We’re a quarter of the way through, now, and her irreverent comedy series ‘The Trixie And Katya Show’ is still winning over Viceland viewers, her second album of folk music, ‘One Stone’, is out now and she’s one of just four queens left in the running on the third series of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’.
Not bad going for a queen who finished in sixth place three years ago, right?
Here’s what happened when we caught up with Trixie, talking about overzealous ‘Drag Race’ fans, how it felt to be in the room when BenDeLaCreme made the shock elimination of the series and her response to any ‘All Stars’ viewers who are “underwhelmed” by her performance...
First off, let’s talk about ‘One Stone’. You’ve spoken in the past about how music got you through hard times when you were a teenager. Did you have musical aspirations when you were growing up?
Yeah, I guess I grew up and I always wanted to play music for a living. And when I got to college, I was auditioning and playing open mic nights and stuff like that, and I was kind of realising that being a white guy with an acoustic guitar... it’s not that special. There’s a lot of that going around. And drag was becoming lucrative, so I was like, “You know what? Comedy and doing drag is kind of paying my bills and music isn’t”. So I was like, “I guess I’ll let music kind of be my hobby. And I won’t really pursue it as a career anymore per se”.
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I was playing and writing music whenever I was home from touring as Trixie, I was still playing my guitar a lot, but I guess it was for my own fulfillment. And then in one of my stand-up shows, I would do this big section about break-ups, and I’d punctuate it with this really sad break-up song. And every night, everybody would cry and everybody would say that was the best part of the show.
I didn’t know if the audience would go along with this sort of Barbie character playing the guitar, so it was very surprising to me that people were into it. But I think it works because it’s this very produced, fabricated, put-on character doing something very honest and real, which I think is kind of strange to watch, you know?
And I think the colour pallette and the proportions of Trixie, this sort of toy box, batteries-not-included [aesthetic], it makes people feel very comforted and very safe. It makes them feel like a kid again. And so I think that because I look like a children’s toy, I think the audience is very trusting and very willing to go with me on certain journeys. Including, music, you know?
How does it feel to finally be getting recognition and success for your music as Trixie, rather than as Brian [Firkus, Trixie’s name out of drag]?
So for me, it’s sort of weird because… a couple of months before I went to ‘Drag Race’, I auditioned to sing and play guitar at the Potbelly subway sandwich store around the corner from my house in Wisconsin. I auditioned, and they responded, “no thank you at this time”. For some reason, as Brian they weren’t featuring it. I just think Trixie is the way to make the content have that super extra-special punch, do you know what I mean?
I think part of why people like Trixie is because I look like a “character” drag queen, but all my comedy and everything is very dry and real. You know? It’s kind of like a disgruntled, dry friend in a fun chicken-suit, you know? The character looks really bubbly and happy, but the content is a lot more cut-to-the-bone. It’s sort of like my music and my comedy is the candy bar, but Trixie is the really exciting candy bar wrapper.
You said Trixie makes it easier for audiences to get on board with your more personal and serious material. Do you think you’d still be as comfortable being so candid in your music as Brian?
I think I would. I mean, I definitely like playing music out of drag, but… it’s sort of like in the movie ‘Sybil’. Sybil can play piano because one of her other personalities can play the piano. It’s sort of like, Trixie can do music now, because I decided to let her have that gift, you know what I mean?
So, it’s definitely not a story of “I’m not confident out of drag”, because I equally don’t give a fuck out of drag. Obviously I feel super cool [as Trixie]… and I feel more confident on stage as Trixie Mattel. Out of drag, I just look like gay Forrest Gump, which is not as exciting.
Which is the most personal song on ‘One Stone’?
I think ‘Little Sister’. I’m an older brother, I have siblings. And I remember being from the country, and being like 18 years old and finishing high school and feeling like I knew everything.
I’m 28, so I’m 10 years ahead of my sister. And I just want to tell her, “You can not get stuck in this small town mentality, because the whole world is so available to you as a young woman in 2018. Go get it. You don’t know everything, the whole world sucks and it doesn’t get better, but you have to go out there and take everything you want out of it”.
I think in small towns it’s really difficult to understand that the rest of the world exists. But of course, when you’re young, and someone older than you tells you something, you’re like, “yeah, I know, I’m an adult”, you know what I mean?
And then ‘Soldier’, that’s about someone who [is] militant, they’re a soldier, everything has to be about work and they can’t relax. And I’m a psychopath who only wants to work at all times. So that’s me, that’s about me.
That song is like a little string around my finger reminding me shut the fuck up and stop looking at Instagram and worrying about likes and comments and what people think of my work and “Is my album going to sell?”… and just, like, eat some Pringles in bed and watch TV and calm down.
Can we talk about ‘All Stars 3’, because it’s almost over. How have you found watching the show, compared to being on it?
