Already Mattel is effortlessly proving why she won her spot in the RPDR Hall of Fame.
But Oh Hooonneyyy, has it been a long time coming. The self-described folk cross-dressing queen of Wisconsin talked with us about the big win, her drag bestie Katya‘s abrupt health hiatus, and a rough childhood that paved the way for a World Famous Drag Diva.
Jumping into an insanely competitive drag competition takes a lot of nerve, but doing it twice is a whole other kind of monster. “The pressure was intense,” said Mattel. “I knew that everyone at home was going to see me as this front runner, and all the other queens were going to see me as someone to beat because of my career outside of Drag Race.”
Hailing from Season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race has its advantages as contestants from later seasons seem to have better luck in a second run. “I spent my life as a loser, not a winner, so it was hard to be in that mind space,” said Mattel, whose Season 7 demons made a comeback as well. “When I fell at the bottom after Snatch Game, Shangela cat & moused me. I believed I was going home.”
Nevertheless, she persisted. “However, once I had cried and processed and fully believed that I had lost, I had nothing to fear because I remembered losing doesn’t mean I’m a bad drag queen, and if I lose, I have nothing to feel bad about. After that, it got so easy.”
Although a stand-out in her season, Trixie didn’t have the best score card. “I’ve lost the most amount of lip syncs in Drag Race history. Actually me and Katya are tied – we each lost four,” Mattel shares of her losses. “People don’t like Katya and I because we are these war-torn veterans. People like us because we have a great sense of humor about having the lousiest run on the ladder, and sometimes being that failure is really what I embody – even as a winner.”
Being a winner does have its advantages, and one of those being that coveted crown. So where does Miss Mattel store her bejeweled winnings? “I have my crown and scepter sitting in my garage right next to my RuPaul statue,” she says. Oh, Trixie.
“I’m not very competitive, I just thought I would go back in and fuck it all up again. I’m an optimistic realist. I stay positive, but I do expect the worst.”
Winners and losers each have their pressures of being thrusted to fame. Drag no longer is a hidden back door gay bar act. It’s mainstream, which adds pressure regardless of the outcomes.
Trixie’s beloved drag sister Katya, an All Stars 2 contestant and cohost of The Trixie & Katya Show, recently made news by taking an abrupt break from the limelight. An announcement made in French via Insta-live spread concern among the fan bases of both legendary divas. ”When someone is digging that deep in their psyche, it’s sort of best to leave them alone and let them do their thing,” said Mattel about Katya’s time off.
The drag duo has become a gay staple in the homo-stratosphere, not to mention we are looking at them for our own bestie-goals. “I just talked to her and she is extremely invested in her well-being,” Mattel tells us. “She is doing all sorts of therapy, from exercise to yoga to mental health. She is really getting enthusiastic about being better.”
Her thoughts are plain and simple. “Everyone who knows Katya accepts her because we already know going in [about] her past and her present with her mental health. People really do feel the way I feel about her.”
She wanted to make sure we got the message. “You know, it’s like, I didn’t sign up to be your best friend because I thought you were 100% mentally healthy [laughs]. I’ve always known you (Katya) were a little fucking nuts so you’re not revealing news to us. We all know you’re crazy.”
The Trixie & Katya Show, formally known as UNHhhh, is having its own mainstream moment. The show, which was among WOW Presents’ collection of RPDR spin-offs snatched the attention of heavyweight network Viceland.
“They found our YouTube channel and watched all sixty episodes and basically told us how obsessed they were with it,” Mattel shares. “You know, it’s amazing for a TV channel that was designed more for straight guys [that] the audience was so open and willing. We have so many fans now we even have straight-guy-stoners who love that channel and think we are hilarious.” We can see why Trixie, because we love you, too.
“When Katya tapped out, Bob (Bob The Drag Queen, winner of RPDR Season 8) tapped in and people got someone equally as funny, but a totally different energy.” said Mattel of her collaboration with the purse first queen. “We actually just concluded our first season finale.” So does means we will be getting a Season 2? We had to ask. “I can’t say [laughs]. I will say the viewership has been so strong.”
