learn. There’s nothing I can’t memorize. Part of it is believing that you can do it. Test taking is a low anxiety sport. It’s in there. You have to calm down. Sometimes when people are panicking, they can’t access the information. I’m like, “If you read it, it’s in there. Believe in yourself.” My brother has been encouraging me. He’s been saying like, “This is something that you should do. I think that you’d be successful.”

He certainly knows it because he did it.

My dad as well. He’s been a trial attorney. He’s like, “I won’t let you win.” I’m like, “There are only losers in this conversation then.” When people believe in you, you’re like, “I can do this.”

INJ 63 | Transformation
Transformation: You’re only going to be as successful as your five closest friends.


That matters a lot. There are some people who say, “You’re only going to be as successful as your five closest friends or the five people you’re around the most.” I’ll give you a story that I might have told before. I was doing a Master’s program in New Jersey. I came from a modest background. I’m the only person in my family to get a PhD. I have overreached. I remember a time I was applying to graduate schools to PhD programs and I was driving with this friend. He’s like, “Where are you applying to?” I listed off all the schools and one of the schools was Yale, an Ivy League school. Of all the schools, he goes, “I think you should go to Yale.” I look at him and I’m like, “You have no idea what you’re talking about.” You’re supposed to choose based upon an adviser and fit and all this kind of stuff.

His father had been a president of the university and he said offhandedly, “If you’re going to become the president of Rutgers, it helps to have gone to an Ivy League school.” I was so blown away by his perspective, which was that he thought that I could become a president of a university. Why not? His dad did it. “Someone has to do it. Why not you? I think well of you,” and so on. What I realized is I needed people in my life who thought that I could do big things. It was very hard to think you can do big things if no one in your life is doing big things and if no one in your life is encouraging you to big things.

You think small and you get stuck in this tiny microcosm. Part of it is believing in these extraordinary possibilities that they exist.

I’m never going to become president of a university. I don’t want to be one but nonetheless, that idea of why not me is a useful perspective.

This is a city of why not me.

It’s one of the things I love about LA. There are a lot of places where people are hustling. My home is in Boulder, Colorado. There are people in that town who are hustling but it’s not on display like it is in Los Angeles. It’s not as pervasive as it is in Los Angeles.

They want you to be reminded. Hustle hard and get something.

I find it inspiring as someone who’s had some success to stay hungry and to stay thinking about other new challenges. I think it’s fun.

They should be a little bit scary. Your goal should be like, “Do you think I could do that?” The end game should be something that you’re like, “Can I do that?” These little tiny goals that lead you up to that are something you can do. When you accomplish it, you’re like, “I’m closer. Maybe I can do this.” You start to believe in yourself the more that you do. That’s why getting healthy was something that helped me to have confidence. There’s nothing I can’t do. I believe that.

When you have a foundation of good health, you can do a lot more.

There’s nothing like losing your health. There’s nothing more desperate in the world. You were like, “I thought I didn’t have anything when I was poor and now I’m also dying. Don’t do it because it’s terrible.

If it happens, take advantage of it.

If a near-death experience comes across your door, open it. Don’t ignore that knock of death at your door. I’ve had a couple of those instances in my life where I was like, “I can’t die. I’ve done nothing.”

One of the things that I’ve worked at doing is trying to create a situation where even if fame and fortune and these amazing things don’t happen, I’m still better off as a result of it and that is the key to goal setting. You create so little downside because even if your book doesn’t become a New York Time’s Bestseller, which most books don’t, you’re better off for having written the book. If your podcast doesn’t get hundreds of thousands of listeners, you’re better off because you have done and made this thing.

You’ve got to take risks and sometimes they’re not going to be homeruns. Sometimes they don’t but something will. It’s the numbers game. If you keep at it, you’re going to find that area where you’re out of the park every time and people are like, “This is your niche. This is where you belong. You’re doing great.”

[bctt tweet=”When you have a foundation of good health, you can do a lot more.” via=”no”]

What are you reading, watching or listening to that stands out? Not just good but great.

