Published Feb 12, 2020Trixie Mattel is the drag persona of Brian Firkus, and a self-proclaimed "bleach blonde, over-tanned beach bunny with a really dark sense of humour." Her unique combination of beauty, comedy and music propelled her to stardom on RuPaul's Drag Race, then she snatched the crown on RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars. In addition to her YouTube show UNHhhh with Katya Zamolodchikova (and their new book, Trixie and Katya's Guide to Modern Womanhood) and her make-up company, Trixie is also preparing to release a new album called Barbara and to take the new tunes out on her "Grown Up" tour.
"Last year I listened to a lot of Weezer and the Go-Go's and Madonna. I had a personal music renaissance," she tells Exclaim! "I've been doing country and folk my whole life. I put out two records of folk and country, so I needed a change. Drag queens change all the time. When I go on tour, I'll have 12 costume changes in one show."
Don't let the big hair, vibrant make-up and autoharp fool you, though — Trixie Mattel will read you to filth and shriek-laugh the whole time. And if you're not careful, she might just write a song about you too.
What are you up to?
I'm coming to 29 American cities, doing my brand new show "Grown Up," touring with my band. We have new videos, new music, new costumes, new wigs, new jokes, new shoes, new guitars. I've done a lot of big tours, and this one I've put the most into it. Spent the most on new production, invested the most in new material, this is the biggest tour bus with the most people on it. I have my new record Barbara coming out.
My book Trixie and Katya's Guide to Modern Womanhood is currently available on pre-order. My YouTube series UNHhhh on the WOW Presents network comes out with season five in January. My Netflix series I Like to Watch is back. It seems like I'm doing a lot. Because I am. Oh my god, my cosmetics company. We had a wonderful 2019. We sold 15 products last year, and are probably coming out with 25 this year. So, going overboard. I wish I could clone myself, I would just stay home and make make-up. I love making make-up.
What are your current fixations?
I've been listening to a lot of girl rock. I love the Donnas, and they only have a few records and then they stopped making music, so I have to live on their records on repeat. I've been listening to Hole. I know I'm the last gay man alive to discover Hole, but I really love them. I love Veruca Salt, a really huge '90s alternative grunge band. I love Weezer. I haven't watched a lot of television. I'm a television person, I'm on TV a lot, but I don't watch a lot of it. I hate to say it, but unless I'm on it, I don't watch it. I read a lot of books. I just finished Doctor Sleep, and at the end of the year I finally finished Stephen King's IT, which took me forever 'cause that book is like 1,200 pages. I didn't have nightmares from it, but I will say, I live alone for the first time — I bought a condo last year — and I'd be reading a part where someone would be in the dark and the clown, they wouldn't see the clown but they'd see silver eyes in the dark. There were definitely a few times in bed when I looked over at my closet and got up and shut it. I'm a 30-year-old. It was a scary book. Doctor Sleep was so scary, and so moving. I cried three times. It always feels stupid when you're crying and holding a piece of paper and you know these are fake characters, but for some reason you are so invested and crying. That book is so good. Everybody go read it.
Why do you live where you do?
I live right in Hollywood; I want to be close to World of Wonder, Netflix and a lot of studios I work at. And being in Hollywood, you're right in the middle of everything. I wanted somewhere with a view and I wanted three bedrooms. To find something with a view and three bedrooms in Hollywood for under $2 million dollars… there's definitely a lot of looking. I've never lived alone and, oh my god, it's brought out the worst in me. I'm just naked, drunk, playing my electric guitar at midnight, doing whatever I want. You know how much I have wigs on when I'm not even in drag? I just throw one on at home. I get Postmates delivered to my house, and answer the door in a pink robe and a wig and no make-up. And for my make-up company, I'm always trying new products and trying to reformulate them. Right now we're reformulating one of my lipsticks so that it's vegan, and you have to test it for the wear. So I'll just be in my house with a bright pink lip on and the mail will come and I'm like, "Hello!"
