Two successful albums, countless sold out shows all around the world, a documentary and a Drag Race crown – Trixie Mattel has come a long way since she first burst onto the Milwaukee drag scene in 2008. Today, she can call herself a musician, stand up comedian, entertainer and entrepreneur, and has just launched her very own make-up brand ‘Trixie Cosmetics‘. But it doesn’t stop there: in August the pop culture icon is headed to Dragworld London, Europe’s largest drag convention, and returns to the UK in early 2020 for a full length theatre tour. So how does this all-around superstar come up with her ever-changing Retro looks and new material for her comedy shows and music? We spoke to Trixie Mattel to find out more about her inspirations, her next album and the drag fandom – and got some important life lessons along the way…
First of all, let’s talk Dragworld – what can fans expect from you at the event?
I love to do a theme and I’m always trying to find a way to be able to sit down, so I usually have some kind of pink chair with me. I would love to bring some lighting to Dragworld, because I heard that there’s natural lighting and I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to do a drag event with natural lighting… Then I always bring some extra special merchandise along and some brand new items too.
Why do you think events like Dragworld, where artists and fans come together, are so valuable to the community and fanbase?
I think a lot of people want to meet their queens in real life, because we mean a lot to them and they want to say something to us. For me it’s all about selling things – I’m here to shake teenage girls down for their mom’s money. That’s what I’m about. I have a hard time taking things seriously, so when people tell me really personal things I never really know what to say. There’s no profile for a Trixie fan, it’s a lot of young girls – often girls who like girls – and they are the best! They’re so sweet and enthusiastic and come to meet me decked out in Trixie make-up and they all look awesome. People will get up earlier to get in drag for a drag convention than the drag queens!
You’re also set to return to the UK with a brand new one woman show in early 2020, can you give us a glimpse at what to expect?
My new show is all about Trixie Mattel growing up. I’m turning 30, I just bought a house, I have a boyfriend of three years, and I have kind of accomplished a lot of things in my career that I wanted to accomplish. The show is about reaching an age where you go ‘oh god, am I supposed to be a grown up?!’, reflecting on your life and the way you handled things and deciding if you’re acting like an adult. I mean, I’m an adult man who basically dresses like a little girl and I have a doll collection… In a lot of ways I do not act like an adult. So the show is also reflection on who gets to decide what an adult is. I’m going to explore all of that through comedy and music. Again I’m not Oprah or RuPaul. I never try to help anybody, I’m just trying to make people laugh. To me, laughing through the darker things is key. ‘Oh we’re all wonderful’ is never my message, it’s more ‘we’re all pieces of shit and that’s why it’s fine’. You are a piece of shit, just like everyone else – we’re all garbage! Unifying people through laughter is the best, and when it comes to comedy I never try to be patronising.
At your live shows you do a wide mix of different things including comedy, music, lip synching, playing the guitar, autoharp and clarinet. What would you say is your favourite type of performance?
I love doing the stand-up comedy, that’s like my bread and butter. I love talking and telling jokes, so that’s probably what I enjoy most. The songs, I throw in more as a punctuation. I never like a show to be all music, but I love to play my guitar and do comedy music. Last year, at my tour ‘Skinny Legend’, I did a lot of comedy songs which I’d never really gotten into until then. I think in my next show I’m going to have even more absurdity, and the music is going to be a bit more stupid and fun. And it’ll be faster, music you’ll want to drink to. Normally I do country music and everything is mid-tempo and sombre, but I feel like nowadays I want the music to be a little more like candy and less like a meal.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
Well yeah, I sit down and get into drag for two hours. There’s no way around that. I usually have half a red bull and a green juice and then I usually have to do a meet and greet with a 100+ people. So there’s no time for burning sage and praying. I do get nervous, so I usually sit with my guitar and just play right before the show. It keeps my hands busy and my mind from freaking out. I just did Calgary Stampede in Canada, which is a country festival, and my guitar was on stage before the show – so I was backstage and just sitting there and that’s when I noticed that I really depend on my guitar to not freak out.
What’s been your impression of the UK fanbase compared to the fans in the US?
People in the UK are drunker, younger and more dressed up. Just in general. They have coloured hair, a full face of make-up and cool outfits. They’re generally more supportive. People love drag in the UK. In the US I think they’re spoilt. I usually come once a year, and my audience that love Trixie will show up. They plan ahead and buy tickets a year in advance. My next show isn’t even done yet, I’m writing it right now, so it’s nice to know that on the other side there definitely will be an audience. People are buying tickets to a show I haven’t even finished yet, where I’ll be playing songs from an album I haven’t even finishing writing yet!
