If the shaking ghosts of Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, and Jane Austen could speak right now, they’d be all “Oh, hoooooney!” as drag superstars Trixie Mattel and Katya rise to the status of literary icons (and verified Women™) alongside history’s robust menagerie of legendary authors with the release of their first book, Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood. Perfectly translating the pair’s on-screen chemistry to the written word, the RuPaul’s Drag Race stars’ collection of personal musings and essays (out Tuesday) brims with spiritually awakening content that prompts life’s important questions (are you poor?), tips for masturbation, advice on how to f— strangers, and bold gravitas in passages of self-reflection on addiction — all doled out with a lipstick-slicked smile from America’s foremost queer comedians.
Below, the pair gives EW an exclusive peek into their creative process as they recount a wild evening of writing one of the funniest books of the year together. Read on for a taste of the vital levity splashed across the book’s pages at a time when we could all use a laugh (and a mirror to check our makeup). Pre-order the project here.
Courtesy of Plume
KATYA: Now that you’re a published author, do you wake up differently? What’s different about your life?
TRIXIE MATTEL: Well, I think it’s a unique situation with me because most people, an accomplishment like this would transform them. I already love myself and walk around like I was f—ing Stephen King mixed with Dean Koontz mixed with Janet Evanovich, so this is a pamphlet… an important pamphlet!
KATYA: It’s a drop in the bucket.
TRIXIE: But it’s not telling us anything we don’t already know.
KATYA: Right, right, right, right.
TRIXIE: The real question is for you, saying yes to the project, and then “Oh my God, I have to learn how to read.”
KATYA: I have to learn how to read! You know obviously I know how to dance. I know how to do several dances. I know how to slide, I know how to twist, I know how to boogie.
TRIXIE: You also do coding on the side.
KATYA: Absolutely: one, zero, zero. I know how to do calligraphy. It’s all like second nature, but when it comes to the English language, reading, and writing, it just never came up in my childhood, so that was a daunting task enough and I had to keep it to myself. I didn’t want it to stress you out.
But when we got together for the first time to write about friendship, it was ironic, because I think I had come over with a plan to either poison you or strangle you to death, and that provided me with a jumping-off point to explore the topic.
TRIXIE: Yeah, and I was just trying to get you to stop squatting in my garage. I thought we were going to write some sort of lease agreement.
KATYA: But, listen! I mean, like I’ve maintained before, we don’t squat enough in the west you know? We have terrible hip flexion and joint mobility.
TRIXIE: I will say, we sat down in my living room — and I don’t want to ruin the illusion for anybody, but when you get your hands on Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood, an alarming amount of this book was composed in my living room.
KATYA: Yes, and we went into the boudoir. Actually, my favorite session was in the boudoir. For those of you who don’t know, she recently purchased a condominium in the heart of Hollywood, and it’s so wonderful, so well designed, so beautiful. It really is a Barbie dream house.
TRIXIE: I wrote a chapter on interior design if you want to know more.
KATYA: Yeah, and we’re in the soft light under her canopy bed, and I couldn’t help but be fixated on this giant display of vintage Barbie dolls and trying to conceal my semi-chub.
TRIXIE: You were looking at my doll collection and thinking, “Should I really venture into a business with someone who spends all their money on….” This adult baby. But, to be honest, it was fun to do, and the sections together were very fun to make because we got to have organic conversation and then turn it into a book after.
KATYA: Yeah, and there’s not a lot of effort. We have the gift of effortless chemistry because we never see each other and we prefer it that way, so you know when we do interact it’s authentic.
TRIXIE: Do you know how much time I have to spend alone to get excited to see you again?
KATYA: At least three weeks!
TRIXIE: Weeks? Months!
KATYA: Three weeks and then it’s like we get a two-hour window and anything else is a mess.
TRIXIE: Yes, we also have a unique, candid relationship, because our lives are similar in ways that are not similar to other people’s. So certain things that are huge problems to us, other people be like “Get f—in’ real, bitch.”
KATYA: Yeah, get real, but that kind of un-relatability really binds us together, because you really can’t talk to people about certain things because you either sound like a psychopath, ungrateful or totally just out of touch. But, it’s like um, you know…
TRIXIE: This is L.A. You know I want to talk about the fact that my grocery store was out of pulp-free orange juice and I want to cuss about it.
KATYA: Or I want to talk about the fact that my trainer started wiping down the equipment with disinfectant before my session was done.
TRIXIE: Before the session was done!?
KATYA: It’s a read, but…
TRIXIE: Oh, it’s a complete read. Anyway, about that night we were writing together. Wasn’t I about to go on tour the next day? No, you were about to go on tour, because we were talking about travel and you were about to leave.
KATYA: It was strange. We didn’t have a lot of time to do it together. There was a very small window of opportunity, so I knew that if we were going to get together and we were gonna write this book, I only had about 15 to 20 minutes to put all of those little poison mouse traps in your apartment in places she can’t see. And I just had to hope that I would hear about it somehow while I was on the road.
TRIXIE: And I said to her, I looked right at her and said, “Nothing you f—ing say to me matters unless I can transcribe it and sell it. So, push record and start telling me your little story,” and I said, “Mhmm,” and every time I did an active listening “mhmm,” I could just see the money, just my eyes turning into pinwheels…
KATYA: “Blah, blah, blah, dollar signs, dollars signs.”
TRIXIE: To be honest, I don’t know where I would’ve started if we weren’t in this together, because there would’ve been less accountability. And even being able to sit down that night, talking through the book made it less booky and therefore less daunting.
KATYA: It was also funny because when we were finished recording that session, we were much too busy to transcribe it ourselves, so we had this big audio file, and our assistant struggled to figure out whose voice was whose.
TRIXIE: Is that true?
