The stars of UNHhhh essentially dodged all of my questions.
Why is peanut butter and jelly such a fabulous pairing? The reason is indiscernible — it just is. And the same can be said about Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova, the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 7 veterans who’ve become synonymous with each other since they first appeared on the Emmy-winning show in 2015. Back then, they didn’t immediately hit it off as BFFs or a match made in gay heaven. In fact, long before they teamed up to co-host their uber popular (and hilarious) digital series UNHhhh, their chemistry was, as RuPaul often yells during Snatch Game, not a match!
When I ask them both why they connected like magnets, a cold silence washes over Zoom before they each burst into laughter and (in unison) say, “I don’t know!” But really, they bonded over an experience anyone can relate to: losing. “Everybody was either trying to win or really mad about not winning. We didn’t really care either way,” Trixie tells Elite Daily, reflecting on her Season 7 experience. Katya agrees: “Neither one of us were the type of, like, yasss, gawd, fierce, hunty, work, diva, mama — you know, that kinda queen. We were not part of that world.”
No, they may not have been. However, both queens eventually found their unique footing, together and independently (Trixie earned the All Stars Season 3 crown in 2018 while Katya has secured her tough-to-get spot as a fan fave). Their success is evident as co-hosts of the Netflix web series I Like to Watch, plus their beloved podcast, The Bald and the Beautiful. Now in its sixth season, UNHhhh provides comedic relief for the millions of viewers who tune in to watch delightful episodes, each themed after a random selection of topics from disappointment, nudes, and stress to teachers, quitting, and babies. As the World of Wonder series’ slogan will remind you, it’s “the show where we talk about whatever we want, ‘cause it’s our show, and not yours.”
Ahead of their 2022 IRL tour (a parody show aptly titled Trixie and Katya Live!), I caught up with the duo to attempt to discuss their hit series, life amid the coronavirus pandemic, and what’s next. Why attempt, you ask? Well, let’s just say trying to get a word with these two is the ultimate drag feat. Don’t worry, though: it’s all in jest.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Elite Daily: COVID-19 forced us all to slow down, especially back in 2020. Did that experience change your drag?
Katya: My bunions grew back and my calluses got softer. I don’t know how to walk in heels anymore — at all. It was a nice break, but my spatial awareness is all f*cked up. I don’t really know how to work the stage properly anymore, or use my legs. My endurance is really bad now. Basically, I’m just terrible.
Trixie: If you didn’t think we could get worse at drag, stay tuned!
Katya: It’s like that movie Old. Every week of not performing is like a year of not performing, and I’m, like, 80 years old now.
Trixie: It’s true. I think I have, as a performer, atrophied entirely. I know we’re supposed to be like, “You can’t kill a drag queen. I can’t wait to get back out there!” Now I’m sort of like, “I’ve been to every place in the world already. Do I have to go back on tour?” I’ve already passed out in every armchair at every airport.
ED: So then what inspired you to hit the road together in 2022?
Trixie: Well, when you run out of money… [Laughs]. We could probably count on two hands the number of shows we’ve actually done together. We don’t really perform together, ‘cause I’m good. This will be the first time we tour since our infamous Australia tour!
Katya: It’s fully scripted. It’s like a play, a large play. There are a lot of words that are written down that are gonna fly out of our mouths. You better believe it.
Trixie: I also can’t trust myself to come up with anything funny. You know, being comedy partners with someone who’s barely hanging on, it’s important to take these opportunities when they’re available to you. Have you ever heard of the phrase here today, gone tomorrow?
Katya: Let’s just say that the second leg of the show might be her in an urn.
ED: Congratulations on five years of UNHhhh and all of its success! What’s it like knowing so many fans tune in to watch?
Katya: It doesn’t feel like it because... let me tell you something. Let me clue you in on a sobering fact about all of this so-called success that you speak of: There were no snacks on set earlier this week for this viewed-by-millions show. It was nary a snack. No snack. Nothing. One person’s success is another person’s humiliating experience. You never know. They keep us humble.
Trixie: You know what’s sad? When this interview gets read, we will be getting a call about saying there were no snacks.
ED: Well, what kind of snacks would you have liked?
Katya: Nuts! I don’t know, anything. But actually, it’s still very much like a mom and pop operation where Pete [Williams], the director, is both mom and pop, and then we just wander into the frame every few minutes. It’s taken on by the brilliant editors, so we’re not really the stars. But there still needs to be snacks. I’m just gonna say it.
