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‘I always wanted to make my own make-up’ – Trixie Mattel talks beauty

We catch up with the drag superstar ahead of her upcoming documentary ‘Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts’ about her new beauty range, friendships, and what the future holds for her

RuPaul always says he’s an introvert dressed up like an extrovert, and I always feel like that too,” Brian Firkus confesses in his new documentary, Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts. You probably know him better as his over-the-top drag persona – the life-sized Barbie that is Trixie Mattel – so that statement may come as a bit of a shock. 

Known for her acerbic wit, Dolly Parton-esque country charm, cartoonish make-up, and larger-than-life persona, Trixie Mattel culminates all the joys of modern drag. “I don’t want to look like a woman,” Firkus says while perfecting drag’s most recognisable contour in a dimly-lit room. “I want to look like a thing that you could pull a string on the back.” 

Both an exuberant emoter and a wry winker, often at the same time, Trixie is a master of duality. While she’s modelled to look like a garish lifesize bouffant-Barbie doll, complete with hyper-flushed cheeks and neon pink lips, as a performer Trixie has an uncanny ability to inspire self-acceptance and love. Armed with a guitar, a breast-plate, and a bag of choice she manages to pull people out of the darkest corners of their lives and make them laugh at the very same time. That’s just Trixie for you. 

“Girl, I really didn’t think anything would match the way I feel when I’m performing, but making make-up and this whole process is right up there with performing. I just love it. I’m dying” – Trixie Mattel 

Now, the RuPaul All Stars winner prepares to pull back the curtain on both Trixie and Firkus. Moving Parts is more than just a celebration of the golden era of drag but a mindful meditation on the perils of addiction, finances, and the human condition. But when it comes to Trixie, she isn’t ever just promoting one film. In the midst of the documentary’s release, Trixie is building her own make-up empire – Trixie Cosmetics – and getting ready to set off on tour once again. 

The Summer of Love blush palette released on Friday accompanied by new body and hair glitters was a year-long labour of love. “Girl, I really didn’t think anything would match the way I feel when I’m performing,” Trixie tells us over the phone. “But making make-up and this whole process is right up there with performing. I just love it. I’m dying.”

In the leadup to her mammoth tour, Trixie Mattel: Grown Up, we caught up with the all-encompassing star, how she’s taking over the world one lipstick at a time, and what it’s like being gay-old. 

Where in the world are you?

Trixie Mattel: I’m in Los Angeles, in my dressing room (which is) sort of like my at-home drag studio. We’ve been filming a lot of videos for my beauty YouTube channel so it’s a little wild in here right now. It’s a good thing I have a good vacuum because there’s glitter everywhere. 

I want to hear more about your billion-dollar idea, Trixie Cosmetics. How did it all start?

Trixie Mattel: I used to work in cosmetics. I freelanced at Sephora, I worked at Ulta, I was at MAC for five years, so I used to watch people shop for make-up for a living and that’s a very educational experience. You get very in touch with the average make-up user, which is somebody who six days a week needs something quite quick and fast, and then on that seventh day of the week they really want to put on the hooker fantasy, you know?

I always wanted to make my own make-up. So, I took the year off of touring the States for this project. I started going to labs last autumn, in 2018 and started working on this stuff. ‘Summer of Love’, which (came out) on Black Friday, I started working on those blushes last December. It takes a full year to make these products. There’s a lot you need to worry about and we’re not a big company. There’s the packaging, and it’s not just the packaging but the ingredients, the barcode, FDA compliance, the price point, the ingredients, is it going to be vegan, is it eye-safe? There are so many different things you have to focus on. 

And how did you decide on a blush palette?

Trixie Mattel: I’m obsessed with blush, so blush was the first thing I wanted to make. Blush is everything. It’s completely idiot-proof and completely transformative in any look. 

I always travel with something really hot and neon, something really grey pink and neutral, like a mauve, and then a really light pink highlighter. That’s my constant. I can do anything with that. And this palette is great because it has three pieces to it. 

“I always wanted to make my own make-up. I’m obsessed with blush, so blush was the first thing I wanted to make. Blush is everything. It’s completely idiot-proof and completely transformative in any look” – Trixie Mattel 

I love the colour names.

Trixie Mattel: A huge percentage of my fans are women who like women and I was like, we gotta name a product ‘Girl On Girl.’ That is so sexy and so punk rock and so beautiful. Let’s just do it. It’s not like Catholic stores are trying to carry my blush anyway.

