“Don’t get overwhelmed.”
This is how Trixie Mattel answers when asked how she manages to stay on top of all of her many businesses, shows, and other projects.
It’s a simple response, and one that doesn’t seem to be enough to explain how the woman who does it all (well, man, really) actually does it all.
At this stage of her career, Mattel can afford to relax a little, but instead, she’s putting her stiletto to the metal and surging ahead faster and faster.
The question Mattel continuously asks herself, even when she wonders why she’s signed on to so many ventures? “What if I just did more?” And more. And more. And more.
After two years of relative quiet due to the global pandemic, many performers are trying to make up for lost time and revenue, but few are putting in the hours and effort like Mattel.
The Drag Race All-Stars winner had her hand in a number of different industries and projects before the world shut down, and now that people can travel again and attend large in-person events once more (relatively safely, that is), the drag queen otherwise known as Brian Firkus is working overtime.
In 2022 alone, Mattel has all of the following projects coming up or currently in progress: a drag tour with best friend Katya that extends into the end of the year; a musical tour of Europe that will see Trixie performing her signature blend of country, pop, and Americana; her two web series UNHhhh and Netflix’s I Like to Watch (both with Katya), each of which have new episodes on the horizon; a new book (again with Katya) about God and drag, publishing in October; running her company Trixie Cosmetics; her weekly newsletter GOOPED (once again, with Katya); the summer release of her double CD The Blonde & Pink Albums, which have already launched several singles; and the opening of her Palm Springs motel, the creation of which will be chronicled in her upcoming docuseries Trixie Motel, scheduled to begin airing on Discovery+ on June 1.
Just one of those projects would be enough to keep anyone busy, but somehow, Mattel has the energy, time, and talent to not only keep them all going, but to ensure they’re all going to be incredibly successful.
Her track record as one of the hardest-working and potentially one of the wealthiest queens to emerge from Drag Race (though Mattel is shy about touting her own financial prowess) suggests that her empire will only keep expanding, and at a surprisingly rapid rate. Again, she just keeps saying “more.”
Like so much of her character and comedy, Mattel’s “overwhelmed” quote isn’t her own, but rather a reference to a campy ’90s movie.
Such a callback is perfectly on-brand for the woman who has been so busy with her many businesses, she hasn’t even been able to watch the latest season of Drag Race. For those who have been following Mattel for years, they realize that means the show’s superfan really is swamped.
While in Palm Springs working on finishing her first motel, Mattel opened up about everything, including touring, spending too much time with her best friend Katya Zamolodchikova (real name Brian McCook), her never ending love of dive bars, and how anyone can work hard and make their dreams come true.
METRO WEEKLY: I can’t make my job and personal life work. I don’t know how you make your nine jobs work. I’m going to need tips from you.
TRIXIE MATTEL: All your friends have to support you and know that if you’re not with them, you’re not with some other group of friends you like better. So if I’m not with my boyfriend, he knows I’m not with my other husband and children that I secretly have. I like everybody I work with. So the fact that I have no social life is great because if I was a Sim, I’d go home from work with my social meter totally full. And so outside of all my work, I spend a lot of time quietly sitting and eating and drinking and exercising.
I’m extremely dull, extremely dull. I came home from filming Trixie Motel. I drank an iced tea and played my ukulele. Shoot me in the face.
MW: And you love it.
MATTEL: Personality-wise, I did, I enjoyed it. And I’m like, “You’re gross. Stop being a caricature now and go sit down.”
MW: You are staying at the Margaritaville in Palm Springs.
MATTEL: There’s a giant sandal in the lobby.
MW: Yeah. That’s his thing.
MATTEL: I know it’s kind of a daily encouragement though, to be renovating a motel. I mean, sometimes I second guess myself, but then I wake up here and I’m like, “Nevermind, we’re doing fine, we are doing just fine.”
MW: You have a tour that goes through, what, October?
MATTEL: Bro, it’s wild. It goes until December, I think. Plus my solo tour. My solo tour is going to end in May, which is in the U.K. and Europe. So while Katya has a month and a half off, I’m doing a completely different show.
MW: I didn’t realize you had a separate tour in between.
MATTEL: Oh yeah bitch, my “Grown Up” tour from 2020, that was rescheduled, which is all of Europe and the U.K. So instead of a show that’s full of Barbara, my record from a year and a half ago, the show will have music from the new record. That’s crazy. I mean, I’m going to be completely dead or very rich at the end of this year.
