When Trixie Mattel first appeared as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 24-year-old on the seventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race back in 2015, her entrance to the show’s backstage “werkroom” was met with bewilderment from her fellow competitors. “Drag queens always say, ‘Paint for the back row,’ but I paint for the check-cashing place down the street,” was how Mattel described her extreme—and to be fair, a little rough around the edges—beauty at the time, an approximation of the beloved Barbie dolls she’d grown up with as a kid in rural Wisconsin, mashed up with the cartoonishly exaggerated eyeliner of Divine. (Mattel was booted in the fourth episode, but made a brief return later that season; emerging as a fan favorite in the aftermath, she won a season of the franchise’s All-Stars off-shoot in 2018.)

Seven years on, through a combination of charm, luck, a relentless work ethic, and an unpretentious willingness to throw it at the wall and see what sticks, Mattel is widely viewed as the most successful contestant ever to have graced RuPaul’s runway. Mattel—real name Brian Firkus—has built an empire that spans music, books, cosmetics, nightlife, podcasts, comedy web series, and, as of this year, a motel in Palm Springs. (Never one to miss a promotional opportunity, Mattel documented her foray into hospitality via an eight-episode series on Discovery+ that debuted last month.)

When Mattel and I speak, it’s after midnight in Sydney, Australia, where she’s on a world tour with frequent collaborator and fellow Drag Race success story Katya. The pair are playing five consecutive nights at the city’s 2,000-seat State Theatre, some of the first in over 70 dates scheduled around the globe, stretching all the way to December. “It’s pretty crazy,” says Mattel, now back in her hotel room. “Well, it was particularly crazy tonight, as there’s a part at the beginning where this cloth is supposed to drop, and it didn’t drop. But you know, it’s not a drag show unless something seriously fundamentally wrong happens.” 

She might be a bit fatigued after a busy week on the road—she apologetically takes a moment to start running herself a bath when I indicate we’re reaching the end of the interview—but Mattel’s sandpaper-dry humor is in full evidence. How is she finding it Down Under? “I mean, Australia is weird, but I’m from small-town Midwest America, so everywhere is weird to me. California is weird to me. I get to Australia and I’m like,” she puts on a thick country accent: “They don’t have hot dogs here?”

The real reason we’re talking, however, is that Mattel’s fourth studio album is about to be released. Titled The Pink & Blonde Albums, it’s a double-sider that pays tribute to the music Mattel was spinning most frequently during lockdown; a heady mix of new wave power-pop like Blondie and The Go-Gos and turn-of-the-millennium indie-pop courtesy of The Shins and Fountains of Wayne. Mattel is excited for the new record to drop, even if it comes as a surprise to her that it’s coming out the day after we talk. “Oh my God, it is tomorrow,” she says, her eyes widening.

“I wouldn’t say I was crying, but it just really moved me,” she continues. “When you get to do cool things, you’re supposed to be like, ‘Oh, I always knew this would happen.’ But I truly never thought I would get to do these things, so when I was hit in the face with the reality of it really happening, it was impossible to even process.”

Is Mattel carving out the time to process all of this? A cursory Google search makes it clear that she doesn’t have more than a few days off until the end of the year. “With the new book, the new record, Trixie Motel, Netflix, the podcast, the tours, I was sort of like, I don’t ever want to be this busy again, to be honest,” she says with a sigh. “I’m so grateful, of course, and it’s honestly made me a better performer than ever, as I can never really get too psyched out. If I just sat around all the time and then had one gig a month that was important, I would give myself an ulcer worrying about it, but you don’t really have time to reflect. You do it, and as soon as it’s done, you go to bed and do the next thing.”

With The Pink & Blonde Albums, though, it feels like Mattel is finally beginning to separate church and state—that is, learning that Brian Firkus needs tending to just as much as Mattel does. Mattel is successful, respected, and now wealthy beyond her wildest dreams—and while Firkus keeps his private life very firmly private, he’s also in a happy, long-term relationship. Is Firkus, not Mattel, going to take a vacation soon, at least? “I’m pretty much touring and filming until the spring of 2023,” she says. “But in 2023, I’m chilling out and taking some downtime. I’m not traveling, I’m not touring.” 

Then, after a pause, she adds: “I’m just gonna do some DJ gigs near home. And maybe put out some singles. Although, I do want to open another motel, that’d be fun…”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *