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UNHhhh! Bestselling authors Trixie and Katya on where they think they’ll be in 15 years (besides dead)

UNHhhh! Best-selling authors Trixie and Katya answer all our womanly questions
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Together, Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova have built a media empire out of their friendship. They’ve traded compliments and barbs for years on their YouTube series UNHhhh, have classed up Vice with The Trixie And Katya Show, and have even taken over Netflix’s YouTube channel from time to time with their reviews of everything from Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings to Tiger King. Now they’re expanding their empire onto the printed page with Trixie And Katya’s Guide To Modern Womanhood, a New York Times bestselling book that translates the pair’s witty onscreen repartee into print. Mattel takes a stab at makeup and heels, while Zamolodchikova tackles casual hook-ups, drugs, and hammertoe. The A.V. Club talked to the duo about Miss Piggy and people who just can’t seem to act right on planes, and that transcript is below. Portions of the interview are in the video above, with more to come next week.

The A.V. Club: To start with, I thought you guys might be interested that I interviewed Miss Piggy the other day.

Trixie Mattel: Oh, my god. Was it amazing?

AVC: It was really amazing.

TM: Holy shit. Was it like talking to a real person

AVC: Yes, yes. A thousand percent. The reason I bring it up is because a) Trixie, your gloves reminded me, and b) we talked about Muppets Now, and some scenes she has with RuPaul. She said she wants to be a judge on Drag Race.

TM: They have to do that. Well, they could figure it out, but those puppeteers need to be able to stand. They’d have to dig out that judge’s deck like to the ground.

Katya Zamolodchikova: They could do that. It would be so easy, because it’s up on a podium. They could just cut a hole.

TM: It would be so worth it to open a season with her judging, and they could do a puppet challenge.

AVC: She’s done Project Runway before, weirdly enough, but not Drag Race.

KZ: Well, not weirdly. She’s a style icon.

AVC: That’s true. I will say, I was watching old videos of her and her face has really changed a lot over the years.

KZ: Well, ham does age.

AVC: That could be a good segue, I suppose. In your new book, Trixie And Katya’s Guide To Modern Womanhood, you have a section, Trixie, about hair and makeup. In that section, you list the people who influenced your look, including Dolly Parton, Miss Yvonne, and others. Katya, I was wondering if you had a similar list in your mind.

KZ: Oh, absolutely. It might not relate to what I present in reality, but it’s a mixture of middle-aged Russian diva singers. A lot of people don’t know who they are, but they’re just, like, obscure Soviet torch-song divas. And I’ll show you a picture of one. [Finds one on phone and shows us.] There’s a new one who’s so beautiful, and I want to look like her so bad. So, really, just Soviet, sexy, Slavic, and slutty. That’s my mood board.

AVC: Having been to Russia, I’ll say that “fashionable Russian woman” is definitely a very specific look.

KZ: Yeah, they don’t leave the house without high heels on. It’s pretty wild.

AVC: Oh, I wanted to make sure I say congratulations on the bestseller list.

TM: Could you just? I mean, it’s fucking crazy, isn’t it?

AVC: What did you do when you found out?

TM: This girl from my hometown texts me, and she said, “Congratulations, that’s amazing.” I was like, “Yeah, isn’t it a gag?” And she said, “Yeah, it’s a gag in that like 0.0001% of people will ever say that. I guess it’s a real knee slapper.” She wasn’t satisfied with me being like, “Isn’t it a gag?” She’s like, “No, it’s amazing.” And that’s how I feel. I’m so happy with it.

KZ: I started peeing and I haven’t stopped.

TM: Katya sent me flowers. So that’s how you know we did something. If that fucking cretin thought of me.

KZ: Yeah, I went on the worldwide web and looked at 1800Flowers.com. I mean, I was so excited because I’m not really like—Trixie is very goal-oriented and has a lot of projects and a lot of ambition. I don’t have any of that, but every once in a while I like to really zero in on something that I don’t think is achievable, but I really want, and this was it. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was like two years old.

TM: It was just that whole reading and writing thing standing in the way.

KZ: All that paper! Ugh!

AVC: How did you guys design the idea for the book and the collaboration and who would do what?