MATTEL: Why not both? Why not die and be rich? The best way to save money is to not spend it because you’re dead. I think Suze Orman said that.
MW: Going into this year, with so much ahead of you. Are you excited? Are you nervous? Is it daunting?
MATTEL: Have you ever seen that movie Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead? Well, there’s this woman Sue Ellen, which is Christina Applegate as a teenager pretending to be a fashion executive. And she gets this job by faking her resume. And on the first day of the job, she’s working for this high powered woman who gives her this crazy laundry list. And she’s like, “Okay.” And the woman goes, “And Sue Ellen, don’t get overwhelmed. Just do one thing at a time.” That’s kind of true with everything. Don’t get overwhelmed, just be like, “This is everything you have to do. What order are we doing it in?” And then go.
And don’t get COVID. Don’t get pregnant. And don’t get pregnant if you have COVID. Which could be really hard because I look really hot when I’m sick. But honestly, I just try to be grateful. I mean I know it sounds corny as hell, but without the Sylvester and Lady Bunnies and the RuPauls and everyone of the world, the fags and the freaks making it all possible, I wouldn’t even have these opportunities. So, far be it for me to be like, “I’m tired. I’m not going to do it.”
MW: I would look at your schedule and think, “It’s not humanly possible.” You just can’t do that all, you can’t make it all work.
MATTEL: It is. I mean, I write pretty much all my music, which saves time and money. We’re building this motel around an existing character, which saves a lot of imagination time and there’s a lot to go from. The tour’s all written, the music’s written. I just keep going, “What if I just did more? What if I just did more?” It’s like I have a neighbor that doesn’t like when I play loud music, but every day I turn the knob up a little bit and they don’t complain anymore because they can’t hear it. As far as the amount of work on my plate, I think I just slowly dosed myself to the point of like, this is fine. I mean, I don’t have any crying at work meltdowns or anything.
MW: Maybe this year.
MATTEL: Tomorrow I have to get up at 7:30 to get in drag. I’m really not living, but it is what it is. In drag, when you start, you’re performing at 2 a.m. on a Monday, and then when you get successful, the clock goes back so far that suddenly you’re getting in drag before sunrise. And you’re like, “What happened? I never agreed to this.” I’m supposed to be watching this sunrise because I’ve been up all night, not waking up before the sun. That’s dark-sided.
MW: What does Trixie Mattel do in her spare time?
MATTEL: I love DJ-ing. I mean, I guess that’s kind of something I do for money now, but I love DJ-ing. I love to make a little drink at my house and turn on my turntables and if I need to, I can dance. I love playing guitar, which I guess I also make money doing. I love watching YouTube videos. Love a little tonsil stone video, love a pimple-popping video. I love a TikTok where people clean something that’s very dirty. Like a time-lapse of someone cleaning a computer coated in nicotine or someone buying an old Motorola that’s covered in dirt from the 2000s and using a needle and alcohol to super speed clean it. It’s very relaxing and calming.
I love happy hour. Although Saturday I did happy hour and forgot that it was supposed to be an hour. Pretty soon it’s midnight, and I’m like blacked out. I love playing video games, but I mean, I have to kind of have time for that and I really don’t always.
Luckily the things I like to do are my hobbies. So I do sit home and play guitar and sing sometimes. Or I do watch comedy or listen to comedy records.
I read this book by Randi Zuckerberg called Pick Three. Basically she’s like, “Instead of doing five things a day poorly, just pick three every day and do that.” If today all you can do is have a good work day, get in some exercise and get a good night sleep. But maybe tomorrow you see your friends. I hate to say it, it’s just about balance. You can do everything, just not at once.
I feel like I’m giving a TEDTalk.
MW: I love hearing this is how you do it, because now I’m going to take that and go and try to be better tomorrow.
MATTEL: People are always like, “Beyoncé only has 24 hours in the day too.” I do think about that, but also you’ve got to think drag queens are sloppy and stupid and not very driven. So for me to be a hardworking put-together drag queen, what does that mean? I have teeth and floss them. You know what I mean? Drag queens are lazy. Drag queens are self-indulgent. Drag queens are like, “Why everyone else and not me?”
I believe in myself and I believe in Trixie and I believe in the character, and the way people have experiences with the character. And so I am perpetually inspired to build upon what they get out of it. Oh my God, they love watching me at bars. What if I made a vodka? Oh my God, they love coming to see me. What if I made a hotel for them to stay in? I’m always thinking of how to make that experience more 360 because it makes me money and it makes the user experience more developed.
