She's a skinny legend, according to her fans
If you’ve not met Trixie Mattel, let it be known she is now an official member of the Drag Race Hall of Fame. She’s the very recent winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3, a spin-off to the main show in which the best of the best who didn’t make the crown the first time return for a second chance – amid the fiercest competitors. But by her own admission, of anyone to win, this will probably affect her life the least. Since competing in season seven of Drag Race, Trixie (AKA Brian Michael Firkus), has launched a VICELAND show with fellow All Star Katya Zamolodchikova, and released an album and EP, the latter of which hit the top of the US Heatseekers Chart for breaking music. We spoke to the cross-dressing country star to talk about teenage fandoms, collaborating with Miley Cyrus and the rise of LGBT television.
Your new EP, ‘One Stone’, is performing really well in the charts. What’s it all about?
My first album was called ‘Two Birds’, so this is sort of a follow up. ‘One Stone’ is a little less country, but it’s a companion piece to the first album. The first album was all very country breakup, and ‘why me?’. ‘One Stone’ is a little more introspective, like, ‘maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re the problem.’ It’s kind of about growing up and realising that you’re not always the protagonist in every story. You create a lot of problems yourself.
Could you unpack the ‘Break Your Heart’ video a little bit? There’s a LOT going on.
I wanted to write something a little different, more radio friendly. I broke up with a guy, and the song is all about being in a relationship and breaking up with someone because you think it’s going to end anyway – pulling off the band-aid. In real life I was ultimately wrong, and in the video you can see me outside playing my guitar while someone’s throwing all my shit on the lawn. I’m also a nosy neighbour trimming my hedge. I like being in drag in my videos. Then I’m also a doctor removing a man’s heart, and also the nurse. Then at the end I’m at a carnival in a shooting gallery, where I shoot a heart. It’s a really cheesy video but I wanted it to be cheesy. The song is so cheesy. I wanted it to look kind of early ‘00s, like a Hilary Duff video.
Who would you really love to collaborate with?
I looooove Jason Isbell. I like Aimee Mann. Her album ‘Mental Illness’ is so good. Kacey Musgraves I love. Oh, and Miley [Cyrus] too! She messaged me saying we should write a song sometime, but in famous world that probably means it’s never going to happen. But I’m also a control freak. That’s something I like about drag – I get to do everything. Collaborative arts are hard for me because I don’t really like to relinquish control.
A significant proportion of your Drag Race fans are teenage girls. Do you find yourself having to adapt your standup jokes for younger audiences?
Oh, not at all. For some reason teenage girls like me. I’m 28 years old and my point of view is very dry and dark, but apparently young people really like that. I don’t pull punches at all, and I write my material for adults. But if kids like it, they can come watch it. I’ll never change anything about what I do for anyone. I kind of think that’s why kids like me. If you’re a teenager and there’s someone onstage talking to you like an adult, that’s good. I think they like that.
You’re super open with fans, too. Does that ever lead to them being over-familiar with you?
I enjoy being active with fans on social media, but if I’m out for dinner with my friends or I’m at a bar, I like to be left alone. I’m pretty open about that. I’m not much of a hugger – if you knew my personality and sense of humour, do you think I would really be cartwheeling down the street to take a picture? No! I like to perform, then I like to go home. But it’s like a double edged sword, because if you say you don’t want to take a picture you’re automatically an asshole. Last night there was a bunch of fans outside the tour bus, and I just got straight on the bus and went to sleep and didn’t stop for pictures. Then I got into bed and thought, ‘Are they going to think I’m a jerk because I went to the bus?’ Stuff like that shouldn’t matter, but it does. It’s so weird.
Where do you see the future of your drag?
I think I’m going to continue doing music and stand up, and over time do less drag, or try different characters. I have this idea of playing an old male hippy character – like a Willie Nelson. When I’m 45 I’m not going to be wanting to wear a corset. I’d also like to do more improv comedy stuff.
How about an All Drag Race Winners season?
I never want to do Drag Race again in my whole life. You’d have to shoot me with a gun, and drag my dead body into the Werk Room. I’d never go back in there, ever. But as a representative of the brand I should add that season 10 is the most important thing on television right now, and everyone should watch it!
With the success of Drag Race and shows like Queer Eye, do you think we’re living in the best-ever era of LGBT television?
Well the thing is, gay people are behind everything. They’re already behind every great TV show, or album, or fashion show. I guess now there are more people talking about it, but gay people already work at every great magazine. Anytime there’s political unrest, like right now, minority groups push back with their culture and their art. The same thing happened during and directly after Nazism in Germany. There was this huge queer culture rush. Gay people are on top no matter what. They’re the ones running shit. Now people are just talking about it more.