Speaking of your next album, can we expect that soon?
Yes, I’m working on it right now! As you can tell from my latest song ‘Yellow Cloud’ it’s a new sound. It’s a little more ’60s folk, a little more radio, and a little more fun, glossy and glittery. I did two albums that were like a meal, so I wanted to something that’s like dessert. Really sweet, enjoyable and low calorie. Low emotional calorie. Anyone who knows my music, knows that I really like to be dramatic, but I’m ready for an album that’s not that.
What was the inspiration behind ‘Yellow Cloud’?
I was on tour and I missed my boyfriend. The song is really a daydream about ‘what if I didn’t have all this responsibility and work’? What if we just had astro turf and lived in a bomb shelter home like the one the live in in the movie Blast from the Past. What if we lived in the little Retro perfect picket fence house? It’s a song about how love feels almost surreal. It takes you to a place that’s not really reality.
From music, to your own cosmetics line, a one-woman tour and a documentary – you’ve branched out into quite a few fields in your career. Is there anything that’s still on your bucket list?
Oh yeah, I’ve done a little bit of game shows but I just love them, so I want to do more. Not to be competing, but being the celebrity guest. I would also love to do more music festivals. As I said I just did Stampede and it was surreal. It’s a huge huge event. I would love to do Coachella and that kind of stuff. Really cool big stuff that nobody gets to do. In the drag world I think I’ve kind of done a lot of it and I love being the first drag queen to do XYZ. Love that.
Are there any plans for your documentary Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts to be released internationally?
Yes, it’ll be purchased and distributed!
Your style has evolved quite a bit since you first started out and has spanned a few decades including the ‘70s and ‘80s. Right now it feels like you’ve arrived in the ‘60s, where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
When I’m putting together the new Trixie of that year I kind of treat my brain like a blender and throw things in that I think belong. I’ve been listening to a lot of ’60s music recently, like Dusty Springfield and The Beatles, and a lot of ’90s bands that sound ’60s, like Fountains of Wayne and Weezer. Then I’ve been watching reruns of The Brady Bunch and the beauty icons I’ve been following have been Nancy Sinatra and Dusty Springfield. My favourite Barbie dolls to collect are also 1965 to 1975, so that decade of mod clothing is really inspiring to me. I also just rewatched Austin Powers! With this new sound in my music I’m moving away from the Yeehaw a little bit and leaning more into the handclaps.
How do you use social media in your job?
For my personal one, the Trixie Mattel one, I kind of just post whatever I think is funny and interesting that day. Today I tweeted me wearing a female latex mask. Lately I’ve been posting a lot of photos of the dolls in my doll collection and people seem to really like that. I actually did a poll asking if people like the doll posts or not and the response was overwhelming, so I’ll keep posting them. For my cosmetics Instagram it’ll be product photos and I love to repost looks of when people use the cosmetics, a lot of the looks that these young girls do are so beautiful.
What was the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
That nobody knows what they’re doing. You don’t know what you’re doing, but guess what? Nobody else does. I feel like an imposter all the time. When I did Stampede I definitely felt like an imposter. It was all these real musicians and I’m a cross dresser. But then I realised that nobody knows what they’re doing. That’s why I never think twice about what I’m doing! If I think it’s right and it makes sense with my gut I’m doing it. When I pitched the ‘Yellow Cloud’ music video people were like ‘that sounds crazy’, but I to me it felt right and good. Or with the cosmetics line, people were telling me that no one would want a heart-shaped lipstick. But I just follow my own trumpet.
Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to get into a creative job, but doesn’t know how or even what they want to do yet?
Just do whatever you think is right and don’t ask if it’s correct or what it means. When I first started doing drag I had no plan, I just dressed up. I don’t know why I did it. I had no exact plan for Trixie. I was throwing darts and then I would look at the dart and see where it landed and got closer and closer in time. Don’t try to think about your finished product, just do whatever you think is right and be pleasantly surprised. I never really know what I’m feeling or thinking, but when it’s done I notice I did know but I just had to kind of figure it out. I knew where I was headed and just followed my gut. Anytime you second guess yourself, it’s that second guess that’s always the wrong thing. That’s what you’re going to regret. You’re never going to regret following your gut.
Trixie Mattel’s new one woman show is coming to the UK in May 2020. Get your tickets now.