Trixie Mattel, the multi-talented drag queen who rose to fame as the winner of the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, might as well be called Midas. Everything she touches turns to gold. Whether it’s her popular Internet show with fellow queen, Katya Zamolodchikova, The Trixie & Katya Show, or her chart-topping country music records, or her personalized line of cosmetics, Mattel (aka Brian Firkus), who is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has made a global name for herself. Recently, Netflix premiered a documentary about the drag queen, Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts. And soon Mattel will release a new book with Katya, called, Guide to Modern Womanhood.
Indeed, she has many fingers in so many pies. We caught up with Mattel to ask her how she keeps up with all that she has going on. Has the Coronavirus has disrupted her work? What’s the favorite joke she’s ever written? And much more.
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Hi, Trixie, how are you doing?
Good. I’m an introvert, I’m a video gamer and I’m a content creator, so I was built for this. Staying home? I was made for this!
I feel the same. As a writer, 90 percent of my life isn’t all that different in these times. I’m just mostly worried about the older people I love.
I’m worried about old people, too. I checked in with Katya, she’s fine! I don’t know if anybody’s heard from RuPaul, but… I mean, I’m supposed to be on tour right now. So, obviously, that’s different. And for the first few days that was really sad. But I feel like we just have to focus on what we can control, you know what I mean?
I totally agree. There’s also, like, less pollution. We have time to hunker down. There are some silver linings.
My boyfriend and I live in L.A. and we’ve been quarantined for at least two weeks and last night we were standing on my balcony. I live in West Hollywood and during the day I can see the HOLLYWOOD sign but at night I usually can’t because it’s so bright. It’s partly light pollution but the air pollution being, like, nothing now we could see the HOLLYWOOD sign in the middle of the night.
It’s pretty incredible. We’re going to have to learn to live with this to some degree for a while, it looks like.
I’ve processed a lot of the initial shock and now it’s just — I wake up and I’m like, “What can I do or work on from this condo?” When I worked in cosmetics, we used to have this saying — well, when I worked for MAC, before I owned my company, I used to work at a makeup counter at the mall and we used to have a saying, “Sell what we have today, today.” Meaning, don’t focus what we might be out of stock of or what products are discontinued. Literally, look at what we have in the drawer to sell and that’s what we’re focusing on. So, that’s what I’m doing now — what can we actually do?
Let’s talk about music. Your grandfather taught you to play guitar. Do you remember a particular moment that from those lessons?
Yes. Okay, so I’m, like, 13 at the time, right? My brother, who’s five years older than me, he loves — he’s obsessed with — Blink 182. I mean, who wasn’t at this time in history? We all were. And if you’re smart, you still are.
But he wanted to play the guitar and he picked one up from one of his friends and tried to learn but quit, like most people do, within a week. My brother was also in the army and he couldn’t march on beat. He had to watch the other soldiers’ feet to make sure he was on beat. So, he’s that white. I’m country music-white, which means at least I can clap. But he’s can’t even clap on beat-white.
So, I remember, I wanted to learn. I brought the guitar to my grandpa and said I wanted to learn and could he teach me? And he was like, “I’ll help you a little. But if this is for you, you’ll be able to pick it up and figure it out on your own.” Because he taught himself, his thing was always, if you’re going to be good at guitar or be a musician, you should be able to pick this up and figure it out.
So, I went off on my own and figured a lot of it out myself and came back and he met me in the middle. I think with a lot of things in life, that was a bigger lesson. You can be a little bit more objective, like, “Am I good at this? Should I be doing this?”
You seem like such a self-starter and you’re involved in so much. So, that’s an interesting window or lesson into your process.
Because I’m from the country, everything I’d always wanted to do I had no access to — no money, no connections to people. I had to always figure things out. It really made me an autodidact. If I don’t know how to do something, I will figure it out.
Drag queens are all like that because we’re used to doing an art form that, from the beginning, you’re too big to fit clothes off the rack, and all that.
You’re a toy collector. How did toys — and Barbie dolls, in particular — open your imagination to more possibilities in life?
I was always obsessed with girls’ toys. I was always that kid who went to McDonald’s and I wanted the girls’ toy. But I wasn’t really allowed to play with girls’ toys. So, as an adult, it carried over. I was still really obsessed with things like My Little Pony and Poly Pocket and Barbies, and all that. I think the lesson with dolls, especially, is that every single doll is from the same mold — the same body, same hands, same face.
But the clothing the doll wears is what it is. Like, oh, this one’s a doctor and this one is a police officer, you know?
I think that’s also a critique on society. We are what we’re dressed as. You’re successful if you’re dressed successful. You’re smart if you’re dressed smart. We believe people based on what they’re wearing.
I think that’s what drag is. You dress as the richest, most famous, most beautiful person in the room. So, for the show’s duration people believe that. Because you told them. You told them with your clothes, dressed the way you are.