MW: That’s a RuPaul mindset and a phenomenal way to think about your career and life.
MATTEL: We pretend to be celebrities, but we are individual queer businesses. Selling out is just a fancy word for an artist getting paid.
MW: Again, every time I learn something new about Trixie, I’m just like, “Oh my God. I spent the day learning about all your new projects.
MATTEL: Yeah, I mean at this point, if you haven’t seen me somewhere, you’re actively avoiding me. It’s the Substack, GOOPED, three times a week. It’s my YouTube channel every Monday. The podcast every Tuesday. It’s usually Netflix on the weekends, UNHhhh is on Wednesday. There’s always something new for people and I really believe in the consistency of people having some new thing from me whenever they want. And I love short form content. I’m not making feature films. YouTube videos, pods. A lot of these are small things, small bites.
MW: And the occasional book.
MATTEL: And the occasional book, yeah. [Katya and I] just finished our final edit today [of the upcoming second book], and she texted me, “Evil dies tonight.” I was like, “I know, get it out of the way.” But again, most drag queens can’t even read. So to write a book is…
MW: A big deal.
MATTEL: We weren’t ever meant to even spell our own names. These are simple people. And then, I mean a lot of these jobs — sometimes I’m like, I do need to pull back because most people I know who do one of these things only do that thing.
I have a friend who only owns a makeup company. I have a friend who’s only a recording artist or only a drag queen. Doing all this together is a lot. But I also did it to myself, so who am I going to get mad at? I can’t even be like, “I ain’t going to work tomorrow.” Bitch, I said I would. So it’s my own fault.
MW: How is Trixie Motel going?
MATTEL: Absolutely none of you are in any way prepared for what is about to happen to you on your televisions. It is unbelievable. It’s like Avengers Endgame, Disneyland, Universal on steroids, on molly. The only thing I could compare it to would be it’s a motel in drag. That’s what it is. Every room is in drag.
MW: Love that. What motel was it in Palm Springs?
MATTEL: Used to be called the Coral Sands. It was built in the ’50s and then it was occupied for a while by the LA Rams.
Then it was a kind of a celebrity getaway. It’s modestly sized. It’s been here a long time. Palm Springs is all about preservation and it’s all about restoring and preserving what is. In Palm Springs, you can’t even paint your mailbox without the city approving the paint color. So the people here are extremely protective, in a good way. This entire city, it’s like a community art piece. It’s a choir of visuals and experiences and we are adding a voice. And part of adding a voice is you have to listen to the people singing around you. And that’s kind of what we’re doing with this place.
Although, I’m sorry, I’ve stayed at every AirBnb here. I’ve stayed at every motel here. It’s over. Give it up, delicious. I’ve stayed at hotels across the world. There’s nothing like this place. Every motel owner is going to watch this and be like, “I guess we what, lay down and die?”
MW: They’re going to hire you. You’re going to be the new Hilton.
MATTEL: I’m going to be the cleaning lady. I wish I could tell you more. I usually have a pretty good idea of how something’s going to turn out. Nothing prepared me for how amazing this is. Jaw on the floor, tears in the eyes coming, seeing some of it come together. Just crazy.
MW: You are literally opening a hotel. That’s a long way from your 2 a.m. Monday morning dive bar drag performances.
MATTEL: Well yeah, I still own — I own a gay bar in Milwaukee. The oldest gay bar in Wisconsin. We’re one of the oldest gay bars in the country to be consistently open since the early sixties. We’ve been open consistently longer than Stonewall, so it’s old. I love dive. I love camp and kitsch and I love seeing a smiling face behind the bar and I love personality. And I love a gay Cheers energy at gay bars, but I still love fancy. I mean, at 2:30 a.m., when the bar closes, you still want to go somewhere nice to stay.
Palm Springs is so magical. We knew we had to bring something that was at least as good as everything here. And everything here is amazing. Everything here in Paul Springs is flawless, beautiful, curated. So it’s like, we have to come hard, especially since I’m a man in a wig. People weren’t going to let us get away with, “It’s a fun ottoman and a pop of color.” No. We go hard or we don’t do it.
MW: When does it open? Do you know?