KZ: Well, Trixie originally had the idea of an old school etiquette guide. She had this really funny. What was it called?

TM: Teen guide to homemaking. It was a home economics textbook from the fifties.

Oh! I didn’t tell you this, Katya. My brother called the other day, and he was like, “You did a book?” And I was like, “yeah, it’s kind of a women’s etiquette guide that’s women’s magazine style meets home economics textbook.” He goes, “Oh, are you talking about that textbook that grandma used to have? That teen homemaking textbook? And I was like, “Yes. How did you even know about that?” And he says, “That book was crazy.” So it was crazy that my brother, who never pays attention really, was clearly affected by this book too as a kid.

To give you texture, this was a a home economics textbook that was like, “You’re a woman. You can’t move around your own furniture, so build a diorama and move around the paper furniture!” I mean, that’s like as satirical as this, and that’s not even meant to be a joke.

KZ: You’re too fragile to pick anything up, so just imagine it in your mind,

AVC: I used to always buy those books at garage sales. “When he’s at work, consider doing these things around the house!”

TM: Well, mama, look at the other books on the bestseller list. It’s fully like “coming to terms with the death of a dog.” It’s dead-serious advice.

AVC: Weirdly enough, right before we talked, I just interviewed the cast of the new movie about The Secret, speaking of self-help. In the movie, Josh Lucas’ character delivers these monologues about how “sometimes you just have to think about what you want, and it’ll happen,” or something like that. But people truly bought into that book.

TM: That’s not groundbreaking to think of something you want before you get it.

KZ: Here’s the key. Take something you want, and then go get it.

TM: I am a fan of “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

KZ: Oh, my god. Put that on a fucking tattoo or a bumper sticker or a little afghan.

TM: I like it because it’s scalable. It incorporates what you can actually do well and what do you have to start with. What can you do? That way it’s not impossible ideals. It’s more like short-term goals.

KZ: And wherever you go, there you are.

TM: Yup. And wherever you go, big brother’s watching. I have a question. When people do do crime and then they try to leave the country, is it because in other countries they’re not going to clock them? Like, I don’t get it. If you run away to Mexico because you did crime, are they just not going to pursue you in Mexico?

KZ: No, I mean it’s different jurisdictions.

TM: So if you’re, like, a murderer from Iceland and you come to America and we scan your passport and we see that you’re a murderer, are we like, “It’s fine. He only murdered someone in Iceland.”

KZ: No, I think I Iceland will come and extradite you. Is that what it is?

TM: I don’t know. I’ve never done crime like that.

KZ: We should do international crime and figure it out!

TM: Next book! “Eat. Pray. Crime.”

KZ: Yeah. “Eat. Pray. Extradite.”

AVC: You guys did have a really good idea in the book for a buddy road trip movie.

KZ: Tell her the title, Trix.

TM: To Priscilla. Thanks For Nothing, Julia Roberts. It’s something we want to do in the future. In true Trixie and Katya form, I would be trying to do something professional and she would maybe be just trying to have a meet and greet with Julia Roberts somewhere along the way. If we can make a book, we can make a movie. It’s all possible.

AVC: I imagine your character, Trixie, as a Straight Talk-era Dolly Parton.

TM: Yep, “The Diva Rules: 12 Steps To Finding Inner Peace.” “When I’m not harpooning myself with a Hitachi wand or curling my lashes, I’m karate-kicking my… whatever.” Just go big. I think that’s something we definitely cover in this book is whatever you do in life, go big, go big

AVC: You both do talk in the book about loving yourself a lot, which is really good.

KZ: My favorite part of the whole book, I swear to god, is when she writes on page two, “As long as I’ve been alive, I have known I was gorgeous.”

TM: Yes! Loving yourself!

KZ: Also paranoid schizophrenia and delusions.

TM: We have a lot of important quotes in the book, but one that we didn’t include that I love is from Alyssa [Edwards]: “Before you sell it, you gotta buy it yourself.” Meaning you’ve got to feel your own fantasy.

KZ: You’ve got to believe your own hype.

TM: It’s something that Queer Eye and shows like that almost parody in their own way, the idea of changing the inside through the outside. And I mean, in drag, that’s what we do every day. We’ve literally dressed like celebrities long enough that people said, okay—

KZ: “You’re Michelle Pfeiffer.”

