Talking Points Episode 26: RuPaul’s Drag Race All Star Trixie Mattel
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In honor of International Pride month and Stonewall 50, Talking Points is focused on LGBTQ travel this June. To kick off our Pride episodes, we’re bringing you one of the most notable names in the drag community: Trixie Mattel.
Trixie Mattel is the stage name of Brian Firkus; She is an entrepreneur, singer-songwriter, comedian and TV personality. She quickly became popular after lip-syncing for her life and winning Season Three of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars and placing sixth in Season Seven of Drag Race. Trixie’s talents do not stop at Drag Race, though. Her live-show documentary, “Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts,” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. She released “Yellow Cloud,” a catchy, electric-pop song, in May, and her Trixie Cosmetics products, which debuted at RuPaul’s DragCon in April, will begin shipping mid-June. Loose glitters will be available for those Pride celebrations.
Recently named as one of the most powerful queens in America by New York Magazine, the inimitable Trixie joins Brian Kelly on this episode of Talking Points. She talks about traveling in drag, her flight rituals and experiences as a Delta Diamond. Plus, entrepreneurs will want to take note for some business advice.
“In the beginning, sort of, I would pick whatever airline was direct. And then I learned very quickly you get more out of it if you fly the same airline all the time. So I’ve been flying Delta. I’ve been Diamond for four years.”
During TPG‘s Month of Pride, Brian Kelly will be answering your questions about LGBTQ travel on Talking Points. If you have a question, whether it be on safety, favorite destinations, or booking advice, you name it, call 1-877-TPG-TRVL [874-8785] and leave a message with your first name, your city, and your question. Brian will select a handful to answer on our next episode.
Brian Kelly: Welcome to Talking Points. I’m your host, Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, and in honor of International Pride Month/Stonewall 50, this month we’re going to be speaking to some fabulous LGBT travelers. With me on this episode is quite possibly the most successful drag queen to graduate from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Brian Kelly: Trixie Mattel, thank you so much for joining us.
Trixie Mattel: Possibly? [crosstalk 00:00:25] Possibly?
Brian Kelly: I said you are THE most, for sure.
Trixie Mattel: That’s real. It depends on how you measure success. If you measure success in fame and wealth …
Brian Kelly: … and gorgeous looks. I mean, you —
Trixie Mattel: Yeah, and gorgeous looks.
Brian Kelly: I mean, your Instagram for sure is the most on point, for sure.
Trixie Mattel: Thank you. I do my whole Instagram myself. I do travel a lot, which actually gives me a lot of time to spend on social media.
Brian Kelly: Are you uplifted by the social media movement of today or do you let the trolls take you down?
Trixie Mattel: I am. Well, I think, in the past, it was, if you’re an artist, and here’s your fans and you’re an artist, you had to go through the middlemen of radio or TV or publications to talk to people or to reach your fans. And now, you can have a much more personal relationship because … I like that when people follow me, they know that it’s me on my phone posting things and it’s not … I think, a lot of performers, you can tell they hire a person, and I take a lot of pride in carrying it on myself.
Brian Kelly: Will you delete stuff if it doesn’t … the likes, and the whole algorithm, if it doesn’t pop right away?
Trixie Mattel: No. They can’t all be winners.
Brian Kelly: That’s true, and it makes the good ones even better, when you got a whole —
Trixie Mattel: Yeah, and I feel like I post something for everyone. Like I do have my little comedy sort of posts, or I have my looks. Honestly, the ones that get the — not to feed my own narcissism — the ones that get the most likes are the close-up pictures of my face.
Brian Kelly: Everyone’s saying that now, that the unposed pictures are the best, but for me, it’s like if I’m not on a plane, people hate everything that I do.
Trixie Mattel: Like the things that get the most traffic are usually something like a closeup, a picture of me in my makeup or whatever. Or it’s a picture of me and Katya together, behind the scenes on our show, that gets a lot of traffic. I try to get a good balance of … like, I don’t want an Instagram where I’m just telling people what they can buy all the time. Buy my shirt, buy a ticket to my show. I think if you remind people of your sense of humor and your sense of beauty, then people feel compelled to support you without being told. People hate being told.
