Ahead of her long-anticipated Australian return with fellow 'RuPaul’s Drag Race' icon Trixie Mattel, Katya Zamolodchikova reflects on their return to live performance and more importantly, their relationship.
The dynamic between Katya and Trixie has made the pair one of the most post-'Drag Race' pairings and certainly, independent of each other, each have established themselves as two of the franchise’s most recognisable personalities.
First introduced to audiences on season seven of the long-running show back in 2015, Katya quickly emerged as a fan-favourite: a mixture of self-deprecation and insatiable humor met a natural talent for performance that made her perfect for captivating audiences around the world.
Going on to be crowned Miss Congeniality in her original season before returning to 'Drag Race: All Stars' for its second season in 2016, Katya’s legacy was solidifying on screen. Developing a professional partnership with Trixie (another season seven alum and 'Drag Race: All Stars 3' winner) across multiple projects in the years since has continued to bring more Katya fans into the fold: the pair’s unfiltered approach to literally any topic under the sun, their banter and impossible-not-to-love partnership has cemented the ‘Trixie and Katya’ brand in recent years.
And while all of this is happening on screen, both performers are thriving off screen. This October, Trixie and Katya are releasing a new book in 'Working Girls: Trixie & Katya’s Guide To Professional Womanhood'. Their podcast, 'The Bald & The Beautiful', continues to grow.
More immediately, Mattel has released a double LP project ('The Blonde & Pink Albums') and will launch renovation series 'Trixie Motel' on the Discovery Channel in June. Not to mention the continuation of the duo’s successful Netflix YouTube recap series 'I Like To Watch'. It’s all happening.
“We’re so different, that it’s impossible for us to get jealous of one another,” Katya points out.
“I’m so happy for her music, but I don’t listen to it, it’s not to my taste. I’m not ever at home seething because I wanted to be a folk star, you know? It’s the same with me, we genuinely just want each other to succeed.”
“The only problem that we’re having now is that I just don’t want her to get ill because she’s working too much. I’m the opposite, I say no to everything!” she laughs.
“But that’s a luxury thing, you know? She keeps saying yes to everything. I joke with her all the time like, 'You cannot die first, you cannot die first. I’m the one who is ready to go! Stick to the script!'”
Quite fittingly, the season seven sisters are now seven seasons into their own show 'UNHhhh', the webseries that now exceeds well over 160 episodes. And in 2022, Trixie and Katya officially made their return to live performing, bringing the 'Trixie & Katya LIVE' tour to massive theatres throughout North America.
Now, it’s time for Australian fans to embrace the full Trixie and Katya fantasy; a long-awaited tour for the queens and fans alike.
“It’s such a strange thing for me to do a show over and over, and not get sick of it or embarrassed by it!” Katya says.
“I’m really proud of it and I think people are really going to love it. Luckily, I think our fans have extremely low expectations of what we do. For me, I can only speak for myself, I think they’re absolutely delighted that I show up, I’m alive, I have a wig on and I’m standing up. After that, it’s all a bonus. Vertical and wigged.”
When Katya and I connect, we’re both in hotel rooms: myself in Sydney, Katya in London, where she and Trixie would be reuniting to complete press for their UK/European tour in November (including a stop at Wembley Arena).
Though they’ve been performing alongside one another for years, the scale of 'Trixie & Katya LIVE' makes it foreign territory for both artists.
“This is the first time we’ve ever really done something substantial together. We’ve done club tours and whatever, but this is a big production.” Katya explains.
“Between myself, my assistant and a writer from LA, we wrote a 90 page script that we had to memorise. It’s basically a play, a musical play. It’s really unlike anything we’ve ever done before.”
On how the Australian version of such a large-scale production is bound to change, Katya admits that there will be slight differences, simply due to logistics. It’s harder to ship an 18-wheeler truck’s worth of production to the other side of the world than it is to simply drive it around the U.S., of course.
