The “gays and grays” of Palm Springs better watch out: Trixie Mattel is now a desert diva.
The drag superstar is expanding her fempire — which already includes a makeup line, music, books, and sold-out tours — to include being… a hotelier? That’s exactly the premise of Trixie Motel, the new renovation series which premiered earlier this month on Discovery+. On the show, Trixie's partner David Silver, along with interior designer Dani Dazey, and a bevy of celeb guest stars, help Trixie live out her demolition dreams by giving an old motel a dazzling facelift. Demolition and drag, what could go wrong?
Trixie spoke with Logo about the process of buying and renovating a motel in Palm Springs, living at a Margaritaville hotel during filming, her advice for transforming your own space, and why she thinks a ghost chihuahua haunts the Trixie Motel.
So you had the idea for Trixie Motel while watching A Very Brady Renovation?
Well, David and I go on vacation in Palm Springs and whenever we go there, we'd have to choose between a really just cookie-cutter rental property or a really overpriced and really personality-less motel experience. So, that's why we were like, there's just nowhere good to stay. So many younger people are coming to Palm Springs and Palm Springs just currently isn't aimed toward younger people. So we wanted to be like the first big milestone flagship for the younger people who want to come and take pictures of themselves at a motel. We always had that idea. And then we were watching A Very Brady Renovation during COVID. I was like this is very themed, based around an existing IP, like Trixie. Then we were also watching The Simple Life and My Life on the D-List, and I think when you watch our show, you can tell it has Simple Life energy, it has My Life on the D-List energy. I think it has all that energy. I think it has a heavy dose of The Comeback too, and there's a little bit of Schitt's Creek.
You've said how home renovation shows are the final frontier of heteronormative shows. Can you talk about that?
Well, I think that renovation television is typically built around the family unit, right? Usually, it's a renovation because people are getting married, because they're having kids, they're having more kids, their kids have grown up and it's an empty nest. Usually it's a family that is a man and woman. Even the renovating teams themselves end up being like the creative female energy and the numbers guy. Or the wacky guy and the Type-A girl. It's usually about making a home more open. We don't have to go by the rules of a home because nobody lives there so we can be weirder and we're basing it around one of the biggest personalities in the history of drag. We want to go bigger, blonder, pinker, and just honestly, just more imaginative. I think that we are sort of parodying renovation shows while doing a renovation. Renovation to its core is so normative and straight and heterosexual and mostly white. So we're really making it fun and gay. I just always have this vision that they yell "Cut!" and then the gay people come in and actually do the decoration, you know?
And you lived at a Margaritaville during filming?
Oh yes. I lived at the Margaritaville, Palm Springs for five months.
I've never stayed at a Margaritaville. How was it?
It was cheeseburgers in paradise? It was actually a really beautiful hotel. It used to be the Riviera, which is a resort. It was actually really pretty. They had a Pride party while we were there. I was walking around in drag. Everybody was so nice for someplace you'd think was straight. I mean it's Margaritaville, Palm Springs. It's not like we're in Waco, Texas.
With the renovations, what was something that was harder than you thought it was going to be?
Well, when you're working with custom wallpapers, which designer Dani Dazey did all custom wallpapers, on one hand, you go, we can change this wall to look like anything. So it's nice to have custom everything, on the other hand, custom everything means there's a lot more margin for error. Things like the scale of wallpaper, and the size of appliances when they arrive. Custom bedding, custom headboards, more custom, also equals more possibility for mistakes, and you'll see that through the series.
Like the faux-razzo...
The faux-razzo was our problem child throughout the process. When it works, it looks great, but, when it doesn't work, it's a struggle bus.
The bar that you painted with Orville [Peck] turned out beautiful. I love that color. What was it like working with him?
It's terrible. He is a complete monster to work with. There's a reason he hides his face. He was in a terrorist group. No, I don't know, but he is really funny and interesting and smart, and also has a great upper body. So when it comes to asking people for manual labor, he was at the top of my list. Versus [Lisa] Vanderpump who just refused labor entirely and left.
She bought you those cute lamps though.
So she bought me those lamps, which was nice. I gave the guests the option to do labor or buy their way out of it. Lisa just bought her way out of it, everyone else had to do the work. But Orville's also great because he makes his own leather masks. He makes a lot of his own costumes. I mean, you can see in the show, I only knew how to paint that bar because of painting tap shoes. So there are a lot of weird drag tricks that came in handy when it came to renovating.
What's with all those city codes and licenses?
Like you can't paint the outer wall pink? And the liquor license? What's that all about?
Don't even get me started. That motel had asbestos in the ceiling and then it was all sealed off. If you want to renovate your motel, guess what? You have to deal with the ghosts of the past, by getting rid of someone's asbestos from the '50s. I can't give too much away, but one of our rooms is the ADA compliance room that has a wheelchair-appropriate shower. When you stay in rooms that have wheelchair-accessible showers, it can feel very surgical, almost, but our ADA shower is like a disco. It is amazing. I mean, whoever rents it, whether they're on a honeymoon or they are differently-abled, they're going to have the shower of their lives.
