For almost seven years now, Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova have had the whole world saying “UNHhhh.”
Launched by the Drag Race stars and World Of Wonder in 2016, UNHhhh is part web series, part best friend catch up, and the queens manage to look great doing it. This is no small feat considering UNHhhh is about to release its 200th episode on March 15, exclusively on WOW Presents Plus. That’s 200 instances of Trixie and Katya having to throw together a drag look that’s comfortable enough to sit in, looks great on screen, and looks great on them. Byrdie asked the pair for some tips on getting it all together and for a little backstage tea as well, and the pair thankfully obliged.
You can almost track the rise of your popularity over the course of the show. Do you all look at those episodes and see the glow-up occurring?
Trixie: Originally it was us approaching [production company World of Wonder] about this idea for a show and we had to earn trust a little bit, which is totally fine because there had never been a show like ours. On paper, it sounds like a last minute assignment you didn't do. “What's the show about?” “Well, we're just going to sit and talk.” That sounds horrible, but it did work.
Katya: We were building it from literally nothing, piece by piece.
Trixie: We were very lucky that World Of Wonder trusted us. They let us invent the show as we went.
Katya: They also gave us total artistic freedom and license to do whatever and say whatever, which is great.
Trixie: I mean, that's why so many years later UNHhhh remains one of our favorite gigs, because even though the viewership is insane, it never once has felt high pressure. Never!
Well, you’ve certainly gone for it though, Katya. You wore a wig that featured a hand covered in hair. You’ve pushed boundaries look-wise.
Katya: We've had the great pleasure of bringing in some of our friends as we've gotten a little bit more clout and pull and success with the show. My friend Fena Barbitall created that hand hairpiece thing. Every time I tell her to make me look sexy, she makes me look like I'm from Whoville.
Trixie: We’ve gotten a little more money, a little more viewership. Our resources now are different, but not drastically different. I don't want to be gauche, but neither of us are in it for the money. This is not a high-paying, high-budget show. This is one of the only things that would run this long where the stars haven't given up because the pay wasn't at a level where… you know, you want your Jennifer Aniston season 10 money. With this show in particular we're not really in it for anything other than enjoying it, and I think that makes it endearing.
Katya: I love watching the show just as much as anybody else, too, because the true stars have always really been the editors [Ron Hill and Jeff Maccubbin]. They're just so spectacular and creative. The detail that they expend over many, many, many hours a week doing each episode is pretty impressive.
Trixie: We've told the same stories so many times, and [the audience will] go along with it. We're like their eccentric aunts with dementia where they're like, “Okay, yep. I've never heard this story before. Go ahead.”
Especially now that you have so many outlets. You have tours, you have the podcast, you have I Like To Watch with Netflix. You’re paid to chat in many places.
Katya: We’ve got to do something silent, like obstacle courses.
Trixie: We’re like RuPaul in that we understand which things we should talk about off camera and which things we talk about on camera, because if we just filmed a TV show we're not allowed to talk about for a year, we're obviously not going to talk about it right away on camera. Instead, we’ll pick some kind of abstract, life deep cut that you probably would never talk about. “I'm gonna talk about this teacher I had, I'm going to talk about my first sexual experience.” It’s always stuff that really doesn't come up in other ventures.
What makes a good UNHhhh outfit?
Katya: That’s usually the fun part for me. I have a sewing studio, separate from my house so most of the time, I try to make my own outfits and that brings me so much pleasure. There are no stylists. I wish I could borrow expensive jewelry from someplace but I'm not Gwyneth Paltrow or whatever.
So, coming up with the fashion choices is like, half of the fun.
Trixie: For me my look is always a sort of me time. It's where I'm going to wear things that I like that I know don't necessarily work on a red carpet. It’s like, “You know what? I'm going to put on this lovely little ‘60s shift dress and I'm going to put on this $40 go-go boot and I'm going to scream for 90 minutes.”
Katya: We hardly ever look like we're going to the same event or even have any kind of dealings with each other in any conceivable reality. Well, sometimes we do, but unexpectedly because we never plan what we’re going to wear with each other.
Trixie: We have a lot of differences. I'm not a jewelry person. She travels with a lot of jewelry. Me, I usually just have, like, one pair of earrings for each outfit and no rings and no necklaces.
Katya: Her wigs are always fabulous.
Trixie: Yeah, I like having nice hair. I always feel like I’m actually in drag if I have nice hair, because then I can wear kind of a normal outfit. I like dressing like a clown version or a cartoon version of a normal person's outfit. It’s like, “oh, that dress has pockets and a white collar,” but then you realize that the proportion of the print is weird. That’s what I like.
Katya: I mean, we're only restricted by the fact that we can’t wear green.
Trixie: Yeah, we can’t ever wear green because of the green screen. We recently did a photoshoot in green for the first time and it was flat out weird to be wearing green.
Katya: It was so strange. Very surreal.
Do you think you could style each other?
Katya: Absolutely, yes.
Trixie: I could do a police lineup with people of her exact body type. Even if I couldn’t see the faces, I guarantee I can pick which one was actually her.
Katya: I actually really love the ‘60s mod vibe. I love the silhouette she does and I love the styling and the shapes, but some of the colors are just not my choice.
Trixie: She's more adventurous than I am, too. She wants her outfits to be different from one another. I'm fine with mine being like a uniform. Drag queens never come up to me and go, “I wish I had that outfit.” None of my outfits are drag queen stage wear anymore. When I have a real club appearance to DJ, I have to dig for something actually sequined or that looks right.
Katya: Nowadays I get excited by cream slacks and a blouse with a big belt and a chunky shoe. The goal of that look is always to look like Ellen Barkin. I like to kind of inhabit a different character each time I put on a look. Other days, I’ll look like the cat's ass.
Trixie: Those are the days where I go big because I have to try to feel something. Then I'm going to do the corset. Those are the days where I need to use pain to trick myself into this.
We love doing the show but you better believe every time we have to film, we talk about whether or not we should just disappear into the mountains. It has nothing to do with the show or with World Of Wonder or anything. It just has to do with the drag queen process of FOMO that turns into “I wish I didn't have to do what I'm doing.”
Katya: A to B in terms of gratitude to desperation is pretty sharp and with a quick transition.
Well, as you’ve said on your podcast, you’ve taken everything you once loved and turned it into a job.
Trixie: My contribution is always "how do we take something we love and commodify it?"
Every job is work and every human being needs to complain about parts of their job. It's just part of the experience. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with our job.
I would also like to say that our show is successful in a way we never thought possible, which is to say that it gets viewed, which is great. This show creates lifelong, hardcore fans. For how long it's been going and how big it's gotten, you would think the team would have expanded, too, but it’s still basically the same handful of people who've been making it from the beginning.
Katya: We're the core of a very small group. It's pretty impressive that they haven't left us. And Bjork loves the show. She told me personally that it got her through the pandemic. If that's not another seal of approval, I don't know what the hell is.
Most of your videos have millions of views. It’s a lot!
Katya: You know what, though? Pimple popping videos have that many views, too. It’s the audience of people making the views that really counts to me and there's a lot of cool people watching, which is awesome.