KATYA: Yes. And there was a lot of shrieking, a lot of screaming, and then sometimes there was just like 45 seconds of “uh-huh, yeah, uh-huh,” which is riveting on the written page. Sometimes I forget and respond, “Oh, totally.”
TRIXIE: “Oh, for sure.”
KATYA: Pulitzers have been mailed.
TRIXIE: So the book, the section talking together, I think that night we talked about travel and friendship? We tackled both chapters the same day and if you ever wanted to know what it would be like to be in a room with us, those sections definitely read like that. We’re not trying to make ourselves look like good people.
KATYA: No, no, no, no! The only thing I do wish is that the pages of the book were textured like my legs… the scaly, flakey psoriasis.
TRIXIE: It would look like stacks of bark.
KATYA: Maybe that’s for the next volume.
TRIXIE: I like our sources. I would say, there is definitely no, um, bibliography in the back citing the sources we’ve chosen. Because it’ll say, “Should I get bangs? — Hamlet.” Now, don’t fact check that! I’m going to tell you right off the bat, don’t fact check any of the quotes. I read my sister in this book three times and I’m like, “Good thing I hid reads about her in the only place she isn’t gonna look.”
KATYA: She’s never gonna read the book so you’re in the clear.
TRIXIE: Oh, by the way, we talked about personal style that day, and we were both in all-black sweatpants and t-shirts, and I think sandals, being like, “Well, here’s the tea on fashion, honey!”
KATYA: It was like if the cameras were rolling, you couldn’t find a more pathetic, out-of-touch, unstylish duo of bald f—s.
TRIXIE: Bald, sun-damaged skin, just weathered, it looks like we had a hard twenties.
KATYA: Yeah, and a hard thirties. So, the irony is very thick, deep, and vicious in terms of all the sections of the book. It took a couple hours per section because we like to flap to get a rhythm going, and we really flap the gums back and forth.
TRIXIE: We pulled out a lot of the s–t-talking, but yes, there’s still a lot in there.
KATYA: Still a lot in there but I’m known for kind of veering off-course, and she’d have to lasso me back in.
TRIXIE: That’s why people are always like, “Why do you interrupt her?” Do you know what this would be if I didn’t? Do you know what it would be if I didn’t reach in and shake this person? “I hate how she interrupts her.” Ok, great, let’s see a PowerPoint, then. Let’s let her go. I’m trying to help us!
KATYA: Let her continue one sentence!
TRIXIE: And the mood shifts and the tangents, sometimes you’ll remember a detail of a story and just go, like, “Oh.”
KATYA: A great thing about the book is we don’t edit photos, but the writing definitely is edited down. It’s reduced to its purest, most potent essence.
TRIXIE: I’d say modern womanhood is the most challenging type of position to be in because the modern woman is presented with, I don’t know, sort of like a prototype. Women now are supposed to match something that doesn’t exist. It’s an ideal that was never in place in the first place. And this book makes fun of it and reminds you of like, “Girl, f— whatever people think you’re supposed to do. Cut your own f—ing bangs and put on lipstick and do your thing.” Whatever. Anyway, when we were working on it, I remember the sun was coming in my windows.
KATYA: It was a golden hour.
TRIXIE: The golden hour. She was sitting on my couch.
KATYA: Trixie’s beautiful skin was cast in an amber tone, while my gaunt face was sort of perked up a little bit by the warmth of the sun, so I looked a little bit less like a corpse. I think there were a couple of hooligans cavorting down in the area, a lot of construction going on across the street…
TRIXIE: Oh God, that’s right! They were building a condo by me for a full year, just all day. And it’s Hollywood so… a naked woman in a wig pushing a shopping cart screaming.
KATYA: Trixie would get mad at me throughout the course of the evening because of the construction going on. I’d go on the balcony and flash my titties to the workers, and she’d try to pull me back in and keep talking.
TRIXIE: I’d been drinking the night before so I was puking. I asked her to hold my hair and she said, “Why don’t you just take it off?”
KATYA: And of course I’m trying to collect the puke in a ziplock bag to ship it overseas and it was just a whole thing.
TRIXIE: I think I moved into my house… I don’t remember when, but it wasn’t that long after, because it was still not very furnished. It was really good for writing because my house was literally like a table and a couch.
KATYA: I do remember her toilet was dirty though… I thought that was interesting because I had just s— in it.
TRIXIE: Well, that’s the thing, and you didn’t even s— in the toilet, you s— in the back of it.
KATYA: Yes, the “Upper Decker.”
TRIXIE: Mhmm… Oh yeah, and I bet we got Postmates! I bet we got Veggie Grill or something. We both are kind of… healthy.
KATYA: Yeah, I was probably just sucking on grapes. Chewing on roughage.
TRIXIE: Taking the skin off ’em with your teeth and spitting them back out.
KATYA: I was just gnawing on vegetables because I was really trying. I was trying to work through a hemorrhoid situation at the time, which has since resolved… Listen, I don’t know if anyone at home has had hemorrhoids but they are rotten.
TRIXIE: I get more hemorrhoids in my ass than I do d—.
KATYA: We’re trying to sit down and be published authors and you have this f—in’ um, this throbbing, um, uh, engorged vein on the f—in’ rim of your anus just screaming.
KATYA: Screaming bloody murder.
TRIXIE: I said, “I’m gay, can I use my a—hole?” My body said, “No! But thank you for asking!”
KATYA: Basically, that night in particular, along with many other nights, have been marred by unimaginable inconveniences and horrific body horror tragedies.
TRIXIE: But that’s for our next book. Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood and the Chamber of Secrets.
KATYA: Body horror.
TRIXIE: If you’re reading and you’ve jumped ship from J.K. Rowling, we’d love to be your new favorite authors. How about that?
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