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All Stars' Trixie Mattel: Drag Isn't Always Fair

Trixie Mattel

It was a dramatic conclusion to season 3 of VH1's RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars. The top four contestants performed a live taping of a music video — and they also learned that two of them would be eliminated by a "jury of their queers," which turned out to be the contestants they had sent home throughout the season.

The jury caused a major upset. Shangela, a front-runner in the competition, was sidelined, as was the season 1 winner of RuPaul's Drag Race, BeBe Zahara Benet. That left Trixie Mattel and Kennedy Davenport to duke it out in a final lip-synch to Miley Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball." And when the dust cleared, Mattel was left standing.

The Advocate spoke with Mattel after her elimination to discuss the eventful finale as well the recent controversial remarks made by the show's host, RuPaul, regarding transgender drag performers.

The Advocate: Condragulations, Trixie!
Trixie Mattel: Thank you so much!

Look how far you’ve come.
Look at that. I mean, I'm still two losses and one win. I don't know if that balances out. I might have to win Drag Race again to get any sort of good karma

Are you surprised to be joining Alaska and Chad as handmaids in the Hall of Fame?
I'm ready to wear my red robe. I'm ready to say "Blessed be." You know what I have as a text message ringtone? I used to have [the first All Stars winner] Chad Michaels going, “Ohhh bitch.” It was like the best thing I've ever heard.

If the sweet taste of victory were a food, what would it taste like?
Sour Punch straws, because it's sweet and sour.

What do you hope to accomplish with your platform as an All Star?
My platform is a quarter-inch white jelly sandal. My platform is really stunning. It's comfortable. My feet don't sweat too much. It's lightweight. It doesn't go off at TSA. I love my platform.

Well, what do you hope to accomplish with your visibility? Because it's a big win for you.
It is a big win! However, I feel that I worked very hard out of Drag Race to make sure that I could do a lot of cool things without a crown. So I'm really happy to do all the things I was going to do anyway. … Because Shangela and I and many drag queens on Drag Race have shown that you can do whatever you want, and you do not need to be crowned America's Next Drag Superstar to do it.

However, I was just lying in bed thinking last night after the episode — someday, when I quit drag, because I'm older or I'm over it or whatever, I will be able to say "I won the Olympics of drag." And that's really cool.

The big twist this episode was that you faced a jury of your queers. What was it like to sit in front of them? What was going through your head?
If I was going to win or not, I really trusted the judgment of the girls. I thought, honestly, who better to make this call than people who have no stake? They have no stake in who wins anymore. They don't own the show. They have no like business sense or stake in who wins and who doesn’t. Who better to say than people who are a fly on the wall in the challenges, learning the choreography, doing the acting? They were watching me fail on Snatch Game. Or they were watching me help Shangela with her costume and the ball. That's a really good, fair judgment, I thought. Even if they don't pick me, I trust their judgment that if they don't think it's me, they were there the whole time.

Well, some critics say it handicapped contestants who won a lot of challenges, because they eliminated those competitors. Like Shangela, for example, she only received one vote. How does that make you feel, or how would you respond to that?
I mean, I disagree with that. The person who voted for Shangela was Thorgy, the one who allegedly hates her. So I don't really know if I agree with that. But I will say, if anything, it made me a calm interview, because I knew that no one there hated me. It made me feel like I could talk about what I wanted to talk, without [worrying] in the back of my mind. Shangela made it very clear that she was going in there sort of shook by that.

You were very confident and it did come across.
Everybody in that room had lost Drag Race twice, including me. ... I didn't win Drag Race like BeBe. I didn't make it to Top Four like Kennedy. I didn't do Drag Race twice, two different seasons, like Shangela. Even when RuPaul told me twice that I'm not a superstar, I got to go on and do all kinds of shit. And so I think speaking to a room full of queens who had lost Drag Race again, I was look, if you guys think it’s me, great. But if it's not me, I'm proof that if it's not me, it's not going to stop me from doing cool things.