MATTEL: I believe we’re opening in April or May. But of course we have to hire a manager, cleaning staff, a bartender. It’s a real business. We actually have to get it working before we can open. Crazy. It doesn’t end with the show filming and the renovation being done. That’s the beginning of the work. But if it’s anything like the makeup company, as it grows, you employ the right people who really have their heart in the game. And then suddenly a lot of things people have, they put on auto drive. So you as a creative at the top can just be creative.
You don’t have to babysit. I don’t like people who work for me to feel like I’m babysitting and I trust everyone.
MW: It’s good not to micromanage.
MATTEL: I would never hire someone and stare over their shoulder while they do their job. We should never have hired you in the first place. As a performer and an artist, I don’t like being micromanaged. On stage I don’t like being told what to say or anything like that.
MW: So you’re a good boss.
MATTEL: I think so. Nobody’s slapped me and stormed out. It’s early in the year.
MW: So I was watching “This Town” and I was surprised at how moved I was by it. I wasn’t expecting to come away from a Trixie Mattel song and video with that feeling. Tell me a bit about the album, a bit about the song and the video. I know it’s deeply personal.
MATTEL: This is a song I wrote in the middle of 2020. I was sitting at my kitchen table. This is before I replaced my kitchen table with a Peloton and my DJ decks. Different times. I decided I needed to hear club music and bike more than I needed to eat dinner.
I was thinking the whole world was falling apart. It seemed like living in the middle of Hollywood was probably the worst place you could be. And I was like, wow. I have always felt like the queer storyline is that you’re supposed to hate where you’re from and hate small towns and all that. But I never felt that way. I felt like my small town really was sweet and good to me. And being in the marching band and being in my high school, being in extracurriculars, I feel like in a lot of ways protected me.
I mean my town was so small that I knew everybody since kindergarten. So nobody was bullying me. When the town is that small, there’s actually something very sweet about it. Of course, small towns facilitate a different darkness. A lot of things happen in plain sight. There’s a lot of substance abuse and domestic abuse. I wanted to write a song about how it’s okay to like where you’re from and feel sort of nostalgic for a place. It’s okay to admit that you like going back to somewhere that is still kind of problematic for you. That’s kind of when I got out of it and I was afraid everybody would see the video and think it was about how I hate my town, but I really don’t.
And also it was so weird. I didn’t edit the video, I would never have chosen some of that old family footage. I was so mortified to watch some of it. But, I mean, I cried watching some of it because if I would’ve told myself in this video, when I was taping myself in the living room auditioning for something, what I was doing now, I would never believe it.
It was kind of magical to watch that and be like, “Wow, that was me.” I had absolutely no idea of the things I would get to do in my life. I know it’s very cool in Hollywood to be like, “Oh, I always knew this would happen to me. I always watch TV and saw myself.” You’re a psychopath. If you think that all the world’s going to fall into your lap, your whole life, I don’t know how you’re going to cry during your Oscar speech because apparently you knew it was coming. I never knew things like this would happen for me and with this town. My town was so small and my scope of the world was so tiny. I didn’t even have the wherewithal to dream of some of the things that I get to do.
MW: But you are LA now and apparently Palm Springs for the moment.
MATTEL: Yeah. I’m in LA and then I have a house in Milwaukee where I visit my mom and I visit my bar, This Is It. And I think my partner and I are probably going to have to get a place in Palm Springs because especially in the first year of the motel, we’re going to have to be here a lot to make sure it goes okay and gets off the ground. When you have a brand new business, it’s like bringing a dead plant back to life or something. You really have to babysit something so new because every day is a new problem.
MW: Now that you are at this high level of success, do you ever miss not having to do things at this level? Like just doing a silly late night bar show instead of filming your reality show?
MATTEL: But then I do it. This week I called Chill Bar in Palm Springs. I know the owner, Rob, and I said, “Hey Rob, do you have a DJ Sunday?” He said, “Why, what’s up?” And I said, “Well, I have off from filming Trixie Motel, can I come DJ for a little bit?” And he said sure. They give me the local DJ rate, nothing fancy. I don’t even think they advertise it. I’m just going to go in from four to eight to DJ. In Los Angeles, I do standup in full drag for $50 all the time. I love doing low pressure things.
MW: Where do you do it?
MATTEL: Everywhere. The Largo, the Silverlake Lounge. I mean, anywhere someone gay will be like, “Do you want to come be in my show?” I’m like, “I’ll be there.” In Los Angeles though, stand ups, no matter how famous you are, everybody gets their $20.
