Trixie Mattel can do anything you can do — but she can do it while wearing uncomfortable shoes
By Ashley Naftule, March 2020 issue.
With eye make-up as fluttery
and black as moth wings and a blonde wig that looks like it was plucked
straight off Jayne Mansfield’s rolling head, Trixie Mattel is an imposing
sight. A drag queen, singer-songwriter, comedian, avid Barbie doll collector,
and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars winner, the country-fried Trixie looks
like she stepped out of a Bizarro Grand Ole Opry where all the tears in beers
are tinged with mascara and the cowboys vogue on top of bulls.
While Trixie came into prominence for her
fun and fiery persona on Drag Race, she’s carved out a niche for herself
as a touring performance artist. On albums like Two Birds and One Stone,
she’s shown off a talent for crafting catchy queer country songs. Her latest
album, Barbara, pushes her song into more freaky psychedelic dimensions.
Trixie is taking her flip-your-wig music on the road for her Grown Up
tour, which will be passing through Phoenix on March 13.
We got a chance to talk to the Drag Race
star about her cosmetics line, her thoughts on the popularity, and what a
Trixie Barbie would look like.
Echo: I wanted to start off by asking — if Mattel ever
made an official Trixie Barbie doll, what would it be like?
Mattel: I think it’s more
likely they’d make an official indictment for me to be sued than a doll! I’m a
big fan of Mattel, obviously — I’ve got a lot of reverence, or like an
irreverence, for them ... I think they’d make me a doll that would be
pretty far out. With hair that could be changed out into different wigs. I
think that’d be really cool.
Yeah, that does sound good.
Speaking of making
your own dolls, there was this company called Galoob — I think they were
Canadian. They approached the Spice Girls back in the day to say “Hey, we wanna
make Spice dolls.” And I think they invested like 50 million or something into
these dolls and ended up making hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars.
And they weren’t a toy company! People can make their own toys. You don’t even
need to wait for them to make a drag queen doll. Drag queens — we don’t wait
for people to tell us anything. We just do it. Ask questions now, get sued
Switching gears to music: what is it like working
with a full band for this tour?
There’s a lot of
rehearsal and preparation, because they’re professional musicians and I’m not.
I’ve been playing guitars and stuff since I was 13, growing up in the deep,
deep country. I didn’t have cool people to be in a garage band with.
So we’re learning the songs off my record
and we also have to rehearse everything else: the jokes I wrote for the show
between songs, all my costume changes, the wig changes, the videos. It’s
spinning a lot of plates cause as I’ve grown up the show has grown with me.
Do you ever worry you’re doing too much onstage?
No, but of course
it’s a challenge. What I do every year is think of the people who’ve seen me
every single year. What can I do that’s like so Trixie and so natural to me,
but they’ll never see it? What’s something I haven’t done already? You want to
make a show where people are going to get what they came for, but you also want
to pull the rug out from under them a few times.
And I got to think of all the people who
come see me for the record. Some people only listen to my records. Some people
only come see me because they like my comedy. They like my YouTube show. Some
people only come because they watch Drag Race. So I really have to make
a show that can work for any type of audience member.
On the subject of music videos — who came up with the
concept behind “Yellow Cloud”? It’s a really striking video, full of puppetry
and crazy kid show stuff.
me. I come up with something and then I fish for people who also think
it’s cool and have the skills to make it happen. Early Pee-Wee Herman was
definitely an inspiration for this show and the video. For the video Seth
Bogart, who’s a visual artist, built the whole set. He built all the puppets
and the stage. And I was like, “Let’s go really bananas” during the shoot. I
really wanted to get visuals that would help usher people who are so used to me
doing the yee-haw thing into this new sound — this sort of sugary-sweet ‘60s
What’s the biggest misconception that people have
about what it’s like to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race?
People take for
granted how much you have to do. If you’re on Top Model, you just have
to model. And if you’re on Project Runway, you have to make an outfit.
And if you’re on American Idol, you have to sing. And if you’re on Last
Comic Standing, you gotta tell jokes. On Drag Race you have to do all
of that. All of it. You can’t win Drag Race unless you can literally do
everything. We have to do everything normal straight people do but we have to
do it in more uncomfortable shoes and on a tighter budget.
You’ve pledged to donate a portion of your cosmetic
line’s sales towards the preservation of honeybees. What inspired you to take
on this initiative?
Without bees, we’ll
all die. There’d be no planets, no air, nothing … When I used to work at makeup
companies, I liked it when there was some kind of philanthropic effort attached
to a product because it makes you just a little bit prouder to use it. So for
my product, I really wanted to do something environmental. When you help
honeybees, you help everybody, you help people, you help the earth.
I also have to worry about if I am going to
be able to find a charity that’s going to be willing to work with me cause
people are ashamed of working with drag queens sometimes. And the honeybee
conservationists were so nice and they invited me to the offices. I got to tour
the hives in drag. I got to reach into the hives and pull out honey and eat it.
It was wild! Bees are crawling all over me and, I mean I love them but
it’s also a little scary. It was definitely a test of my nerves, but it was
Did you get stung at all?
No. They smoke the
hives ahead of time. If you put smoke in the hives, the bees can’t go into
attack mode because they communicate through scent and the smoke throws that
As someone who’s been in the drag game for a while,
how do you feel about the medium’s growing popularity? Drag is more mainstream
and visible now than it’s ever been.
When I started on Drag
Race, I remember the way even gay people at the time felt about drag. It
wasn’t always good. In the gay community, people see us better now. It used to
not be — you were not cool if you did drag back then. Guys did not want to talk
to you or date you. People did not want to be your friend. You were a weird
crossdresser, you know? Now within the gay world, it’s gone from something that
was not cool to something that’s like really cool.
It’s been like the gay community’s best
kept secret that we have this really cool art form. And now everyone else is
into it — which is fine! But you know, gay people inventing something and
straight people showing up in the 11th hour is not a new concept. Gay people
are sort of the cultural tastemakers and everything. So it just makes sense
that Drag Race, which we like to call the gay Superbowl, caught on. Who
wouldn’t like it? It’s cutthroat competitions of extremely creative people with
really rich backstories, liberated people, finding themselves in an art form
that wasn’t celebrated by most people. What could be more compelling than that?
Trixie Mattel’s Grown Up tour hits The Orpheum Theatre on Friday, March 13, at 8 p.m.