Being on it is worse. Watching it is stressful, but being on it is like a nightmare. I know that you’re supposed to be like, “it’s amazing, it’s a gift, it’s incredible”... yeah, it is, but it’s also fucking horrible. It’s so stressful and so hard and so psychologically demanding.
And it’s not because [production company] World Of Wonder makes it [hard], they’re not throwing fireballs at us, but they put you somewhere where every part of you has to extend. You have to sleep less, think more, be in drag for 12 hours a day... it’s so difficult, my only consolation the whole time I was there was I kept telling myself, “OK, this is ‘All Stars’, and I don’t ever have to do this again. This is my last time on ‘Drag Race’. And then we’re done”.
And I’m not very competitive, I think if you watch the show, you can tell with Bebe [Zara Benet], Kennedy [Davenport] and Shangela, they definitely have a little more competitive spirit in them.
In the real world, the Trixie that works and the Trixie that succeeds is the Trixie that does whatever I think is funny, plays whatever music I think is good, wears whatever type of make-up I think is cool. And I don’t really think about other people, I don’t have to think about other drag queens. But in ‘All Stars’, you have to worry about being a little more impressive than the drag queens next to you at all times.
Has anything really surprised you while you’ve been watching it?
Yeah, I mean, I didn’t realise how much Shangela really is playing games. Not in a bad way, but Shangela is so smart, and competitive, and every move is calculated. I guess I didn’t realise in the moment how much Shangela is really playing chess. She would kind of make a choice, do an action or make an alliance, and not really disclose why… but watching it, I’m like, “Oh my god”.
She’s sort of like... if you’re a cheating spouse, you think your spouse is cheating on you. Shangela is super competitive, so she thinks everybody around her at all times has an ulterior motive, and stuff like that. So that’s been fascinating to watch.
The thing is, when you’re on ‘Drag Race’, you’re the protagonist. You don’t realise what everybody else is doing. I didn’t realise Milk was that confident, I didn’t realise Thorgy believed that whole thing was conspiring against her. There’s so many things that I didn’t realise, because I was just trying to survive another day.
How do you feel about your performance on ‘All Stars 3’, watching it back now?
Um. I feel good. I only really had one bad moment, which was ‘Snatch Game’.
I mean, I get the sense at times that the audience is a little underwhelmed by my performance. But I think that’s also because I was drummed up to be this juggernaut competitor going in. Everybody was like, “this is hers to win”. And I’m like, “listen bitch, I never said I was competitive, I told you I’m an idiot. And I’ve been an idiot”.
I’m really proud of myself… it’s a really tight race right now. I mean, I’ve been in the bottom as many times as Shangela. I’ve had as many wins as Bebe. So it’s hard to really say.
I was so excited to do ‘All Stars’ and I’m so excited to be standing here at the end. But I’m also like, “come on, season 10”. I love being Trixie, [but] I hate being evaluated and I hate being criticised and I hate being compared as far as quality and who is quote unquote “better”. I didn’t do drag “better” than anybody or “worse” than anybody. I didn’t even start doing drag to win anything. So it’s weird we’re at this snapshot where it’s all about who wins what.
To me, I’m like, in the grand scheme of life, bitch, I’ve been an All Star, and I never won a goddamn thing. Even when I was on ‘All Stars’, my TV show was on the night before. My album is selling all the time. So I don’t want to toot my own horn, but also, I’m not as stressed about winning as other people because at the end of the day I’m like, “do you know what? It’s not the end of the road if you don’t”.
I guess I just believe in Trixie Mattel and I believe in the work. I don’t think I’m better than anybody else, but I really think that I’m hilarious and beautiful. I mean, even on ‘Drag Race’, I know this is delusional, but I’m standing up there on the runway in front of RuPaul and I’m like: “RuPaul, you look good, but I’m me. I’m stunning. I’m a woman.”
And that’s, like, high delusion. I know that. But we should all feel that way. “Kim, you’re doing amazing, sweetie”, that’s how I feel about myself all the time, I’m like: “You know what? You’re doing great. You look fucking stunning. You look great.”
Can I ask you about the biggest moment of the series, which was BenDeLaCreme eliminating herself. What was that like to witness in person?
Oh it was very surprising. I know that we’re all supposed to be like, “no, girl, staaaay”... you know, like, Shangela fell to the ground, Kennedy ran backstage like she was not the father in a DNA test. I was just like, frozen, because internally I’m like, “I’m trying to win. Get the fuck out”.
I feel like that’s the elephant in the room, like, nobody’s acknowledging that when she left, we were like, “yes!”. If you look at the other girls’ interviews, they were all like, “it was disappointing, I wanted her to fulfill her…” you know, and I was like: “Nope! If she wants to leave, great. Because I’m trying to stay. Bye.”
RuPaul was clearly as shocked as anyone, what was that like to see in real life?