“We had two giant tour buses and an 18 wheeler truck, plus a wagon,” Katya remembers.
“In Australia, it’s going to be a little different because we’ll be flying; the show is going to change a little bit. It’s always a little different anyways because yes, we have a script and the whole thing is scripted, but part of the enjoyment for Trixie and I is when we forget a line or we go off for a bit. That provides a lot of spontaneous humour that I think fans know us for. We’re not exactly Helen Mirren and Judi Dench, let’s just say that. I’ll look like Helen Mirren in about two years, but I won’t have the talent!”
Looking ahead to their 17-date Australian run that will take the duo nationwide before heading to New Zealand at the end of July, Katya speaks with the confidence of a performer who knows the formula to their success is tried, tested and more importantly, works.
The first leg of their world tour, coming after the pandemic snatched two years of confirmed work out of the air, has reconfirmed both Katya and Trixie’s dedication to their professional partnership and through that – their friendship.
Long-time fans who have followed their journey are well aware that it hasn’t always been popular Netflix shows and New York Times best selling successes. Katya’s battle with and overcoming addiction is an integral part of how the duo’s relationship has been reshaped and galvanised in recent years. As Katya admits, it’s coming together for a production like this that has reminded her of how important these relationships are at the end of the day.
“I’m really proud of us,” she says.
“When I step away and think about what the qualities are that work with our duo, a lot of it is about contrast. For our characters or even just ourselves, she’s the hard worker and I’m the one who wants to stay home and be lazy. She’s the consistent one, I’m the wild card.”
“I realised halfway through finishing the leg [of the tour]. . . I was like, 'Wait a minute – no, we are extremely diligent'. Maybe it’s because the qualities of a typical drag queen are usually messy, drunk, late, unreliable. And while I’ve had my moments personally, we’re very hard workers and we take the show very seriously. We never miss a cue, we’re always there, we’re always on time and we show up for each other.”
“There was a whole week during the first leg where I was gravely ill,” Katya remembers.
“I was laying on the ground until we heard the music of the show start. Then when it started, I was there and I was present in the scene, doing my job. One day, we never have earnest moments, but I hugged her and was like, 'I love working with you and I love that we get to do this'. We just can’t count on people a lot, you know? There’s not a lot of people you can really count on and we really have shown up for each other on this tour. It’s really special.”
If the last few years have proven anything, it’s that the normalcy of life can be switched up at any moment. Yet it’s how we adapt and move on that matters. For Katya, she didn’t need a global pandemic to realise how severe such life changes can be. Still, it puts things into perspective and looking ahead, the horizon looks bright, exciting: driven by two sexy blondes with wicked personalities and resilience to match.
“She and I, professionally and personally, hit a very low bottom three or four years ago.” Katya says candidly.
“Funnily enough it was during COVID, this global tragedy, that brought us together. We were poised to do a world tour; that went invisible overnight, it was just cancelled. On Monday, we had dollar signs in our eyes and then on Tuesday, we had nothing. In figuring out how to survive and then thrive and produce during the pandemic, we really became close and it solidified our partnership.”
“It sounds terrible, because I know so many people lost their livelihoods and so many things changed, especially for live performers, but it actually brought us to another level. We’re not the kind of people who are just going to give up. It was really cool to take things to the next level with her. It’s really lovely, I’m really grateful for her.”
Trixie & Katya LIVE 2022 Australia Tour Dates
19-21 June – Astor Theatre (Perth) 23-26 June – State Theatre (Sydney) 27 June – Anita’s Theatre (Wollongong) 29 June – Odeon Theatre (Hobart) 1 July – Llewellyn Hall (Canberra) 2-3 July – The Plenary (Melbourne) 6 July – Thebarton Theatre (Adelaide) 8-9 July – QPAC (Brisbane) 10 July – The Star (Gold Coast) 12 July – Civic Theatre (Townsville) 13 July – CPAC (Cairns)