Brian Kelly: You don’t have to be hawking your flat tummy tea on your Instagram?
Trixie Mattel: Right. Or your vitamins.
Brian Kelly: The vitamins that make my hair grow.
Trixie Mattel: Yes. [crosstalk 00:02:37]
Brian Kelly: So you won All Stars Three?
Trixie Mattel: I did.
Brian Kelly: I love RuPaul’s Drag Race. We actually sponsored the Snatch Game this past All Stars. So, the first time you were on RuPaul, you finished the show, and then you’re constantly getting booked. So did you go from performing in Chicago and Milwaukee to then, all of a sudden, hitting the road nonstop? Did you go from zero to ultra-frequent-traveler very quickly?
Trixie Mattel: Well, Katya and I always say that experience like RuPaul’s Drag Race puts your drag career from black and white to IMAX. Everything you wanted to do before, you get to do now in a bigger scale. More people, more often, more looks, more performances, you know, it’s just more, more, more. Yeah, so I mean I went from taking the Greyhound, the $9 Greyhound every week down to Chicago from Milwaukee — $9 Greyhound — or, if I was feeling bougie — the $20 Amtrak. And I would show up here, and I’d stay at Kim Chi’s house, and I would do shows here every weekend and then —
Trixie Mattel: After Drag Race, even though I didn’t do very well — I mean I went home fourth — I lucked out because I got a really good connection with a really loyal fan base. So I’m really proud of feeding and watering that relationship over time. Because, you know, if you talk about the algorithm of Drag Race and who succeeds, I did not fit the profile of somebody who can walk away from that experience with what I have. Looking weird, and going home early, and not winning any challenges —
Brian Kelly: Now that it’s changed, though, do you think you have to have that edge in order to stand out?
Trixie Mattel: No, I think you have to have a point of view. I think in a world where drag is so popular to the point where you’re hearing a million voices that are all similar, I think it really just helps to have a unique voice visually or unique voice with your performances, you know.
Brian Kelly: So right after Drag Race, you start getting booked all over the country, right? And all around the world. How did you become a frequent traveler? Would people help you pick airlines and did you start collecting points and frequent flyer miles? How did you think about travel from that zero to one hundred?
Trixie Mattel: In the beginning, sort of, I would pick whatever airline was direct. And then I learned very quickly you get more out of it if you fly the same airline all the time. So I’ve been flying Delta, I’ve been Diamond for four years.
Brian Kelly: And does Delta treat you well?
Trixie Mattel: Yeah! Delta’s great. I think that Delta is, in a lot of ways, more of a premium airline, but if you do fly Delta a lot, you really get things, like lounge access, or regional upgrades. I don’t really use regional upgrades anymore because I fly first all the time now, but you get a lot of miles. Or for Delta, if you’re Diamond, you get free year membership to CLEAR. I mean, it’s amazing.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, CLEAR’s awesome. We’ve actually interviewed the CEO of CLEAR on this podcast. I love it. Skipping to the head of the TSA PreCheck line is pretty bougie —
Trixie Mattel: Oh my god, I have CLEAR and PreCheck, and you literally just walk onto the plane.
Brian Kelly: How is it when you travel? Do you have an assistant? Do you have tons of luggage? Or do you try to like —
Trixie Mattel: Most girls have an assistant, they travel with someone. I prefer my alone time, and I don’t really mind the extra work, so I travel with … Unless I’m doing one of my national tours, where most of that travel is on a tour bus, then I have an assistant, but most of the time, I’d rather be like, “Hey, I’m coming alone.” I’d rather get paid the cost of the other flight. I don’t need help.
Brian Kelly: Right.
Trixie Mattel: I usually travel with a suitcase of wigs, a suitcase of drag, a suitcase of merchandise, and then usually either my guitar or my autoharp, or both. And a backpack.
Brian Kelly: And Delta lets you bring it on board, right?
