Last week, RuPaul stirred the pot on Drag Race by announcing that a previously eliminated queen would be coming back to the competition. Of course, as we saw on Monday night’s episode, it wasn’t going to be easy. The eliminated queens all sashayed back into the Werk Room and played conjoined twins with the queens still in the competition to earn their way back. One queen came back with a vengeance and made the judges gag like crazy on the runway, and that queen was…
Trixie Mattel! We can’t say we’re surprised. Fans have been calling for #JusticeForTrixie ever since she was eliminated in Episode 4. EW got an exclusive interview with Trixie about her glorious return to Drag Race:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you got eliminated in Episode 4, did you think that was it and there would be no chance of you coming back?
TRIXIE MATTEL: Honestly, no. It felt random. It felt unsupported and out of nowhere. When they were interviewing me for my exit, they were like, “You seem upset.” And I’m like, “Because I don’t really understand why I’m going home.” I don’t believe in energies and stuff like that but it didn’t really feel finished. It didn’t feel punctuated. But then when they said I was going to come back and film some more, I was like, “Okay, this might mean I’m coming back.”
When your elimination episode aired, were you surprised by how loud the outcry was?
Oh, 100 percent. When I left the competition, I remember getting home and my boyfriend was like, “What happened?” And I was like, “I don’t know. We had a really funny video, and they just weren’t feeling it.” And all of the sudden I was lip syncing, and then on top of that—I love Pearl, and we all have different skill sets—but lip syncing is definitely one of my fortes and I was like, “I’m going to eat her alive.” When the episode aired, I was so scared. I called my manager the next morning and I was like, “Did everybody cancel?” And instead they were like, “We can’t even keep up with the response. Clubs and people are trying to book you because they’re not convinced why you went home. They don’t like it.” I was afraid people would be like, “I’m disappointed in Trixie, I wanted her to go far.” Instead, people were disappointed in the system, not me. They were disappointed in the machine of Drag Race. I watched the episode, and I saw what everybody else saw. I saw something that maybe didn’t feel right.
When you got to compete for your spot to come back, what was your strategy?
I got my partner, Pearl, and it just felt like fate. We had that horrible time lip syncing with each other. I looked at her and I was just like, “If we don’t win the challenge, we need to still be the f—in’ best runway ever.” Pearl had been there three more episodes than I had, while I had gone home, gone to a restaurant, sucked my boyfriend’s d—. … I was relaxed. She had been going through it and I could see in her eyes that she was just weary, and I’m like, “Girl, we can’t be safe. If you’re safe, I don’t get to stay. We need to win the challenge.”
Tell me about putting that look together, because it was epic.
Pearl doesn’t sew, and it’s a costume construction challenge, so we’re sitting there and we’re brainstorming ideas, and she’s like, “Let’s do lovebirds!” And I’m like, “We don’t have any feathers and you can’t sew, so we’re not doing lovebirds.” And then I wanted to do Toddlers & Tiaras, like child beauty pageants, and then she was like, “Well let’s do pageant queens, like Kennedy—big, southern pageant queens.” And I was like, “Well let’s split the difference and do teenagers.” And then we were thinking about it and I was thinking of twins and I was kind of like, “Well you know how there’s always the pretty one and the ugly one—what if you were the beautiful perfect one and I was the one that got less nutrients in the womb, you know what I mean?” When I left the competition—they didn’t show this—one of the major pieces of input I got was, “When you do comedy, Trixie, you have to go for the gold. We brought you here to be funny, and you can’t be bronze, you need to be gold-medal comedy. They were like, “We want to see a little more variety in your look.” So the challenge was perfect because I got to soften my look and just go balls to the wall with this character.
When did you know the look was really coming together?
Once I got those braces on, I couldn’t even stop talking like that—that weird braces kind of accent. I remember walking down that runway in that look and being like, “We’re a thousand percent staying. We’re winning this challenge because this look is amazing.” It isn’t just like a fantasy—it was conceptual, it brought you into this world that we created, it had a whole story, it was so fun.
It was great to see you and Pearl taking your time on the runway and really hamming it up. Were you trying to squeeze every bit of comedy out of the setup?
Yes. The look is already amazing, but it’s the story and the characters that are going to sell it. So when we walked on the runway, we created moments where I’m like eating flowers, and she’s trying to pose. We’re like, “How funny is it if you’re trying to impress these judges, and I don’t even know how to act?” It’s kind of a metamorphosis because coming down the runway, we come out and I act kind of scared, like “I don’t want to do this, my sister’s making me!” And then by the end of the runway, I’m smiling at the judges with my braces, having a moment.
And your story came across without you even having to say explain it afterwards (ahem, Miss Fame), which was amazing.
Yeah. The judges couldn’t even keep it together. There was a point where Michelle had to stop and go, “Trixie, I can’t even look at you.” I full-on made braces and glued them into my mouth. So I’m like sucking my spit in. It was disgusting, but it was so worth it.