ED: You absolutely deserve snacks. As a fan, I’d love to know how you ideate for each episode. Where do your jokes come from?
Katya: They come right out of our ass. Sometimes Pete will suggest topics. Sometimes we’ll suggest them. I often come up with stinkers. Like, I insisted that we do lunch [as a topic] and that didn’t work out so well, although the editors made it gold, magic. It’s all very off the cuff, not planned, spontaneous, lazy.
Trixie: We used to text weeks beforehand, like 10 options, and would pick the best one. And now we’re literally sitting back there in drag and we’re like, “Have we talked about the dentist? We have? Three times? Oh, sh*t!”
Trixie: At this point, the editors hate us, like, let’s just get that right out there.
Katya: Imagine having to make us funny for five, six seasons. Jesus! They’re wizards!
ED: Your looks have to have a bit more planning behind them, right?
Trixie: Well, I come ready, completely done. And I have two outfits with exactly two more wigs, exactly two more pairs of earrings.
Katya: I come in late, well, not too late, with half my face done. I look like Mr. Burns in drag, hobbling down the stairs with my giant suitcase. And then I’ll dump all the jewelry that I own on the couch. And then Fena [Barbitall, UNHhhh’s hair and makeup artist] comes in. She’s the one aspect in which I’m prepared, the hair. She’s done these big, crazy hairdos for me, and then all the outfits revolve around this big hair that I wear. If she didn’t show up, I would be bald, or just wearing the same wig and it would be very bad. She wins the medal for preparation.
ED: Fans worship you both. What celebrities have you been starstruck by?
Katya: A couple years ago I ran into Tatiana Maslany on Santa Monica Boulevard wearing a Trixie and Katya shirt! And I was like, holy sh*t! She was starstruck by me, but she’s the real star. I’ve met her a couple times. And then I also met a bunch of movie stars who are fans, which is crazy to me. Like, actual movie stars. Kate Beckinsale. Kate Beckinsale. Kate Beckinsale. That’s crazy!
Trixie: I never know who anybody is. I have the unique experience of being like, “That b*tch was rude!” And my boyfriend will be like, “That was Michelle Obama.” I’ll be like, “Oof, yikes! Who’s the grim reaper over there?” They're like, that’s Dame Judi Dench. And I’m like, “I am so sorry.” But I’ve met Amanda Lepore probably 10 times, and every time I meet her I have a singular experience of heart palpitations. I get dizzy, I just can’t believe. And I don’t even think she knows who I am, nor does she care. I just get the picture and leave and cry. Every time I meet RuPaul, that really doesn’t wear off.
Katya: That’s very true. RuPaul and Amanda Lepore are physically very striking individuals — you know, seven feet tall.
Trixie: And Amanda being really small, like a trinket, is a whole part of it.
Katya: She’s like a beautiful, glossy, naked doll. She’s also such a sweetheart, like, incredibly nice.
ED: I saw her at a party in New York recently and crowds parted, people gasped.
Katya: That happens to us once a year at DragCon, where we walk into a room and people gasp or puke or whatever. But when we’re out of drag, it’s kind of a different vibe.
Trixie: I’ll walk to a bar [out of drag] and I’ll hear, “Oh, I didn’t know it was old, bald f*gg*t night!” And then someone throws up. It’s so horrible. Recently, we couldn’t even start the episode ‘cause I kept being like, “Do you know how bad we look out of drag?”
Katya: Our fans assume a level of familiarity and adopt the same kind of conversational tone, let’s say, with us online or elsewhere. They feel like [they can make fun of us] and say, “Hey, you saggy, bald f*ck!” It’s not exactly what you want to hear from a stranger when you’re tired, or whatever, out of context.
Trixie: Our fans believe that they know us. You know, you post a picture being like, “I feel so beautiful today.” And they’ll flat out just be like, “Well, you’re not, you old baldy.” It’s like, “Oh, work. Cool.”
ED: On that note, any message to fans out there?
Katya: What would you say to Kate Beckinsale? You wouldn’t call her a bald f*ck, would you? You’d say, “beautiful lady, beautiful lady, beautiful lady!”
ED: What can fans expect for the future of UNHhhh?
Trixie: This is it. This is the best we’ve looked.
Katya: We’re both aging like cheese or wine or whatever. We don’t know.
UNHhhh is now streaming on WOW Presents Plus.
Correction: A previous version of this story identified UNHhhh’s hair and makeup artist as Christina. It has since been updated to Fena Barbitall.