Trixie Mattel: If you’re Diamond at Delta, you get three checked bags up to seventy pounds. So, I never pay for luggage, and then I’ll carry on my guitar, my harp, with my backpack, my TUMI backpack. I like carrying on my instruments. I’ll usually check my guitar, because it’s a hard case, but my autoharp is so fragile, I carry that on.
Brian Kelly: Have you ever taken it out in flight to play a little ditty? I feel like that’s a viral moment waiting to happen.
Trixie Mattel: No, but several guitar companies make a travel guitar that’s sort of it’s just the neck. It’s maybe no bigger than maybe two feet long and it’s just like the neck of a guitar, and you plug it into your iPad and headphones so you can write music on a plane without the whole body of the guitar.
Brian Kelly: Oh wow.
Trixie Mattel: I kind of want one of those for my international flights, I think I would enjoy that.
Brian Kelly: That would be a great way to pass time, especially because you have your own pod, no one’s next to you, staring at you, like, “What the heck are you doing?”
Trixie Mattel: Yeah. I’ll use GarageBand if I want to write music on the go, but obviously I prefer to have a brick and mortar instrument in my hands.
Brian Kelly: Have you ever been through TSA as Trixie?
Trixie Mattel: I almost had to do it. My documentary, “Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts,” —
Brian Kelly: Congratulations on that, by the way!
Trixie Mattel: Thank you! It premiered at Tribeca. It had the fastest sellout, biggest audiences, and then I had to introduce the film in the morning in New York, and I had to be at Hot Docs in Toronto in full drag by nighttime, so I almost had to fly in drag. But, honestly, I was afraid that Canadian immigration would have a problem with me being in drag.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, because Canadian immigration does not mess around. I’ve been pulled aside. I told them once that I was a blogger, and they pulled me in, they were like, “That’s not a career.” They’re very, very thorough in Canada.
Trixie Mattel: They read you for filth?
Brian Kelly: They did.
Trixie Mattel: You know what I do? I used to be like, “I’m a comedian, I’m a musician, I’m a TV personality,” and now I go straight … because then they just want you to elaborate, “Oh really, what are you on? What do you do? I’ve never heard of you.” Now I say, “I’m a cross-dresser, I’m a transvestite, and I put on women’s … ” I said, “I have a suitcase of panties and women’s clothing.” And they’re like, “Uh, OK. Bye!”
Brian Kelly: Oh my God.
Trixie Mattel: So I’m just really graphic now.
Brian Kelly: But you really could say, “I’m a filmmaker, I’m an entrepreneur,” because you also just launched your cosmetics line, congratulations.
Trixie Mattel: Yeah, I could say that now, I’ll be like, “I’m a CEO of a cosmetics company.” Thank you! We had a really great kickoff weekend at DragCon, and the demand and the orders. I mean, I believe in myself. The demand overshot even my own expectations. We were floored. Sold out in the first couple of hours at the first shades. We were like, “What?”
Brian Kelly: So the RuPaul audience is hugely female. Is that your target audience for the cosmetics? Because drag queens are a very small audience.
Trixie Mattel: For my products, I’m trying to make products that are very choose-your-own-destiny. It’s like saying that you make girl toys for girls. You can make girl toys, but everybody can buy them. Because I do see a lot of gay guys or makeup enthusiasts picking them up to wear for Pride or wear to a club or wear to a concert. Items like loose glitters, it’s not a high-skill level, you can use it however you want.
Trixie Mattel: But most of my fans are young women. My hardcore fan base is young women who … like women ages 15 to 25. That’s probably my most hard-core demographic. I mean, people who love … Anybody who loves beauty —
Brian Kelly: And you have an iconic look. How did you get to that iconic Trixie look, and do you constantly evolve it and we just don’t realize, or do you stick to strict brand standards?
Trixie Mattel: After 10 years, I think I’ve sort of settled into a look because now the way I look also informs the type of comedy I do and the type of jokes that work for that face. Everything’s symbiotic.