You mentioned ghosts of the past. Did you ever think the motel was haunted?
We did. Because the previous owner, Ruby Montana, she's an older lesbian and she's one of those lesbians who had a pack of dogs. So these chihuahuas would pass away. One of the chihuahuas drowned in the pool.
Yeah. So, we do think the ghost of that chihuahua is probably with us, but not malicious. I don't think dog ghosts are mean. So you know, it's a little like Santa, when you leave cookies out, we put out a little bowl of Alpo every night. I eat it.
Talk to me about Ruby Montana. She sounds like a character.
So I won't give it away. But later in the series, she comes to visit the motel and you know, it's basically like someone coming to see their new wife with their new husband or something. I think it could be weird and emotional for somebody who ran the motel for 20 years to see our complete redo. I'm also worried that she watches the show and we're like, look at this dump! So I hope she's not offended by that, but let's just say when she does come to the motel, the results are very favorable.
Did you hear from any of the other Drag Race Palm Springs residents like Bianca Del Rio or Ross Mathews?
No! Crickets. We actually wanted to have Bianca on the show, but she was touring Unsanitized at the time. Ross was doing Drag Race. So I couldn't get either of them as guests, but Mo Heart, she's a Palm Springs resident. We got her, and the Old Gays. During production, just to let off steam on Sundays, I would go to Chill Bar and I would DJ the tea dance. I would go DJ and all the local business owners would come up to me. I was afraid they were going to be like, "Get out of our town, you're annoying!" But everybody was so nice. All the businesses in town were so welcoming and so nice. I mean that's Palm Springs. If people can see that you're earnestly trying to contribute to this amazing city, they're just happy you're there to help. All hands on deck because Palm Springs is different. People live in Palm Springs as a choice and they're proud of it.
So when guests start staying there, are you afraid that they're going to break things?
Yes. I'm terrified.
You said the motel is like an art installation.
Yes. On the last day of shooting David and I were sitting on the roof and we were looking at the finished product and we were like, how are we going to let people in here? How are we going to let people drunk, stomp through these rooms, spill, glitter, and pass out with a glass of wine in the bathtub? How are we going to let people defile? But, you know it's a lot like having a nice outfit, you'd never wear, like a fancy pair of shoes. You never wear outside the house. You got to just do it. In drag, and especially in selling makeup, we're always telling people: Life is short, put the lipstick on. The motel's going to be a constant fixer-upper. Once the human race gets in there and starts breaking everything. I mean, that's inevitable. I'm a drag queen. I ruin towels in hotels. So I get it.
Did you have a room theme in mind that you didn't get to do?
I think David was right on this one, but I really wanted to do a pink poodle room. Because we found those lamps, we ended up pivoting to flamingo, but I wanted that room to be pink with pink faux fur and rhinestones and a little more fifties. Pink poodle, like a boudoir.
What advice do you have for couples who are watching Trixie Motel and are inspired to renovate their home?
If you want to do your living room or your kitchen or bathroom it is insane how affordable upgrades can totally change a room. Making the outlets USB, game changing. A mural. I mean, we had Very Gay Paint on the show, but just a little paint, one wall or a mural. Oh my God. It's like instant upgrade and paint is not that expensive. Depending on the size of your mural, you can go to Sherwin-Williams, and get some test swatches and just do it, costs you nothing. So, I think people should just go for it. I mean, there's a million things we did not know how to do. We just had to figure it out. Obviously we had help, but we figured it out.
If people are coming to Palm Springs to stay at the Trixie Motel, what's something else that people should do while they're in town?
There's a vintage store called Iconic Atomic that has really beautiful vintage clothing and housewares. I love the nachos at Blackbook. I also really recommend, even though it's hotter than hell, running in Palm Springs is great because you can either get desert views or you can have curb views of the most beautiful homes. Go running in some of their residential neighborhoods. The houses are breathtaking, not to mention the houses in Palm Springs have exterior lights. So at night people's houses are lit up like it's a Hollywood premiere. It's amazing.
So you said no to the All Stars "all-winners" season, but is there a winner you would love to go up against?
Katya? Oh no, she's a loser. Well, some of my favorite winners are actually not on the season. Bob, Alaska, Priyanka. So I have some of my own faves that I wish I could see compete. I will never compete. I'm not much of a competitor. On All Stars I got the crown by the skin of my teeth. You know at the casino when you need to cash out and go home? I cashed out and went home.
I would love to see you against Violet Chachki.
I thought you said winner? No, I'm kidding. Violet needs to be on. She's so amazing. When I had her on Pit Stop, it just changed my life. I want Violet judging. She should guest judge on Queen of the Universe.
Maybe you could put in a good word.
I do know a guy.
Trixie Motel is now streaming on Discovery+.