'Drag Race' Star Trixie Mattel Talks New Album, Barbies and Being Taken Seriously as a Musician

"I was a kid who wasn't allowed to play with Barbies. As an adult, she was somebody who, for drag, was this endless spout of inspiration," Trixie Mattel says

Life in plastic, it’s fantastic — for Trixie Mattel!

Since appearing on the seventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Mattel, 30, has become a beloved mainstay in the drag community and beyond, winning the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars and finding even more fans through her career as an alt-country music artist.

For her third album, Barbara, the drag queen and singer-songwriter lives out her California girl dreams while taking inspiration from America’s most iconic doll, Barbie.

Here, Mattel opens up to PEOPLE about Barbara, Barbies and her battle to be taken seriously as a musician.

Trixie Mattel
Trixie Mattel. Shore Fire Media

Barbara is a concept album. How did it come together?

Barbie is short for Barbara so that would be Barbie’s real name, or first name before she was Barbie. For the look of Trixie for this record, I went back to my original sketches of what Trixie looked like, which was this sort of ’60s beach bunny with a super dark tan and a super dark sense of humor.

I’ve lived in California for a year now, and it’s like living in perpetual summer. I had the idea for this record to be my first California record that’s really about … things being beautiful, time doesn’t really move, no one ages here, seasons never change. Side B is a little more classic Trixie, a little more storyteller kind of folk music. Side A is so glossy and beautiful and sort of poppy — a little more like the music I grew up on, like Blink-182 or Fountains of Wayne or Weezer.

You can tell I’m kind of in my Katy Perry Teenage Dream phase right now with.

Tell me about Barbie’s influence on you — as a drag performer and as someone in the queer community.

I was a kid who wasn’t allowed to play with Barbies. As an adult, she was somebody who, for drag, was this endless spout of inspiration because if I could do blonde hair and fair skin and blue eyes and pink lips, it’s like: Wow, here’s this 50-year catalog of looks that I could pull off. It’s like a catharsis. I had this extreme yearning when I was a kid to be allowed to play with dolls and be a gay kid. And I just wasn’t. In a lot of ways being Trixie is sort of the vengeance of that, getting to do all that stuff and do it — bigger and blonder and crazier.

I think Barbie is so drag. Every Barbie doll comes from the same mold, right, it’s just plastic. And then they market it by putting clothes on it. Whatever she’s dressed as, that’s what she is. Isn’t that drag? It’s sort of just the fantasy of you are what you’re dressed as. You’re as rich as you look, you’re as tall and beautiful as you appear. Whatever is being presented is the truth. That’s why she was an early inspiration — but with Trixie now, you can tell I love Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Marcia Brady, there’s Polly Pocket.

Trixie Mattel
Trixie Mattel. Shore Fire Media

As a drag artist and a singer-songwriter, how do you work to be taken seriously as a musician?

I wanted to be a musician long before I wanted to be a drag queen. I was 12, in the country, playing a guitar thinking I was a musician. Now, sometimes I forget I’m a drag queen — I just feel like a performer.

I know that drag queen music isn’t traditionally the best quality. I hate to say it, but every record I do, I have to think about people whose instinct is to discount my work because I like cross-dressing: “How are they going to hear this?” And where are the parts in the record where I’m going to let them see behind the curtain with this little proof that like, “Oh wow, there’s actually some musicianship in here.”

Trixie Mattel

How did Drag Race change your life?

My undergrad was Drag Race, and All Stars is my graduate degree. It really gave me perspective, it gave me money to make things with. It gave me confidence and experience, like, “Okay, I’m not an imposter, I belong here, and I’m a good drag queen.”

Now more than ever, when I write jokes, when I write music, when I come up with looks for Trixie, I know exactly what she looks and sounds like. I know exactly what the character is and exactly what people like about her. I know exactly the type of power and the type of stuff I can get away with as her. And I know exactly what people like about me.

You’re a Kacey Musgraves fan. She’s a fan of yours. Will we ever see a collaboration?

I mean, I’ve been asked a hundred times. But she’s like a big famous person. So probably not. What would she really gain by making music with me when her music is kind of fabulous on its own? I’m more of a liability.

How do you spend a day off?

I love to play video games, I love to get Postmates, I love to ride my bike, I love to go for a run — very basic, very boring. If I can see my boyfriend, usually we’ll get together and watch movies. We love horror movies, that’s kind of our go-to. I really like spending time with my boyfriend; he really calms me down.

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