Same Trixie Mattel, Different “Parts”

The "Drag Race" winner hits the big screen in her new documentary.

I’m just a backwoods Barbie, too much makeup, too much hair
Don’t be fooled by thinkin’ that the goods are not all there
Don’t let these false eyelashes lead you to believe that
I’m as shallow as I look ’cause I run true and deep

These lyrics are actually from a Dolly Parton track called “Backwoods Barbie,” but it could just as easily be the theme song for drag superstar Trixie Mattel. The RuPaul’s Drag Race skinny legend is the subject of the new documentary Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts, premiering at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

The film, directed by Nick Zeig-Owens, follows Trixie (real name Brian Firkus) over the past year of her life as she experiences the highest highs, and the lowest lows, of being one of the most popular drag queens on the planet.

“I think that this film does a really good job of showing that on the flip side of a coin, drag can be so fierce. And so many moments last year we were like, ’Oh my God, I can’t believe this happening,'” Firkus tells NewNowNext. “And so many parts of last year were also like, ’Oh, this is the worst day of my life, and there’s no handbook to handle it.’

Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts begins with an actual rainstorm and closes with Trixie singing about staying on “the sunny side of life.” While watching the movie, viewers feel as if Trixie and the people around her are weathering a storm, good and bad.

And when a particularly gusty wind hits, they’re all just trying to make sure their wigs don’t fly off.

“This career is not all champagne and runways; [the documentary] is about the other 23 hours where I’m not in drag onstage,” Firkus adds. “We’re not necessarily celebrities; we don’t have teams of people handling everything. We’re on set and onstage doing our own makeup, singing our own songs, and doing our own things. It’s a much more grassroots thing than it seems. I think that on a micro level, it’s a snapshot of being an artist. But on a macro level, it’s a snapshot of, like, the ’Golden Age of Drag.’ This has never happened for drag queens before.”

The documentary also shows sides of Trixie those just watching her on RuPaul’s Drag Race or UNHhhh rarely get to see. Firkus opens up about his childhood in Wisconsin, and being abused by his step-father, but doesn’t dwell on the dark moments in life for too long.

“I’ve never identified as a victim,” he explains. “As far as anyone knows, I was kind of born at 18, and nobody knows what happened before. So there were moments in the film where I talk about where I was younger, and I guess I pride myself in none of that really affecting me.”

“It’s not something I carry with me day-to-day,” he adds. “I’m really at peace with all of it. So I was a little hesitant about sharing it because I don’t like the narrative of, ’I wear wigs because bad things happened to me.’ That’s never been how I felt. That’s never been how I identify. I feel, if anything, really proud to be someone who is well-adjusted. Whatever’s happened to me, I don’t think about it. I don’t let it bother me. I feel very in control of my happiness and all that.”

Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts goes behind-the-scenes of some of the highest moments of Trixie’s career, like the moment she found out she won Drag Race All Stars Season 3, to the low point when her UNHhhh co-host and close friend, Katya Zamolodchikova (Brian McCook), experienced a “complete total psychotic break from reality” and quit The Trixie and Katya Show, their series on Viceland, halfway through the first season.

In fact, Firkus reveals that the only moment that was off-limits to the film crew was when Katya had a breakdown on the set of The Trixie and Katya Show and asked the team to turn off the cameras.

“Nobody’s angry. It’s more like a room full of people asking, ’Okay, what do we do now?’ There’s no handbook for this moment. There’s no instructions,” Firkus recalls, adding that neither he nor the doc’s director “were trying to create the Facetuned version of last year.”

The movie aims to pull back the wig, reveal the Brian beneath the Barbie doll, and show that life as a drag queen is not as glamorous as it seems. In fact, some rough days are made worse when you’re wearing heels, a 10-pound wig, and corset. One memorable scene even shows Trixie returning home after a long day of filming to find she had left some of her dresses out in the rain.

“At the end of a Trixie and Katya day—and I think it was a hard day—my costume was out in the rain. There are moments in the film where you’re like, ’Wow, this person’s life is really awful right now,'” Firkus recalls. “And then there are so many parts where if Nick hadn’t been filming, I don’t know what I would’ve done. Winning Drag Race—it happened so fast. And watching it back, I’m like, this is a magical thing. This is a homosexual from the woods who didn’t have a fabulous childhood reaching the highest highs of this art form. It’s crazy.”
 

The country queen adds that she hopes fans will not only see a new side of her, but also come to appreciate “how magical of a time this is for drag queens as a whole.”

“There will be a lot of people watching this who have no idea who I am. It was made by a director who’s not a Drag Race fan. It was told in a way that’s very digestible,” Firkus says. “It’s like someone playing with a jump rope, and we’re like, ’Why don’t you jump in with us?’ This is it. There’s not a lot of past, and there’s not a lot of future. The film is a ride in the present.”

Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts premieres at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Head over to the festival’s website for tickets and info.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
@chrisreindeer