TM: “You are Dakota Fanning.” Dakota And Michelle’s Guide To Modern Womanhood.”

AVC: Since you mentioned Julia Roberts, Katya, if you were going to interview her—say you have 20 minutes—how would you prepare? What would you ask?

KZ: Well, I would not want to go personal right away because that would sound creepy. Like “How are Hazel and Phin? How’s Danny doing?” I’ve never met these people, so I don’t know them. I’d just probably just ask her general questions. “How are you feeling today? What is the temperature of your mind right now?” And also I’d probably just give her a lot of compliments. She’s lovely.

TM: Or, “Did you just fart?”

KZ: Yeah. “Do you smell that? That shit?” I would also tell her that I hated Notting Hill. Just to be, like, on the level.

AVC: In the book, you guys talk about best friends and how you don’t really necessarily believe in the concept of best friends once you get to be adults. Do you guys consider yourselves very good friends, a comedic working team, or how do you quantify it?

KZ: I think we’re, like, casual blackout acquaintance.

TM: It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks and I don’t have a lot of close friends and the only person I thought of inviting was that person. [Katya] But I don’t have many friends, so she doesn’t have to be a very good friend to be high up on that list. [Laughs.]

KZ: Yeah, so maybe good friends equals close friends, but bad person equals best friend?

TM: People really like our friendship, but something that anybody could take from it is we have a very clear understanding of each other’s personal space and how much we actually want to hang out. If one of us was like, “Why do we never hang out?” we wouldn’t be as close of friends, because one of us would be unfulfilled. We’re very much like, “Are you still alive? Okay. I’ll see you next week.”

AVC: Do you think that’s one of the reasons people like UNHhhh or the Netflix stuff you guys do or the Trixie And Katya Show? Because they feel the connection between you guys?

KZ: Yeah, because they think it’s authentic because I’m not a good actor. Everything that’s happening is just an authentic improv. It’s not even necessarily performing. It’s just being in the moment.

TM: People are always like, “In our group, I’m the Trixie and she’s the Katya,” and I’m like, “Okay, so one of you is the ice queen and the other is a sex monster?” 

KZ: Yeah, or is one of you in jail? When people self-identify as one or the other, I’m like, is that a read?

AVC: What’s the hardest you made each other laugh, or at least a time recently that you can remember thinking, “God, that was funny”?

TM: The other day she called me and said, “You are fierce, and you are a diva.” I don’t know why it was so funny to call someone and just say that and nothing else, but I laughed about it for about a day.

KZ: She’ll send me texts that say, “Can I ask you a serious question?” And then she’ll send a selfie of her in drag, and then it’ll say, “Should I do porn?” And that is just the best, because obviously considering our past, I’m like, “Oh god, what is the question?” And then it’s that. And the answer’s always “No, no.”

TM: Given our checkered past, we can’t really text each other, “Do you have a minute?”

KZ: “Hey, do you have a minute to unpack some things?”

TM: “Can you jump on a call?” Like, whenever I get a text or call from management or World Of Wonder, it’s like, “Can you jump on a call?” It’s never like I won a prize. It’s like, “Did you call someone a faggot on camera?” “I guess I did. That faggot? I sure did.”

AVC: Speaking of cameras, the new season of UNHhhh is about to start airing. How did you film that? Are you in the same room?

KZ: Yeah, we’re distant. Just six or so feet away from each other. We got ready in different parts of the basement—

TM: Different wings of the hospital—

KZ: Yeah, different doctors, different anesthesiologists.

TM: We had to mic ourselves…

KZ: Which was extremely hard to do with nails on.

TM: Extremely hard! Because we’d think we got it, and then we’d sit down, and they’d say, “Your mic is not sitting right.” We also had to enter the room separately and sit farther away from each other. And now they have three cameras: one that shoots in the middle and one on each of us, so that in post they can marry the two, which is going to be a lot of extra work for the editors, poor things. That’s a whole other step.

AVC: Are you forbidden from getting up and approaching the camera?

TM: Yeah, we weren’t allowed to touch. If we even accidentally leaned in toward each other, they would be like, “Nope.”