One surprising side of Trixie is her amazing set of pipes, that we only wished was showcased more on the show. Born in Milwaukee, the folk music scene is abundant and seemingly played a crucial role in her own career. But family might have been the biggest influence in Trixie’s appreciation for music. “I grew up learning to play guitar when I was thirteen by sitting at the table with my grandpa and learning the guitar on Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash,” said Mattel. “That’s how I learned – it’s in my bones and my soul.”
But a beautiful diva playing folk? Yes indeed, Hunty. It’s working, and working quite well for Trixie.
“I realized folk and country music are simple in a lot of ways. It has so much depth in honesty and realness, and as Trixie – who as a comedian that’s the type of realness I try to look for – it’s really a great marriage.”
So the skills she was obviously born with and the interest for music started at an early age. We were curious as to when it became a serious venture, and how she decided to pair that with drag.
“I had always wanted to be a singer song/writer and ended up going to college for music. While I was in college, I started doing drag and that turned into a part-time job, which then turned into a full-time job. Trixie Mattel was so unique and so lucrative, but you know as Brian, a white guy with a guitar, it is not that special [laughs].”
“I write music for my own personal human development, and so recording it – and making it available to people – is a natural step. I’m so happy.”
The choice to grow Trixie Mattel as a comedian and a singer/songwriter wasn’t easy. “I was afraid of making music and that nobody would go for it,” Mattel shares. “They really wouldn’t accept Trixie being a comedian, and also accept Trixie as a singer songwriter. However, my fans really taught me a lesson by saying ‘You bitch… we love you and we will try out anything with you.’”
New audiences have latched on to the Trixie folk train – so much so that the album is now charting on Billboard.
“It is so fucking crazy. You know, when I was in the country barefoot sitting in a tree playing a guitar writing little songs at thirteen, I did not think I would be a world-famous drag queen, believe me. Now I’m sitting on the top of the Billboard charts.”
And that is no small feat. Trixie elaborates. “Drag Queens topping a billboard chart is not even a thing that happens. There’s a lot of layers on how that happens. On the Americana Charts on iTunes, I was the number one singer/songwriter album. How does that happen? I mean I’m a fucking cross dresser [laughs].”
And Mattel believes that the landscape is changing for how we label and categorize genres. “I mean it goes to show you that people are really loosening their grip on what they need gender and music to be. When you listen to my music, it’s not queen music or gay music. It’s just music from a human being. That’s it.”
“What’s funny is each album is under 22 minutes so I could do a front and back – Two Birds and One Stone on one vinyl. I would love to do a vinyl.”
As funny as Trixie may be and as musically talented as she is, the road to what we see now hasn’t been easy. Even the origin of her drag name is not so Barbie-esque as one might think.
“I had a pretty rough childhood,” Mattel says of her upbringing. “I mean pretty rough. They don’t make movies of the stuff that happened to me. Every time I would be acting too feminine or gay, he [Trixie’s stepfather] would call me a trixie, and when I was young that was like the worst thing that you could be called. It’s like being called faggot.”
But we rise from the ashes. “Then I got older, and tried drag for the first time. In fact, I was in a play and a queen didn’t show. I had to jump into to this drag role and the name was Trixie, so I had to dance in drag as a trixie. It was almost like the name was chosen for me,” Mattel said.
“Now this whole thing I’ve built around that name is my life’s work and I love it so much. I don’t even think of it in that way anymore. Trixie – it’s a part of my life. Trixie is woven into my skin and bones.”
It is easy to see that Trixie’s success was inevitable, and that along the journey the stars began to align. An All Star win, a possible season two of The Trixie & Katya Show, and a chart-topping album. When success finally arrives to someone who has struggled in attaining it, is there anything left, and is there room for new things? The journey continues.
“Oh My God, you know when people say anything is possible you feel like they are just saying that, but now you know really anything is possible. I think back of how much work I put into what I have today. Playing guitar for 15 years and doing drag for like 10 years, all this belongs and all of this is assembled together.”
“I think about how horrible I felt after Drag Race and how good I feel now winning All Stars. RuPaul always says, ‘The call is coming from inside the house.’ That’s my favorite RuPaul-ism. No one is rooting against you. You can’t stress yourself out and you can’t second guess. The only thing you can do is follow your own compass man.”
Watch Trixie Mattel’s Newest Release Little Sister Out Now