You should’ve let me cheat on that one so I could be like, “These are the things.”

If you had listened to any of the previous podcasts, this always my last question.

If you had read into my online persona, you’d know that I have a hard time with podcasts because they’re my nightmare. Listening to someone’s conversation and not being able to yell over them, I can’t do it.

You like being on a podcast.

Yeah, I’ll agree to that. Listening to them, “What are we talking about here?” It’s painful because I want to say something. I want to be like, “I don’t agree with that or I do and I want to shout it from the rooftops.” I’ve been so out of whack since all the things have been going on. I watched the Game of Thrones and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Did I love it? I expected it a little bit. I’m like, “You’ve got to kill everyone.”

Who’s your favorite person on Instagram?

I follow a lot of fashion pages because I get involved in style a lot. I love a look. There’s this woman. She’s from London. It’s @FashionInflux. She has tips and tricks for different things you can do with your look and I love that. I follow a lot of artists, but I don’t know their handles offhand. There’s an artist that does work that my friend showed me. Mogongie is his name and he does tattoos. It’s beautiful pieces of art. They’re one line and wonderful. I don’t have a lot of tattoos, but they’re wonderful. I’m like, “I would love to get them.” I’m trying to stay off of Instagram and cultivate actual life. People get stuck online. I pulled back from the internet. I pulled back from Facebook. I’m off of there. I’ve been clean for two months. It’s been hard, but I’m making it happen. It’s successful.

Facebook is where I go to troll. I don’t know why but you read people you’re friends with. I’m like, “You support Trump.” Then I can’t stop myself and then I have to go on there. What I’ve learned to do is you go in, you say something rude and you make your own thread within somebody. You comment on something and hopefully, the owner of the page either is old because they love Trump or they’re too stupid to delete it. Underneath there, people will comment and you have control of that whole thread. What you do is you say something rude and then you block that person immediately so they can’t respond and then it’s so irritating to them.

I’m glad you’re on Facebook.

One time on Facebook, I had a Trump supporting kid. He came to my Facebook and he was trying to tell me the statistics on rape and that this wild stage was false accusations. I was like, “Shut the fuck up. I don’t want to hear about this.” He kept coming at me and I said, “You sound like the child of a rapist.” He goes, “Yeah, my mom is a real rapist.” I took a screenshot of that and I go, “I’m going to send this to your mom.” He was like, “I wish you would.” I called his mom and he answered the phone. It was his home in Texas and he was a sixteen-year-old Trump supporter.

When he answered the phone, I knew it was him. He knew it was me. He was like talking into a fan. I was very excited because I caught him off guard and he apologized. He tried to defend himself for a second and be like, “You’re on Facebook and your stuff is public so I can say whatever I want.” I was like, “Except that I gave you a boundary, you didn’t follow it so now I’m calling your mom. She might be mad at me for stalking you, but she’s going to be even madder at you for putting all this information on the internet where I can find you.” He was like, “Please.” I was like, “I don’t care how long it takes me to get ahold of your mom. Maybe you answer the first 300 times, but I’m going to call 700 and she’s going to answer and I’m going to talk to your mom.” He was like, “Please don’t.” I was like, “Block me and I’m going to block all your friends. I never want to see or hear from you again.” Then it was over. I felt bad. After that, I got off Facebook for six months. I was like, “What am I doing? I’m stalking sixteen years old on the internet.”

That is your enemy.

It’s a sixteen-year-old Trump supporter. He’s my enemy.

Gia, I had a feeling that this was going to be spirited and it has been. It was a lot of fun and it was good to get to know your real self, not your personal social media self. I want to say thanks for your time.

Thank you.

It was great.

Resources mentioned:

About Gia Cognata

INJ 63 | TransformationGia Cognata is a makeup artist, stylist, photographer and writer from Los Angeles. She loves pickles and finding a balanced between the arts and analytics. Despite her passion being happy and correct, she shells out terrible advice to horny teens on Twitter. She has most recently worked in behavioral therapy with autistic children focusing on independence training. I randomly found her on Instagram, where you can find her as @thegiamonster.



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