KZ: Yeah, [producer] Pete [Williams] was, like, very strict. I was shocked. I was like, “A gay person who’s strict?” But he’s very on the ball.

TM: And there’s a lot of responsibility on my part because I’m working with somebody who’s older with a compromised immune system. So I have to be careful. [Both laugh.] I love me. I can’t take myself. I’d just like you to know that, for all of these Zoom calls, just get rid of the idea that I’m looking at you. [Spins around in office chair.]

KZ: Oh, I know. You’re unaware. You’re just in the room. Oh, I love that little rat tail in the back [of your wig]. It’s like a little rescue ladder.

TM: Yeah. It’s like, “Wow. She’s really a buttoned-up gal. I wonder if she knows how to have a good time,” and I’m like, “You were saying?”

AVC: You mentioned your age difference. There’s a section in the book on aging, and you’ve done an episode of UNHhhh on aging. Where do you guys see yourselves in 10 or 15 years, or even further down the line? Do you want to be Lady Bunny?

KZ: There’s a beautiful stretch at Forest Hills Cemetery that catches half shade, half sunlight during the day, so I’ve got a nice plot there.

TM: I think you’ll either go quick or be that person who you’re like, “How has she lived this long?”

KZ: One-hundred-seventeen.

TM: Yeah. Still smoking. Meanwhile they’ll be like, “Yeah, Trixie, carbon monoxide poisoning in her apartment,” or something mundane.

KZ: Yeah, “There was a tube running from a car and Katya rented.”

TM: I want to be Lady Bunny in reverence, but physically, no, no. Personal style-wise, I’m fine with that. When we talk about our drag influences, two of my earliest where when I saw a picture of Lady Bunny—the one of her with big hair, doing poppers—and I saw a picture of Amanda Lepore, and I was like, “I want to be somewhere in the middle of that.” That’s what was my dream. I have to say, whatever Amanda is doing is working, because that whore is… I don’t want to say her age, but she’s older than 18. You know what I’m saying?

AVC: You could aim to be like Angelyne and just cruise around L.A.

KZ: You got swindled by her, didn’t you?

TM: [My friend Amy and I] met her at a Coffee Bean and she made us buy her coffee and pay for her parking. Then she tried to sell us “original art,” which was some printed-out paper from her computer and I’m not kidding a cracked frame. But Amy bought it. She was just like, “I’m so happy to be here.” People were like, “Why did you guys meet up with Angelyne? She’s just scamming you,” and I said, “I know.”

KZ: That’s the Hollywood dream.

TM: Hello? It’s a mean-and-greet.

AVC: Speaking of meet-and-greets, you have a bit in the book, Katya, where you talk about social media and having to be on all the time and the creation of Katya LLC. Trixie, you have a YouTube channel now, and you’re doing Twitch streams occasionally. How do you draw the line of how much you let fans into your lives?

TM: I pretty much quit streaming everything, so that’s where I draw the line.

KZ: I stopped doing the phone so much. I sometimes I look at it and shrug and then I throw it across the room. Especially having a character or a persona that’s kind of kooky or off the wall or not necessarily, like, clued into reality, when you go actually off the rails, people don’t know. They think it’s an act or something.

TM: They think it’s a bit. “I loved that thing you did where you dropped off the face of the Earth for a year. That was such a good bit.”

KZ: For me anyways, it’s the phone. I’m just like, “Get this thing away from me.”

TM: We have probably the youngest and most impassioned fans as a whole.

KZ: We could stay online forever and somebody would be watching.

TM: I think it’s important to keep some separation as much as you can.

KZ: Go out and pet a horse, smell in the air.

AVC: I did like the portion of the book where you talked about how many Tamagotchis fans have given you, Trixie.

TM: Oh yeah. There’s a part where I talk about my breakup, and I talk about biking, drunk with a fistful of beeping Tamagotchis being like, “What happened?” Like Hillary Clinton’s book, what was it called? What Happened? Yeah. That’s what you could have called this book. What Happened?

AVC: Something else you guys talk about in the book is travel, which is one of my favorite topics. You guys travel a lot, and I travel a bit for work. Obviously, we’re not doing it right now, for the better, but are you guys at all worried about losing your status? I’m worried about my United status. I can’t live without economy plus upgrades and three free checked bags now.

