Q&A: Trixie Mattel

Trixie Mattel (real name Brian Firkus) was the first Milwaukee contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” She’s only just begun.

What’s Trixie’s persona?
She’s like the doll you always wanted and the Stepford mom you never had. The magic is, I look like this children’s toy that stepped out of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, but I have this dark, offbeat comedy and wit.

How did you come up with your name?
When I was younger, I had an abusive stepfather. He would call me a Trixie when I was acting too feminine or gay or being emotional. Fast forward to when I was 19 years old doing the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Oriental Theatre. It was a drag role, and the name of this character was Trixie. Mattel happened because I always had an affinity with dolls and children’s toys. Your last name is like the name of your manufacturer – your mom and dad – so I thought to make it the toy company.

Max Thomsen.
Max Thomsen.

How has life changed since being on “RuPaul’s Drag Race”?
Oh my God, it’s like zero to 60. Especially Milwaukee. I was always too weird to work in the major drag clubs. They want more traditional drag. Then I get to “Drag Race,” and the fan response has been ridiculous. I travel all over the world, and everywhere I go, it sells out.

What’s been the best part of success?
Having enough money. I would, back in the day, save money just to buy tights and lipstick. And I can buy those things now, and I can do drag without having to dig in my couch for change just to get bus fare to the gig.

What’s been the worst part of success?
Before “Drag Race,” I didn’t care what people thought about me at all. I didn’t even pay attention. After “Drag Race,” being all over social media and fan websites, there are all these things available to read about yourself. You can read 100 great comments, but that 101st comment is a negative thing that will stick with you all day.

Who inspires you?
First and foremost, Barbie. I know she’s not a real person, but what is a celebrity? It’s somebody who everyone knows. Barbie’s an icon and she’s done everything. She’s the first woman president. She was the first woman on the moon. And she’s actually from Wisconsin.

As half Ojibwe, how has your Native American identity shaped you?
There’s something to be said that I grew up in a Native American family and poor, and I portray a character who is full-on white, Valley Girl and rich. Native Americans have so many social issues. They’re disenfranchised. Alcoholism is huge in the community. A lot of people experience the loss of a parent. Drag for me is all about taking something negative and making it something positive. If I was allowed to have girl’s toys when I was little and nothing bad ever happened to me, I wouldn’t look like a kid’s toy now and have dark comedy. Dressing up as a different person for a living makes you fall more in love with yourself. A little vacation from who you are makes you appreciate what you are.

What’s the gayest place in Milwaukee?
The men’s section at Forever 21.

‘Point of View: Trixie Mattel’ appears in the September 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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