Trixie Mattel: I used to work as a makeup artist for five years before I was a famous drag queen, and I would be working at counters, working on face charts or looking at the way makeup artists would use makeup on paper. And I was also studying, doing some inspiration, sort of digging on the way that they used to paint dolls in the late ’50s, early ’60s, where it’s this little orange plastic head, and they paint these giant features on it, and from far away, this little head looks like a face. In drag, we’re taking … I want to look more like a toy than a person. I think that for most drag queens, their look is influenced by celebrities and real women, and my look is more heavily influenced by toys.
Brian Kelly: And specifically, Barbie. Would you say Barbie is your beauty icon?
Trixie Mattel: Yeah, when I first started. Barbie’s my number one, she’s my Oprah, she’s my Beyonce, but also Polly Pocket. In the beginning, I was like, “Can I have the proportions of Polly Pocket, the face and the skin of Barbie, and the hair of a My Little Pony?” That was sort of my original vision.
Brian Kelly: That is quite a combination. I was always She-Ra, that was my favorite toy when my mom would take me to the toy store. I always wanted the powerful females. And I have to ask, with a name like Trixie Mattel, did the lawyers ever come after you? Especially as you got bigger and bigger, or have they played nice in the sandbox?
Trixie Mattel: They have not come. I was in Vogue doing an interview about the history of Barbie, because I’m like a —
Brian Kelly: Historian —
Trixie Mattel: A Barbie historian, yes. So I was musing about the way that originally Barbie was created to mimic American style, and then over time, she had her own style that actually becomes mimicked. Imagine that. And everybody at Mattel, I’m friends with a few designers, and when I meet people from Mattel or I get messages from people who work at Mattel on Instagram, and I think they find it flattering. Because it’s basically parody, and parody at its core, is always based on something. Over time, I probably will phase out the last name and just be Trixie.
Brian Kelly: OK, let’s take a quick pause right now and hear from our sponsors.
Brian Kelly: So you’re on the road all the time. Do you take vacations or is vacations for you staying home and not seeing anyone or getting on a plane?
Trixie Mattel: Vacations is staying home. My dream vacation would be go to my boyfriend’s house and watch movies. I’m not trying to go anywhere. I’m 29 years old, and I’ve been everywhere. I’ve been everywhere multiple times. So, like the magic sort of rubs off.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, oh I hear you. [crosstalk 00:11:57] You realize there are so many beautiful places in the US. What are some of those hidden gem, little towns or the smaller towns that you think people should visit?
Trixie Mattel: Oh my god, I hate to say it, but I’m from Milwaukee, that’s where I kind of cut my teeth as a performer, went to college. Milwaukee is it. Milwaukee is so beautiful. I think it’s the 13th-largest American city, and people don’t really consider it.
Brian Kelly: Interesting, I don’t think I’ve ever been to Milwaukee.
Trixie Mattel: It has Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival, every summer. During the summer, you can see on a Monday, Coldplay. Tuesday, Robyn. Wednesday, Fleetwood Mac, like headlining bands every night of the week. They call it the City of Festivals because all year there’s all kinds of different festivals going on. Milwaukee is beautiful. It’s on the Great Lakes, so it’s sort of, it feels like a beach town because it’s on a beach. Milwaukee’s awesome.
Brian Kelly: There’s so many beautiful beaches and forests in Wisconsin and Michigan and that whole part of the country.
Trixie Mattel: Oh my god, Wisconsin is beautiful. These giant reaching pine-tree forests of just like … the air smells good, the sky is blue, everybody’s nice.
Brian Kelly: Is Milwaukee, for LGBT people, does it have a thriving community?
Trixie Mattel: Milwaukee is a pretty tight community. I wouldn’t say it’s thriving the way like Austin or San Francisco or Chicago is thriving. But you are an hour from Chicago in Milwaukee, so people do come here for stuff all the time.
Brian Kelly: So you’re a vegetarian, correct?
Trixie Mattel: Yes I am, since I was 9 years old.
Brian Kelly: How is that traveling? And is Delta good with vegetarian meals? Do you pre-order?