Also, ‘After School Special’ is a highlighter, you can really use it anywhere; your eyes, your shoulders. In the photos, we had a model with beautiful melanin in her skin and we were brushing it all over her. 

The photos of her are beautiful.

Trixie Mattel: This is the first time using a model that’s not me. This girl, Ariel, she was a fan of mine and I had her number and she’s been seeing me perform for years. She’s not a model, she’s actually a healthcare professional. I messaged her: ‘Would you fly down to LA and model in my living room while we put make-up on you?’  And she said: ‘Sure!’ One of the things I have always wanted to do for this company is not use models. We want to use comedians, real people, and drag queens. Even our product shots are photographed by drag queens who run cameras. This is a real drag queen company. 

Why ‘Summer of Love’ in the dead of winter?

Trixie Mattel: When I moved to California, the seasons stopped changing. It really was like 12 months of summer and that’s what this collection is sort of based on. Summer is more of an idea than a month on the calendar and you know,? Whenever I go on tour, all these 15-year-old girls are in these little revealing outfits and I think: ‘Oh my God, aren’t you cold?’ I learned from this girl, who said, ‘Hoes don’t get cold.’ So, it’s called ‘Summer of Love’ because it’s about music and happiness and little hearts and sweetness and youthfulness.

What do you have coming up next?

Trixie Mattel: Darienne who did the make-up for my campaign for ‘Summer of Love’, she was at my house the other night and we were filming some stuff together. She brought over some pink champagne and got drunk in my house. I’m in drag and she’s in a pink Moschino suit and we’re drunk in my house looking at all the new shadows for next Christmas and all the new products. If I could fast forward in time and just put it all out…

I’m also doing a red lipstick with Katya that’s coming out. It’s beautiful! It’s a vegan, blood, Russian hooker red.

I love that you’re giving us something that seemed impossible – an everyday Trixie Mattel look.

Trixie Mattel: Well, that’s the funny thing, in my book, Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood that comes out next May, I did a whole section on make-up. And what’s funny is, I’m known for wearing a lot of make-up, but my favourite make-up look is clean skin, clean brows, clean lashes. That is my favourite make-up look on anybody all the time. So, even if you look at the Trixie make-up, I wear a lot of it, and it’s all neutrals, you know?

It was only a matter of time!

Trixie Mattel: Girl, I really didn’t think anything would match the way I feel when I’m performing. But making make-up and this whole process is right up there with performing. I just love it. I’m dying. 

And your documentary, Moving Parts is about to be released. Can you tell me about it?

Trixie Mattel: This was right when I got home from All Stars. Viceland announced that they were picking up Trixie and Katya, the TV show and I was also working on my second record. This was about to be a really big crazy year. My manager at the time and my boyfriend at the time, both said: ‘For a drag queen you’re about to have a really big year that no one’s ever had, doing the most things, no one’s ever done.’ 

So, we met with the filmmakers, who followed me around for nine months. We went all over the world to red carpets, TV sets, into the studio while I was making my record and multiple different tours all over the world. And what you can see in the movie, in true drag fashion, things go wrong. You can tell in the trailer a very iconic friendship is tossed in the air right away at the beginning of the movie. I think people are really gonna love it because on a micro-scale it’s a snapshot of me and my artistic process and the work I do. On a macro scale, it’s really a snapshot of the golden age of drag. This world we live in where drag is so big – this movie really, really captures that.

Last month, you announced 29 dates for your Trixie Mattel: Grown Up tour. Does that mean you’re all grown up?

Trixie Mattel: Well, I turned 30, which is gay grown-up, I’m gay-old. You know what, something I’ve always done with Trixie is, with the look I do and with the type of things I do, we’re always using this kid-toy persona to address the anxieties of adulthood.

In this show, I’m really pushing that further. And 30 is that age where you start asking: ’Do I have my shit together? Is this the adult I thought I would be? Am I a good person? Am I happy with what I have?’ The more I’ve reflected and the more I’ve been Trixie, it’s made me realise that when you’re young you think your parents have all the answers because they’re adults. But then you become an adult and you realise they don’t know anything. We’re all just kids who are born a long time ago. I mean when you think of people going to a drag show, aren’t they basically kids at clown show? I mean it’s the same. We all just want to feel like kids. 

What’s in Trixie’s future?

Trixie Mattel: Die! No, well I mean, probably die. But besides that, I can tell you what I hope for. I really hope I get to keep making UNHhhh with Katya. It’s really my favourite. Honestly, I want to keep being able to do all of this because it’s fucking cool.