Well, you know, RuPaul’s shocked face looks a lot like her happy face looks a lot like her bored face. You know?
I would say… she reacted, the puppeteers who pull the strings on RuPaul were definitely at work that day. The pulleys and wheels… I’m not totally convinced that RuPaul is not an android, you know, her gears were moving, there was smoke, I saw sparks. It was very ‘Stepford Wives’. Her head spun around, they didn’t show that, but her head spun around a few times. She started shooting laserbeams at Ben, out of her eyes, and then she turned into, like, the Megazord? Like in ‘Power Rangers’? She morphed into this, like, giant lizard robot of RuPaul and it just attacked us all.
But they didn’t show it. And I was gagged.
That sounds stunning. Had you been a viewer rather than a contestant, who would you have been rooting for on ‘All Stars 3’?
Oh, Shangela! That’s such an easy question for me. I mean, not only is she a great competitor, she’s the ultimate stunt queen.
And, I guess... I think we are sort of like mirror images of one another, like Buffy and Faith. We both took a very small 15 minutes and taffy-pulled it into a career, and I think that takes a huge hustle.
It’s one thing to make it all the way to the end of ‘Drag Race’ and have everyone fall in love with you, it’s another thing to not do very well and then go out into the world and have to brick and mortar build your own house. Shangela and I have both done that, and I think she is a living, breathing All Star.
The fame you get after a show like ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ is unusual, because you’re super famous to a small group of people, and a regular person to others. Is that a strange thing to get your head around?
No, I always tell people it’s like being Wayne Gretzky. It’s like, if you don’t watch hockey, who the fuck cares? Do you know what I mean? But like, I love folk music, so a lot of my favourite musicians are not on the radio. And if I saw one of them one of them in the airport I’d probably start crying, and people would be like, “Who the fuck is that?”.
But also, I look so different out of drag, and when I go out I wear, like, a hat and glasses and stuff. I kind of go out in a disguise because, you know, I don’t always like to get recognised, especially if I’m with my boyfriend or something, I just would rather not.
On that subject, a few queens this month have been tweeting about ‘Drag Race’ fans and how invasive they can be…
Oh my god, I’ll tell you this story.
I was getting pizza at 2am on Sunday. 2am. I’d had this thing all day, so at 2am I was getting pizza with my friend, who plays music with me. And we were sitting talking, and this guy sat next to us.
He was drunk and he goes, “What bars are still open?”. And I said, “Oh, I don’t know”. And he says, “Oh are you Trixie Mattel?”, I say, “yeah”, he says “Can I have a picture?”, I say, “No”. It’s 2am and I’m literally eating pizza.
And then he stands up and goes, “It’s OK, I know what it’s like to feel the need to be overrated and pretentious”. And it kind of hurt my feelings, so then I stood up and said, “I’ll take your picture, I’m sorry”, and he goes, “No I don’t want it”, and I go, “OK”.
So then he gets his pizza, and he comes and sits next to me, with his friend. And then he starts saying, loudly, in my direction, “I mean, it’s OK, he thinks because he’s on TV he doesn’t need to be nice to anybody, but I see how it is”, and he’s yelling this, so I say, “Do you want a picture or not?”, and he says, “No I want an apology”. It’s 2am at a pizza restaurant, and all I’ve done is decline a photo.
This is normal shit, if we say no to a picture, we’re, like, a bad person. And then he goes, “You know what? Since you weren’t nice to me, I’m gonna tell 10 of my friends”, and I said, “When you get 10 friends, you let me know”.
How regular is that sort of thing?
Oh that happens all the time. I mean, I get asked for pictures every single day, no matter where I go. But if I say no… that’s the difficult thing. Like, on ‘Drag Race’, Morgan [McMichaels] was saying there were some girls in West Hollywood that I’d rubbed the wrong way. It’s literally that easy.
I could literally go to a bar, go to a show, and tip the drag queen but not smile, and if I’m not smiling, then I was there acting full of myself, and I was being judgemental. If I don’t fan-kick into a gay bar hugging everyone, people are like, ‘She was over it’.
What would be your message to fans who are in that mindset?
Oh. Um. Just remember that Superman outside Superman is Clark Kent. And Clark Kent is a quiet, shy person who wears glasses.
From your first appearance on ‘Drag Race’ in season seven to right now, what is the aspect of your career that you’re most proud of?
I’m most proud of my career as a touring comedian and musician. I love doing television, I love selling records, but when I’m at these venues with hundreds of people and they’re all sitting listening to my music and my jokes, I feel like I could die that day and I would be happy.
And finally, can you tell me who wins ‘All Stars 3’, please?
Um… I think everyone knows who wins, and her name is Tammie Brown. And we’re all very happy for her.
Trixie Mattel’s new album, ‘One Stone’, is available to download and stream now. The ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ final airs in the UK on Comedy Central at 2am on Friday (16 March).