'RuPaul's Drag Race' Stars Trixie and Katya Talk Viceland Show, Trash Taylor Swift

TRIXIEKATYA
Trixie and Katya in a promotional still for 'The Katya & Trixie Show'. Viceland

Katya Zamolodchikova and Trixie Mattel met cute as Season 7 contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race. They were immediate fan favorites, and their chemistry—exhibited (outrageously, of course) on their subsequent web series, “UNHhhh”—convinced Viceland to give them a TV series,The Trixie & Katya Show. It’s a half-hour of variety-show-style hijinks in and out of drag (in the latter case, they are Brian McCook and Brian Firkus).

Trixie, a folk musician, is known for her Barbie-inspired pastel aesthetic—a process that takes contouring to Cubist heights. Katya’s looks range from “fishy,” a term used for realistic female impersonation, to morbidly funny. She's stunningly unguarded, and endeared herself to Drag Race fans with a candid conversation about substance addiction in Season 7.

Perhaps Katya's striking honesty explains her, uh, committed fan base. “They found an old picture of me, and someone used it as their own profile photo on Instagram,” Katya told Newsweek, with a visible shudder. “Their username is my actual name.” Trixie nodded, rolled her eyes.

mgid-uma-image-logotv Trixie and Katya in 'UNHhhh', the World of Wonder web series that inspired their new Viceland show. World of Wonder / YouTube

The two were lounging backstage, eating fast food in full drag, before an event at Build Series NYC. Their Drag Race fans are mostly queer people or "queer adjacent,” said Trixie, but both hope their new show launches them into the mainstream. The goal, it would seem, is to become household names like RuPaul—the only drag queen to accomplish a kind of superstardom in America. If their Viceland show succeeds, Trixie and Katya would be the first contestants to truly cross over. Adore Delano and Alaska Thunderfuck, who won All Stars Season 2, tour and release music videos, and Bob the Drag Queen, winner of Season 8, works as a stand-up comic and musician, but their reach is still niche. 

Trixie & Katya is technically a comedy show, but they both grimace at the word “comedian.” “I’m not a comic,” Katya said. “There’s twenty five percent of me that doesn’t trust people who identify as comics.” A comic, to Trixie, is “a dude in a button-down shirt" talking about how traffic sucks.

Clowns strikes Katya as more appropriate. Or just performers. On their Los Angeles-based show, they interview guests and discuss fashion and pop culture. Each of the episodes is themed; topics include death, holidays, and hooking up. In the latter episode, on their out-of-drag "man on the street" segment, Brian and Brian quiz pedestrians on slang for sex acts, with suitably raunchy results. It's filthy, Katya said, but “people need to get it straight about being filthy. Filthy does not equal unhealthy, necessarily....I know it’s inherently absurd for a cross-dressing drug addict reality TV person like myself to be giving anybody advice about anything, but I do give excellent advice.”

TRIXIEKATYA Trixie and Katya, together at VICELAND. Mark Christopher for VICELAND

The tone of the show is similar to Drag Race: bawdy, absurd, outrageous and, at times, strikingly insightful. Taking a page from RuPaul, there’s genuine emotion wrapped in the humor. “It’s always been important to us to be really funny,” Trixie said, “but we usually, accidentally shed some real light on something truthful.” 

The traditional cutting wit of drag queens is there—in drag culture, it’s called “reading” someone, as in “reading is fundamental”—but Katya and Trixie only insult themselves or each other; they're not out to make anyone look stupid. “I do love someone like Eric Andre, who is just an entertainment terrorist with the biggest balls,” said Katya of the Adult Swim host. But she says she could never torture a guest like that. “Maybe I’d wear a ‘Free Hugs’ sign while covered in blood..."

The two talk about authenticity on the show, which is not a word commonly associated with drag queens. Do they feel more authentic in or out of drag? "I'm always myself. Always," said Trixie. "The only difference is that I come off as mean out of drag."

Katya brought up Taylor Swift, a woman she sees as the opposite of authentic. "As long as she is popular, there’s no accounting for taste," Katya said. "She’s like a manufactured mayonnaise Popsicle, and everybody’s just shoving it up their butts. It’s scientific. They’ve got they have, little, like, chemistry and physics people on her team." Katya laughed, then pointed to how corporate the pop star's image has become. "She was on UPS trucks, you know? Jesus Christ.”

The feeling from Swift’s fans might be mutual. Trixie conceded that their drag personas won’t appeal to everyone. “But,” she said, “It doesn’t matter who you sleep with, because our show is funny regardless of who we sleep with. We’re not doing gay comedy. It’s not drag comedy. If we were a podcast, you’d like it.”

Drag Race began as a cultural touchstone for the queer community on the LOGO network, moved to VH1 for Season 9, and RuPaul won an MTV Movie Award, a Critic’s Choice Award, and an Emmy that same year. RuPaul's DragCon, the show's fan event, expanded into Manhattan in 2017 as well. What RuPaul has accomplished is immense, broadening a show about drag queens into one that embraces anyone who feels like an outcast. As RuPaul says at the end of every episode, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” 

Katya and Trixie see their show as an extension of that philosophy. And if straight men find the show isn’t for them? “You’re not homophobic for thinking that something gay is bad," said Katya. "All gay movies are bad.” Trixie nodded: “Just like all Christian movies.”

Katya pulled out her phone and Trixie struck a pose on the couch, her dress up around her waist, her long legs in the air. “Plus,” said Katya, “some fat woman in Idaho is going to look at this photo on the internet and laugh. That’s a public service.”

The Trixie & Katya Show premieres November 15 on Viceland.

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