TM: [Gasps.] I just thought about that the other day. Am I going to lose Diamond? “Why’d she quit drag” “She couldn’t get into the Sky Lounge, so she fucking quit.” But you know what, Katya? We’re fortunate enough that we get to fly first class, which I think gives you most of the Diamond perks and status anyway. It would be sad if it went away, but you know what? I love you, Delta, but I wouldn’t put it past them. It’s like in L.A. my gym was like, “We’re closing and we’re freezing all your memberships,” until a few weeks ago, when even though it’s not safe, they said, “We’re re-opening. We’re going to bill you again,” even though you can’t go in the gym.

KZ: I don’t miss flying, but I miss hotels because I love even a shitty hotel. The best hotel I ever stayed at my entire life was in Hong Kong. It’s called The Upper House, and it was just, like, next level. I’ve missed that kind of experience. Even in a motel.

TM: Hotels make me feel sexy, and I miss that.

KZ: Yeah, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. I love shitty hotels, I love great hotels, whatever.

TM: Oh, give me the Marriott whatever. Whatever the basic DoubleTree is, whatever. A lot of times, if it’s something cute, promoters are like, “This hotel is legendary. We can put you up there.” It’s always shitty wifi and bad air conditioning. Give me the Applebee’s of hotels.

KZ: Yeah. Yeah. I want quality, and I want it consistent.

AVC: For me it also feels like something I’m good at. I can whip through security, and I judge everyone else. I know where to sit in the airport and where to eat. It’s sad to lose that.

TM: The people who, it’s not their boarding group and they stand in the front? Don’t make me yell, “Move, poor,” because I will.

KZ: I don’t get it. It’s so crazy. Or the people who wear all their jewelry through the TSA checkpoint and have a gallon of water.

TM: Don’t fly in pajama pants, but also don’t fly like you’re stepping out at a public affair, way too dressed up.

KZ: And also don’t put your bare feet up on this seat, you fucking crazy freak. It’s so gross.

AVC: I’m not super into shaming accounts, but there’s an Instagram called Passenger Shaming.

TM: Of course. I’m really into that account. Fuck those people.

AVC: There are people who take their shirts off! What kind of animals are those people?

TM: I talk about in the book, but there was a girl who peed her pants on my flight, which was shocking. And then there’s a lot of people now getting kicked off planes for the no-mask thing, cause they don’t know how to act. You don’t have have to be that afraid of corona to put a mask on at the fucking airport, you dumb worm. You ever see that video of Naomi Campbell flying, and she alcohols the whole fucking plane?

KZ: Biohazard level five comes in and says, “Okay,” tarps up and everything. It’s incredible.

TM: She’s scrubbing, and she goes, “I don’t care what people think of me. I don’t care if they think I’m crazy.” She’s just using 99% alcohol on the TV screen, and then she’s moved down to the person in front of her, just wiping their shoulders. She’s laying a pore strip on their nose.

KZ: That’s how you know she’s really serious about it, because she doesn’t trust an assistant to do it. I’m the opposite. If I see that bare foot up on an armrest, I’m going to put it in my mouth. I’m a germophile.

TM: No, you’ll be smoking on the plane and you’ll rest the cigarette between their toes, like an ashtray.

KZ: Yeah. “What? It’s not the ’70s?”

AVC: Last question: The book is called Trixie And Katya’s Guide To Modern Womanhood. What does it mean to you two to call yourselves women?

KZ: To me it means I’m an adult. 

TM: We saw this book on the parody list and I just said, “Why is it parody? We’re two women. What’s so funny about that?” It’s just the dichotomy of how it’s ridiculous that two faggy bald fucks have any authority on being a woman, but also this book really sheds a light on the fact that there is no authority in being a woman because there is no prototype for a woman. There’s no one way to do it. So we talk about things like hair and makeup and wigs and bang pieces and heels, but you could also read this and be like, “Fuck all that,” because we’re also kind of making fun of it. “You wanna make more money? Wear a suit.”

KZ: Yeah, sometimes it’s not the destination or the journey. It’s just staying at home and not leaving the house.