Because it’s all about repetition and building your new jokes and trying them out. I just did a digital fundraiser for raising money for farmers and quality of employment and minimum wages just because I had the night off. It’s definitely not always about the money. Believe me, drag was not about the money for a very long time. And I hope that no baby drag queens look at people like me and think, “Oh good, I’ll just do that. It looks easy.” It’s like, bitch, this is the 0.001% fantasy story of what could happen. Drag for most people will just cost you money forever, so never forget that.
MW: I was reading that essentially Trixie Mattel has probably made more money coming out of Drag Race than anyone else and has been more successful, which I would gather is true.
MATTEL: I mean, who are these accountants? How do people even quantify that? That’s literally nothing. I don’t know who’s writing these things, but they have no way of knowing how much money I have.
MW: No, but you would be my guess. Is that at all intimidating? Does part of you feel weird about that type of distinction?
MATTEL: I don’t think about it that much, to be honest. It makes me laugh when people bring it up. I don’t know when people started Googling my net worth, but if you type Trixie Mattel into Google, net worth is the next two words. It probably doesn’t help that RuPaul goes on Jimmy Kimmel and tells everyone I’m rich. As if RuPaul’s a latchkey kid boxcar child in poverty. I don’t think about it that much. I mean, all the spaghetti’s sticking to the wall right now. So yes, it’s going well, but there’s still things that don’t work all the time.
I mean, “This Town,” I love that song and the video is so moving. It’s sort of a B-side vibe and it’s not really being pushed as a major single, but I was proud of the way it sounded. So there’s a lot of things I do that I’m not necessarily gunning for. I’m just like, “Oh, I like this. And I think people who like me will like this.”
Whereas with “Hello Hello,” I wanted to write something that was kind of commercial-sounding that I could hear in a Verizon commercial or something. I want people to hear it once and be like, “Yes, yes.” So, no, I don’t really feel any type of way about people thinking I have money. By the way, everything costs money. Music videos cost money, making makeup costs money, building a motel costs money, because you have to buy the motel. So to make money, you have to spend money.
So that being said, do I work more than most drag queens? Yes. I have somewhere to be every day. Multiple things.
MW: I was looking up tickets to your tour today and…
MATTEL: Girl. Did you see the scalping tickets?
MW: Yeah. I looked at StubHub. Those numbers!
MATTEL: Boston, orchestra, $3,000. That’s crazy. We got to talk about scalpers in the industry and what we can do to stop it. I just put 74 Polaroids on my website in Valentine’s Day cards that people could buy to give to their lover for Valentine’s Day and I signed them and everything. Someone bought all of them and put them on eBay and now each Polaroid is $300. And I’m like, so you not only stole that from me in a way, you stole this experience that I built for fans, for their loved ones.
That’s shitty. I don’t like that. I mean when the Trixie doll comes out, I can only imagine the absurdity that’s going to happen on the secondary market. I bet people bought a lot of them and they’re just going to resell them, it’s so gross.
MW: You are having the same experience that every big musician has when they’re like, “I just want my fans to be able to afford to go.” And it’s all on the resale market for nonsense money.
MATTEL: It’s so shitty. I mean Katya and I have such young fans and everyone knows I hate children, but it’s not easy for somebody under 25, maybe fresh out of college, maybe still in college, maybe working full-time at the minimum wage to save up tickets to a show. It’s fucking gross when people are doing it. And I feel bad for people who didn’t get tickets.
Do a good show for the people who have tickets. It’s kind of all we can focus on.
MW: Is there anything else you want to specifically talk about?
MATTEL: I just put out “This Town” for the fun of it, just to give fans something to watch while they listen to and the response is so positive. So, so positive. And people from high school I haven’t talked to in a decade have been like, “I love the video.” People DMing me saying that they feel that way about their small town where they’re from. That’s really, really, really cool.
MW: Thank you so much for doing this. I know you’re busy. You could have started a new business in this time.
MATTEL: I did, I’m doing NFTs. That’s not true. We need to talk to these straight people about getting jobs. All these straight people. There’s a specific type of straight man where every time something like crypto or a new currency [pops up], they’re like, “Bro, bro.” I’m like, “No, you need to get a job. You need to move out of your mom’s house. You need to shower. And you need to stop trying to get rich off fake things.
For more information on all of Trixie Mattel’s projects and upcoming tour dates, visit www.trixiemattel.com.
Follow Trixie on Twitter at @trixiemattel.