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Listen, I hate to have to give this answer, but I don't think any other show has been a bigger hit — on people's spirits and their minds — than RuPaul's Drag Race. You're watching an extremely unique art form from a lot of marginalized people. And most competition shows, they make it competitive and interesting. Drag Race goes the extra mile and humanizes it. You know how many people who support Drag Race couldn't name one drag queen and probably thought that drag queens were about sex? We are seen now. People view drag queens as normal actors, singers and performers now. People see us as human beings. It hasn't just given me a career, it's changed things forever for everyone.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
This is like three years ago, my first summer after I'd just finished RuPaul's Drag Race 7 and was like, "What do I want to do now? I want to do standup." I went to Provincetown, MA, to do a summer there and develop my act. I went there, and god did I feel like an impostor. I went from never doing standup to being given a full hour every night. Baptism by fire, really. I had five shows a week. I lived in a shitty little apartment with no fridge and no air conditioning and no wi-fi. I was like Laura Ingalls Wilder. I'd walk to the theatre, get in drag, do my hour-long show and every day I'd be reflecting on what I did. That summer in Provincetown changed my whole life. I was like, "Oh my god, I'm not just a cross-dresser, I'm a real comedian."
What have been your career highs and lows?
My career high was when my record, One Stone, was #1 on the iTunes charts. If my grandfather was still alive, that would've been the first phone call I made. He taught me to play guitar. Seeing Trixie and Katya on TV while we were on Vice was pretty crazy. And my low? Honestly, I'm a drag queen, we have new lows all the time. Every time I'm hungover in an airport feels like a low. Just yesterday, I was leaving World of Wonder after filming UNHhhh and I live two blocks away, so I was in full drag, pulling two suitcases down Hollywood Boulevard. It never gets better, as a cross-dresser; you'll never be glamorous.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
No one's ever really said anything to my face. Most people are afraid of me. But if anyone wants to, come find me! In my work, I like to talk about anything. I'll go anywhere, I don't care what we're not allowed to talk about. Sometimes people will make it their personal business to get in touch with me after the show and let me know that I lost them as a fan. I'm like, "Um, if that joke offended you, I don't know how you were a fan to begin with." Drag queens are the opposite of politically correct. Why do you like drag? All we do is tell these horrible, awful, homophobic jokes. We're the worst! Go see a straight white comedian if you want to hear a joke about their Lexus.
What should everyone shut up about?
I'm so irked by celebrity drama channels. Like YouTube channels about Drag Race drama or make-up industry drama or TV drama. Oh my god, get a life. Literally get a life. You're telling stories about people you don't know with no information. It's crazy. Who sits in front of iMovie and makes gossip content? For what, $50 in AdSense? Get a fucking job, dude.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I'm a terrible interrupter, as you might have noticed. I love myself the most when I'm on stage and I'm really present and the audience is laughing and I'm laughing with them. I went to a theatre in Los Angeles last night — unannounced, not on the flyer, no pay — but I wanted to test out some of my new jokes for my new tour. It was all new material and not all of it went perfect, but there were a few times where I went, "Oh my god, I've got a good one." For the first time people heard this joke and laughed at it, and it's so rewarding when something I thought was gonna work works. That's the moment when I like myself the most.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
I want to order a Veggie Grill Impossible Burger with french fries and nachos and I want to sit about two feet from my giant TV and play PlayStation with my headphones on. While screens load or I'm in a lobby waiting to be paired up with other players, I'll play my guitar and sing to myself. That's my perfect day. And then maybe at night I have sex with my boyfriend.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
[Sings] "Whatever it takes / I know I can make it through!" Degrassi, of course!
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
People faint and cry when they meet me all the time. Oh my god, I worship the Go-Go's with my whole heart. I posted a video of me playing the solo to "We Got the Beat" on my electric guitar, and they put it on their Instagram. I was just like, wig flown! Oh my god, they know I'm dead or alive. Honourable mention, I've met Amanda Lepore like ten times, and every time I meet her I will cry. Every time.
Trixie Mattel brings her "Grown Up" tour to Toronto on February 22 at the Danforth Music Hall.