‘Legend. Icon. Star.’ Trixie Mattel’s Instagram bio is about as subtle as her makeup and as sassy as her wigs.
If you don’t know her yet, let me fill you in. Trixie appeared on season seven of beloved drag queen showdown RuPaul’s Drag Race, where her Barbie doll image and quick wit caught the attention of viewers worldwide. Since then, she has become one of the show’s best performing breakout stars, co-hosting her web series, UNHhhh, touring the UK and US with her one-woman comedy show, Ages 3 & Up, and releasing a folk album, Two Birds on iTunes earlier this year.
With so much media conversation surrounding gender identity, aesthetics and femininity, how does this resonate with a drag artist? And what does femininity mean to them? For Trixie, who recently revealed that her stepfather would refer to her as a ‘Trixie’ when she was being too sensitive as a child, the term ‘feminine’ is often distorted.
Over a 1am Skype call (due to a nine hour time difference), Trixie tells me about her own experience of femininity.
“I don’t know whether the side of me that’s ‘feminine’ is feminine, it’s just not what’s portrayed as masculine. I think in America, unless you’re hyper masculine, it’s thought of as feminine. Especially in the gay community.”
Despite whether she feels feminine or not, Trixie knows how to pull out all the typical female characteristics. And she’s not afraid to embellish them in her own way.
During her New York album performance of Two Birds, she walks out on stage decked head to toe in pink – including cowboy boots – with hair to reach heaven. Her candyfloss figure then belts out the first line of Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire in a voice almost as deep as his. The juxtaposition is hilarious, endearing and everything that Trixie stands for.
Trixie’s Ring of Fire
“One of the parts that people most like about Trixie, is that I look like this crazy exaggeration of everything that society says is feminine. Big hair, big hips, lots of makeup. But I’ve never wanted to be a woman, I’ve never wanted to look like a woman; I want to look like a drag queen.”
And Trixie has never tried to look like a biological woman. Or, in drag circles, what’s known as a ‘fishy queen’.
“Looking like a drag queen – like a man dressed up – has always been interesting to me. When people look at me, I don’t want anyone to think I’m a woman, I want them to think ‘that’s a man in drag’. That’s what I prefer.”
Having released her album and toured her comedy show, Ages 3 & Up in the UK and US, Trixie notes the difference in reaction between the two nations.
“It’s American folk music, so I think in the US Two Birds is a little bit closer to home for people. I don’t think country music has a huge presence in the UK, only because it’s so foreign. But the music has generally been received well everywhere.”
Yet, her comedy style is somewhat more divisive.
“I think Ages 3 & Up resonates more in the UK because people have a darker sense of humour and aren’t afraid to laugh. Within the walls of a comedy show, people in the UK know that laughing at something that might be inappropriate is all about having fun. In the US right now, the political climate has everyone afraid of being ‘too insensitive’ or too ‘this’ or ‘that’, but in the UK, everyone knows that a comedy show is all about coming together in laughter.”
She finishes on a poignant note:
“Jokes don’t divide people, jokes make the whole room laugh at once; jokes bring people together.”
And what about attitudes towards drag in general? Since Trixie appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2015, first episode ratings have gone from 350,000 viewers (Season 7) to 980,000 viewers (season 9). It appears that now more than ever, drag is being welcomed into the homes of people worldwide, with Netflix streaming episodes the day after they air in the US. For Trixie, this accessibility is a positive movement for the drag community.
“I think our perception of drag is always broadening because people are becoming more exposed to it. It’s like the more music you hear the more music you find you like. With drag, the more drag you experience, the more you find different flavours of drag that appeal to you.”
As the saying goes, behind every great man, there’s a great woman. Well, in this case, behind every great drag queen, there’s a great set of female role models who have inspired and guided her.
Answering almost instantaneously, Trixie tells us hers;
“RuPaul, Lady Bunny, Dolly Parton, Ellen DeGeneres, the list goes on!’
And, of course, she couldn’t not mention the icon who helped sculpt her unmistakable image.
“Barbie is huge for me. I know she’s not a real person, but she’s had such an effect on culture by teaching little girls and little boys you can be whatever you want. Those are my top female inspirations.”
With rumours of Trixie being cast in the much anticipated RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season 3, she could be coming to a screen near you very soon. Until then, catch her at one of her shows – you won’t regret it.