Trixie Mattel Talks Motel Renovations and Why She Loved Judging 'Queen of the Universe' (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
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After venturing into podcasts, music, makeup, books and co-hosting the hit web series UNHhhh, drag queen superstar Trixie Mattel is taking on her most ambitious project yet: renovating a rundown Palm Springs, California, motel alongside boyfriend and co-owner David Silver for the Discovery+ series Trixie Motel.
The pair had four months and a limited budget in order to turn the property into what Trixie dubs, “a kind of retro pink, ‘60s desert paradise.” But as seen on the eight-part series so far, this transformation is no easy feat.
“People take a year to renovate their living room and then they get a divorce. So, for me and my partner to stay in love on television and renovate an entire commercial property, I mean, every day we had to both freak out and then give ourselves permission to freak out when we were doing something insane,” Trixie tells ET’s Lauren Zima.
Needless to say, the process has been stressful. “Just last weekend we were out performing for 400 people and I wasn’t nervous at all,” she says, referring to her musical tour, Trixie Mattel: Grown Up. “But then, you know, I’m renovating with a hammer, like, ‘I hope this looks OK.’ So, renovating is a lot harder than comedy performing tap dancing. I mean, anything else I’ve done pales in comparison.”
Yet, each week David and the drag queen manage to get closer and closer to completing their renovation with each new room, from a pink flamingo theme to a yeehaw cowgirl vibe, designed specifically to match Trixie’s eccentric tastes. “With all seven rooms, we tried to make every experience special. I mean, I want you to be able to pee in every bathroom and have a different experience,” Trixie says. “And this is the motel where you can actually do that for real.”
The challenge, however, was “how big can we go with this but still have it be not insulting,” Trixie says of pushing the maximalist design, featuring as many patterns, colors and textures as possible. “Spoiler alert,” she continues. “This motel’s the most beautiful place in the world.”
While Trixie and David have a team of professional designers and renovators helping them out, they’ve also called in some favors and gotten some free labor from their celebrity friends, including Lisa Vanderpump, Nicole Byer, Orville Peck, Leslie Jordan and many others. “I wanted to have as many of my famous friends as possible,” Trixie says, noting that “on a personal level, this is a huge project and I needed help.”
And all of them are put to work, perhaps, much to their surprise. “It was funny because all those celebrity guests are used to getting full hair and makeup and then just sitting around. And they got to the motel and they’re like, ‘So, what do we do?’ And I’m like, ‘Here’s your paint roller. This is what we’re doing.’ And they’re like, ‘What? We’re really doing this?’ And I’m like, ‘We’re really doing this.’”
In the end, their hard work paid off, and the couple now has a newly renovated and functioning motel ready for business. “We open in the fall,” Trixie says, explaining that they’re putting the final touches on staffing and cocktail menus in order to maintain a successful business. “Now the real work is starting.”
Beyond Trixie Motel, the drag queen has plenty of projects happening -- almost simultaneously. In fact, the renovation show had to be delayed a summer because Trixie was on the judging panel for the Paramount+ singing competition, Queen of the Universe.
While it has since been renewed for a second season, Trixie can “neither confirm nor deny” if she is returning for another round of judging. “I loved judging Queen of the Universe,” she says. “Every day my jaw was on the floor. These are some of the most amazing singers in the world and they do it in a wig and heels. It’s, like, unbelievable… So I [hope] I get to come judge again 'cause I really felt like I helped them.”
Not only that, but her affinity for judging makes it understandable why she might not want to compete on another series again. “I just love judging,” Trixie says, revealing that she got great advice from Michelle Visage on how to do it. “She said, ‘Think about it. They are away from their family, their moms, their boyfriends, their regular audience members. You’re their only lifeline to tell them how they can do better. So, just tell them what you think they need to learn to do it. Take your and their feelings out of it.’”
That said, “Competition has never really brought out the best in me,” she admits, explaining outside of having a Vanna White moment, like the Wheel of Fortune host did on season 7 of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars, don’t expect to see her return to the Drag Race franchise anytime soon.
However, when it comes to the all-winners season, which has set record ratings for the franchise, Trixie says it’s amazing to see how the caliber of performers just gets better and better over time. “It only gets better. The drag gets better. The storytelling gets better,” he says. “I mean, behind and in front of the camera, it’s diverse. It’s people of color. It’s queer people. It’s trans people. It’s pretty amazing.”
She adds, “It just goes to show that when you have a great product and great execution, the show has no excuse not to be great.”
“Renovation, however, watered me like a daisy,” she says of discovering a new outlet for his expansive empire, which shows no signs of slowing down. Following Trixie Motel, the drag queen is launching a new line of makeup, releasing a new record while currently co-hosting season 7 of Unhhhh with Katya Zamolodchikova, who also appears on the renovation series. And in addition to her Milwaukee, Wisconsin, gay bar and the Palm Springs motel, there may be more businesses to come.
“It really makes me think of what else I could do,” Trixie concludes.
New episodes of Trixie Motel debut Wednesdays on Discovery+.