Trixie Mattel: I try not to eat on planes, especially international. I hate … I love flying Delta One, I love being first class.
Brian Kelly: Have you flown the new Delta One suite? It has the closeable door on it. It’s really nice.
Trixie Mattel: No!
Brian Kelly: Yes! It’s still rolling out across the fleet, but it’s awesome.
Trixie Mattel: Yeah, the problem is, the further up you get in class, the more they try to be extra. Delta will try … Just give me food. We are flying out of America. Give me normal food. I am a vegetarian, that doesn’t mean I want fucking salmon. Fish aren’t meant to be in the sky.
Brian Kelly: That’s true. Fish on a plane is —
Trixie Mattel: I don’t eat meat, so the vegetarian option is like salmon. [inaudible 00:14:05]
Brian Kelly: How is the vegetarian option salmon? I think they —
Trixie Mattel: I do like that … Delta has a signature cocktail. I like that they serve you warm nuts.
Brian Kelly: Will you drink on planes, or are you fully rested and on point when you get off the plane?
Trixie Mattel: It depends on the schedule. If I’m flying in the day before, I’m like, “Maybe, sure!” Usually for an international flight, I will have some wine with the dinner and then just go right to sleep. But, I don’t like the feeling of getting … You get so accidentally fast drunk.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, and so dehydrated.
Trixie Mattel: Then you’re getting off a plane groggy and so dehydrated.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, especially when going to Europe, that’s like —
Trixie Mattel: You get off the plane and you look five years older.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, your skin is bright red, you’re like, “This is probably not a good idea.” But sometimes you just can’t help yourself.
Trixie Mattel: Yeah. My skin-care specialist, his Instagram is skincarewhiz, he’s this gentleman from LA, and he always has great travel tips for your skin. Something he recommended that I haven’t done yet, because it seems extra, but he brings miniature versions of all his face wash and stuff, and before he boards a plane, right before, he goes to a bathroom and he’ll do a full face wash, toner, moisturizer, ChapStick, eye cream, all that, because —
Brian Kelly: Oh, that may lock it in before … Because that air on the plane is na- … It attacks you.
Trixie Mattel: Yeah, that air is from another planet. So that’s something he recommended, which I haven’t done, because it seems crazy.
Brian Kelly: Will you use the products they give you in the amenity kit in Delta One? Or do you have your own?
Trixie Mattel: Sometimes. Not really. I don’t pop those open that much. Once you have a couple of those free bags, you’re like, “We get it.”
Brian Kelly: I know, I had to stop taking them home because it’s like taking over my closet.
Trixie Mattel: Yeah, they are handy, and for drag they’re nice, you can put drag stuff in them. I do like to bring those little stupid sheet masks on the planes, and I’ll do those on the planes.
Brian Kelly: I’ve never done a face mask on a plane, but it seems like it would be a perfect time to do it, right?
Trixie Mattel: Oh, it’s lit.
Brian Kelly: Like the gold ones that you have to peel off your face?
Trixie Mattel: Yeah, I’ll do things like that, or nail polish, or yes —
Brian Kelly: I’ve got to do that on my next flight.
Trixie Mattel: I know, I probably look crazy. I was just flying back from Europe in the spring, and I was doing a mask on a plane, and I kept thinking, “They’re just going to walk by seeing a Hannibal Lecter sitting here.” I have really dry skin, so travel can really fuck me up.
Brian Kelly: Totally. Travel can be amazing, but it can also do a lot of terrible things to a body.
Trixie Mattel: Yeah, something I’ve found with travel to is … I’m comfortable in life and I fly first class, and what I get all the time because I don’t dress bougie, every time I walk up to a Delta One, or first class, they’re like, “This is for first class.”
Brian Kelly: No!
Trixie Mattel: Oh, every time. Because, I will say, I know that racism and sexism are alive. Because in first class in the Delta line, it’s all old white men.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, that’s true.
Trixie Mattel: First class is old white men. And me.