Tell me a bit more about what happened once you were off the show. Was it a dark period for you?
Well, in Drag Race time, I was on three episodes–that’s only eight days. I got home and I was actually really happy because in Episode 4, I didn’t feel like I made many mistakes. I loved the “Tan With U” parody. And let me say this, though: I’m like the sock puppet of drag. I’m like the knock-knock jokes of drag. I like stupid-funny. Of course the video is stupid! So I didn’t feel really sad when I was home because I was like, “I’m proud of Episode 4, I’m proud of that challenge.” Especially now after watching that lip sync, I’m proud of that lip sync! That lip sync was great. So I went home and my boyfriend’s like, “I’m so relieved you’re not more traumatized from coming home early.” And I’m like, “No, I did four great episodes, I loved all of my runways that I was there for.” It was a little disappointing, but especially when I knew that I was coming back—they told me right away that I would be coming back to film something else, but I didn’t know what it was. I had a sneaking suspicion it was another episode, so I was like, “I’m not going to get out of the game yet, I’m going to keep my head in the competition.”
It was interesting that they had you walk into the workroom first.
It made it feel like eliminating me was something they knew would upset the masses because then making me come in first, people are celebrating. They’re like, “Oh, we knew this was coming.” Because right now, we’re talking before the episode comes out and people online are already like, “It’s not even a plot twist, we know Trixie’s coming back.”
What challenge are you most upset that you missed?
Oh my God, all of them, are you kidding? Well, Snatch Game was a dream, but more importantly, I left and then the next episode, the challenge is to walk on stage and read the other contestants [The DESPY Awards]. Um, absolutely, I wish I could’ve been there. That is my kind of challenge. Plus I think I could’ve won Most Busted Drag Queen and that would’ve been such an honor! I had some great things to do for Snatch Game, but they’re available online on my YouTube channel so people saw them anyway.
Who was your Snatch Game character again?
I did Anne Frank originally for my audition, and then Logo told me I couldn’t even bring [the costume] to the studio. But then I had a really good RuPaul. I mean, I came to Drag Race with a Pearl, I was gonna do Pearl—I had a whole white lingerie set with a forehead earring. I love Pearl, but she’s definitely somebody that has a specific mannerism and cadence.
What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages for having that time away?
I got to go home and decompress—see my beautiful boyfriend and eat at my favorite restaurant and watch TV. But on the other side too, as an audience member, I guess I thought in the time away that people were going to be disappointed and think that I had let them down. Instead, people had three weeks of unrest being like, “Why did she go home?” And now tonight I’m going to be in San Francisco and have this beautiful moment of being in a bar full of people who are so happy to see me walk back in that workroom.
As a fan of the show, were you surprised by Max’s elimination too?
I was, because the thing is, she’s such a frontrunner. She’s been amazing in every challenge. And I didn’t see Snatch Game. When I got in the van and they said, “You’re going to be getting in a van with the seven eliminated queens,” when I saw Max I was mortified. Because I didn’t think she would’ve gone home at all. There were girls in the competition I thought were going to be in that van, let me just say that.
What’s your ideal lip sync song?
I would say “Dreaming” by Blondie, but that didn’t really work out well for me the first time. “’Cause I’m a Blonde” by Julie Brown is one of my all-time favorites. I love that one. That song is like my aura, my essence. It’s just full-on valley girl, glitzy and fun. I have such a soft spot for Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.” That’s like my anthem.
Who do you think would deserve to come back other than you?
In their performance in the challenge, I honestly thought it could’ve been Kasha Davis because I think she’s so talented. And I thought it could’ve been Max because Max has always had that beautiful corseted French prostitute kind of look, and then Kasha and Katya did that stupid conjoined genital old lady look. Besides me, I really think that Max could’ve taken it all the way. If they would’ve taken Max back over me, I wouldn’t have even been that hurt because she’s so talented and so one of a kind.
Thank you for sharing your past in this episode.
I haven’t seen it yet, but I think it has something to do with my drag name and the origins of that. And I hope it’s not too hard to watch.
So much of the shade being thrown on Untucked seems to come from a debate between experienced performance queens vs. skinny, young queens. Do you think there’s room for every kind of queen?
I think there’s definitely room for everybody. I think that’s the magic of Drag Race. Nobody’s a winner or a loser because you’re comparing apples and oranges. At this stage in the competition, how do you compare a Ginger Minj to a Miss Fame? Some of the older queens or some of the more traditional queens, they’re not going to gag you with these beautiful artsy conceptual runways. But some of these young, cinched fashion queens aren’t going to turn the party with a Little Richard impersonation either. If there’s one thing I learned from my time on Drag Race, I learned to love old school drag, like pageant drag. Pageants to me were the opposite of art—I used to not even support that kind of drag at all, and now I’m like, you know what? I would like to see Kennedy Davenport do backflips and splits and stuff. I like that. Because it’s all valid.