There are few ventures drag legend Trixie Mattel hasn’t dipped her stilettoed toes into. The RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season three winner is a celebrated TV and internet personality, singer-songwriter, and comedian with an eponymous cosmetics line. Now, she’s giving the hosts of televised renovation series like Fixer Upper and Love It or List It a run for their money.
After joking with her friends for years about one day renovating a hotel in her likeness, Trixie and her partner, film producer David Silver, decided to purchase the dilapidated Coral Sands Inn in Palm Springs. The midcentury motel in the California desert was in desperate need of a complete makeover. With both of their ties to the entertainment industry, Trixie and David thought it only made sense to televise the entire experience—hence the eight-episode series, Trixie Motel, which debuted on Discovery+ in early June.
For the transformative remodel, the duo landed on maximalist interior designer Dani Dazey and local legend David Rios as project manager. (Rios has been flipping homes in the Los Angeles and Palm Springs area for more than 25 years, and, according to Trixie, is a drag queen who is "only missing the wig," making him a perfect fit.) In each episode, the team renovates a different themed room or overhauls one of the motel’s main areas (watch out for the pool decks—Trixie calls them "sleeper hits"). Along the journey, Trixie invites a parade of friends to help out, including hospitality mogul Lisa Vanderpump, comedian Nicole Byer, Property Brothers star Jonathan Scott, and drag queens Katya and Jaida Essence Hall, to name a few.
We spoke to Trixie about what it was like to film the ambitious midcentury motel renovation and discussed the DIY ethos of the project, as well as her advice for first-time renovators. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Dwell: You recently became co-owner of a bar called This Is It! in your home city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Did that experience inspire you to get more into hospitality and commercial spaces?
Trixie Mattel: I bought the bar around the same time I was already working on the motel. I think the pandemic honestly just gave me a second to think about how I want to center myself as more than a performer. I love performing, it’s my bread and butter. But my point of view and the experiences that I’ve had traveling the world...I’ve been to every gay bar, every motel, every city. I think I really just started to feel very confident about my point of view in a place like a bar or a hotel or a restaurant or something.
I mean, having a bar was great because it’s almost like having a venue for drag, right? But with the motel, I wanted to make something that was like living in an art installation. These rooms are immersive art experiences. It’s like you’re sleeping inside a sculpture.
Do the updated interiors of the Trixie Motel take after your own home?
My home in Los Angeles is very "Trixie in L.A." Everything is pink and lucite in gold and white enamel. It’s like a little Barbie bungalow. For the motel, it’s pink, but we definitely explored a lot of other textures, colors, and vibes. We themed the rooms in a way that you would never theme in someone’s house.
Got it. So, is there anything that didn’t air on the show that you think deserves a moment in the sun?
We shot so much, but honestly, we kept the best parts in the show. I’m executive producer so I get to say what goes and stays, and I think we kept the best parts. There are definitely elements...I wish I could personally walk everyone through the rooms and talk about every single item. We have little record players in every room; David and I put together an amazing vinyl collection for the motel. People will be able to stay there and check out what David and I handpicked. There are a lot of details that I wish we had more time to talk about. The pink-and-green clay tiles in the Flamingo Room are from Fireclay Tile. I wish we could have gotten more information on how they make those.
Do you have advice for anyone who wants to undertake a renovation?
Be realistic with your budget and timeline. And do as much of it you can yourself, because it’s kind of the only way to save money. It’s just crazy how fast money goes in this process...that a half a million dollars when you’re renovating a commercial space in California is just gone. That money just went so fast on things like electrical heating and air-conditioning, which aren’t even cosmetic so they don’t look cool on camera.
Definitely. Do you generally have a DIY ethos?
I write my own songs, right? And I don’t write my songs like a fake pop star writes songs, I write them on a guitar in my house by myself. I decide what goes on my body. I write my own standup. I created and pitched this exact show. This wasn’t something I was cast in.
The more hands-on you are with the things you want, the more pleased you’ll be with the outcome. It’s like in drag when you make your own outfits, you always feel really good when you made what you’re wearing. Or how you feel good when you cooked what you’re eating. There’s just, like, a sense of satisfaction there.
How was this experience different from when you work with Netflix or on your own YouTube channel, if at all?
This is a story-driven show based on what’s really happening in my life. It was a lot of communicating, a lot of opening up my schedule with the team and saying: This is what we’re doing in the next few months—like, I have a show in L.A. this day, or I have to go to Milwaukee to check on my bar.
I have other businesses and an entire career that I have to run besides this motel. This is a new side venture. Just balancing this process with my real career obligations was very difficult. I’d be filming a few days a week in Palm Springs and go back to L.A., just back-and-forth constantly. Cosmetic store shoots, music videos...I was in drag probably six or seven days a week for months.
Do you think your other projects influenced or bled into your approach to the motel renovation?
Of course. We did a cosmetics photo shoot at the motel to save a little time and money. I wrote the theme song for the show and put it on my record. There’s always ways for me to have a couple of my businesses working together at the same time. I have a dream of my band doing live recordings at the motel, almost like Tiny Desk Concerts in the rooms.
So you foresee yourself visiting the motel pretty frequently?
Yes. I’m going to do DJ sets. I’m going to do pool maintenance. I’m going to serve drinks. I’m going to knock on doors and clean rooms. If we have a dance, I’m going to show up and make sure everyone’s standing 12 inches apart.
Great. Any chance of a Trixie Motel season two?
I would love to do more. This was really fun and really hard, but now that we’ve done it once, I learned so much about this process that I want to do it again. The second time I can do it even bigger and better.
Trixie Motel will premiere a new episode every Friday on Discovery+ for the rest of the summer. You can get a peek at what’s in store below:
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