It must have been affirming to get that vote of confidence from them.
Yeah. I don’t know if they showed it, but I remember them being like, how did you start winning challenges after Snatch Game? How did you start doing good every week? And I was like, you guys are sitting here and you know how it feels. I realized that if I lose Drag Race, it doesn't make me a bad drag queen. I think, to a room full of girls who just lost Drag Race? I think that really spoke to them. Because it’s true. Going home first on Drag Race? You're still amazing. And winning? You're not better than anybody. You might have maneuvered through  Britney Spears "Toxic" lasers, you know what I mean? It doesn't make you better than anybody. I felt like I was in a room full of people who knew where I was coming from.

And a room full of winners.
Totally, totally. I told them I would be proud to lose to BeBe, Shangela, or Kennedy, the same way I would have been proud to lose to any of them. It’s not different.

If you could make any changes to the format of the show, because it has been shaken up a couple times, what would you do to make it more a more fair competition?
I don’t know. Part of the fun of Drag Race is its twists left and right. I'm somebody who's come back — season 7, I came back and Jaidynn Dior Fierce left [the] same episode. I think RuPaul has created a competition that really mirrors the real world of drag in a lot of ways. And the real world of drag, a lot of ways, it really does come down to others around you in your industry — however they pull your lipstick or they don't. I mean, that happens a lot in the real world.

And life isn't always fair.
Yeah. I hate to say it, but Drag Race is also a game show. It's a lot of luck. I was lucky that after Snatch Game, there was a sewing challenge. And I was lucky I was the only one there who can sew. But on the flip side, am I lucky, or did I teach myself to sew before I went with Drag Race?

I think that would be one of the first things I did before going on Drag Race.
I didn't go to sewing classes. I had to sit home and figure this out. In a lot of ways it just comes down to — you know, Snatch Game. A lot of people who watched Snatch Game [said] it wasn't that bad in person. I think I was worse in person. I think I was terrible. But like I said in the episode, I'm proof that you can have a horrible day and then go on to have a lot of good days. It's not the end of the world.

It was a good day for you!
Yeah! And then the album [One Stone] being number 1 [on iTunes]? I couldn't believe that.

RuPaul incited controversy recently for his comments about trans drag performers. What was your reaction to that and to some of the backlash from other contestants?
Something Drag Race is really good at is portraying us as artists but also human beings. And normal human beings don't know everything. They don't have all the answers. The reason that topic is so hot-button is because everyone comes from a different place. Some people are completely ignorant. Some people, they have the most insight, they are the topic. I think that that whole thing was just proof that — we call her Mama Ru, but it doesn't mean she has the answers to everything. And also to quote The Hunger Games — let's be Chad Michaels for a second — remember who the real enemy is. I don't think the real enemy is RuPaul.

That said, I think it’s hard for contestants to speak out against RuPaul, because he made their careers. As an All Star, would you stand up to RuPaul if he said something that went against your beliefs?
In the real world, people go against my beliefs all the time, and I don't make it my place to like — I’m not super confrontational. You can't get me, eight hours after winning, to say something bad about RuPaul. Sorry!

Do you think transgender contestants have a place on the show in the future?
Oh, my God, totally. Go see drag. Drag Race doesn't claim to represent drag as a whole. Drag Race is a reality show. If you see real drag shows, we just do drag and respect each other's art and who your real identity is — name, gender, hair color, anything. Whatever is underneath all the drag, it actually doesn't really matter. It kind of just matters, are you a great entertainer? And are you nice to work with? Are you good at your job? In the real world, moment to moment, I don't ever know who the “real girl”[is], who's biological. I've worked with queens who are, you know, I call then real girls —  they’re women who do drag. I don't even know it until afterwards, until I meet them and have a high voice. To me, I get excited about somebody because of their drag, not really what they look like during the day.

What are you most looking forward to doing this weekend?
I'm going to play a show here in Chicago tonight for my release of my album, One Stone.  So that I'm playing my guitar and singing music. I actually took Saturday off. So I'm excited to go to brunch and do nothing. And then Sunday I had a show with the Top Four and Aja and Milk in Providence. So it will be fun, like a little reunion. It'll be fun to see who hates me and who doesn't.

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