Brian Kelly: What’s your flight outfit? I wore shorts the other day because I was in Miami and I went out to lunch and I was on a plane and a lot of my followers like, “Oh my god, you’re wearing shorts on a plane? How dare you!” And I’m like, I’m all for comfort. I’m on a plane all the time. What are your no-nos for inflight fashion?
Trixie Mattel: I usually do a slim-fit black jogger with sneakers. I have this great big Barbie sweater. It just has her face printed all over the front. I try not to wear hats, because then you’re on the plane, then you have nowhere to put it. I always shave my head before I get on a plane, don’t ask me why.
Brian Kelly: Shave your head?
Trixie Mattel: Yes, I always recut my hair.
Brian Kelly: Oh, so that’s a cool preflight ritual. Will you do it in the airport, or is it always at home?
Trixie Mattel: I just want to get on the plane and not feel weird about … I like to know that I just have a tight haircut. In LA, it’s really funny that people try to see and be seen. Let’s be honest, a plane is a bus in the sky.
Brian Kelly: Do you call TMZ to see you at LAX?
Trixie Mattel: It’s only happened once or twice, and it’s happened in other countries.
Brian Kelly: Interesting.
Trixie Mattel: It was like a Star News at the airport.
Brian Kelly: Was it a good photo?
Trixie Mattel: No. I was like, “Who are they waiting for?” And then I was like, “Oh, it’s me.” It’s sad that I’m that famous here.
Brian Kelly: You are that famous, Trixie. I just want to end with … You’ve been able to turn your passion. You’re an entrepreneur, you’re doing all of the things that you love. What would you say to aspiring entrepreneurs and LGBT people who may have been told that they can’t pursue their passions? What would you say to people like that to encourage them?
Trixie Mattel: If someone says you can’t do something, it really has nothing to do with whether or not you’re going to do it. I can’t even remember people telling me I wasn’t going to be a drag queen, or I wasn’t going to be a musician. I remember thinking, telling myself I wasn’t good enough, or worrying I wasn’t good enough. Because I’m a realist, but I’m also —
Brian Kelly: But you’re also a hard worker. So much of what goes into it is just a ton of hard work and hustling. What’s next on the horizon for you? What are the next big things? Not that you’re not doing enough things currently.
Trixie Mattel: Well, we’re currently in our presale for Trixie Cosmetics. It’s very exciting. And then we have our summer launches. Oh my God, our summer collection is beautiful. I’m having a heart attack. And then, it’s Pride Month! So I’m going to be doing Milwaukee Pride, I’m going to be in New York for WorldPride, and then we’re going to be debuting “Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts” at Outfest in LA and Frameline in San Francisco. So I’ll be attending in a dress and answering questions and all that. Oh yeah, me and Katya are doing the PlayStation Theater! Isn’t that crazy?
Brian Kelly: Oh, over Pride?
Trixie Mattel: Yeah, isn’t that crazy?
Brian Kelly: Insane! Congratulations, that’s awesome!
Trixie Mattel: Yeah, it’s June 28th. Katya and I are performing at the PlayStation Theater. And get this, we did not name the show. We got a thing, like, “Can you plug your show?” And I was like, “Great!” And they’re like, “The show’s called ‘Looks and Laughs.'” I’m like, “Who the fuck called it that?” More like, “Look and Laugh.”
Brian Kelly: So what’s the website for people to preorder cosmetics?
Trixie Mattel: You can check me out at trixiecosmetics.com. Or, if you like music, my new single, “Yellow Cloud,” is on iTunes! Only 99 cents! It’s a dollar!
Brian Kelly: Only 99 cents! All right, Trixie, thank you so much for joining Talking Points. You’re inspiring to all of us and I hope to see you at New York City Pride.
Trixie Mattel: Thank you! Bye!
Brian Kelly: Thanks again to the incomparable Trixie Mattel, and to my amazing team in New York. Christie Matsui, my assistant, Caroline Schagrin and Margaret Kelley on the podcast team. And for now, I’m Brian Kelly, and safe travels.
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