By Jason Kron
Many are seeing this cataclysmic time in human history as an opportunity to better themselves. Since people aren’t (or at least shouldn’t be) pursuing self-improvement outside of their houses, it would make sense to turn to that holiest of literature, the self-help book. But why read something written by a “professional” when you would improve so much more by emulating drag icons?
Anyone who’s watched more than five minutes of any episode of Drag Race knows about host RuPaul’s affinity for affirming rhetoric and her hatred of the inner saboteur, topics that she’s also explored in her multiple self-help books.
Drag Race judges Michelle Visage and Carson Kressley have each released a self-help book too, as has season 4 alumni Willam. Being amongst the most outspoken and entertaining of any past contestant (and that’s saying a lot), it’s no surprise that the dynamic duo of Trixie Mattel and Katya would eventually throw their wigs into the ring too.
Trixie and Katya met as contestants on season 7 of Drag Race and have since taken the world by storm with the surreal YouTube series UNHhhh and I Like to Watch, as well as the World of Wonder Q&A series Trixie and Katya Save the World.
They’re also powerhouses as individuals, proven by Trixie’s success as a musician and Katya’s performance art stage shows. As difficult as it can be to take different strong artistic visions and make them work together, there’s something magical about the way that Trixie and Katya join forces to create one drag superbrain.
This is exemplified in Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood, a book that’s comprised of both comical self-help chapters and several conceptually brilliant photographs of the two.
They took turns writing many of the chapters, and as is the case with their videos, their respective voices gel better than one could ever hope from any creative collaboration. It never feels disjointed, and yet each chapter also embodies the character of its author. Their first-person voices sound exactly like each of them, and capturing your own voice accurately in written word form is harder than it sounds.
Is this a real self-help book? Surprisingly, sort of. Considering how balls-to-the-wall weird their collaborations have been in the past, I was surprised to find several sections of sincere life advice and earnestness here. There are words of wisdom on everything from make-up to breakups to interior design to self-love (and not just that kind of self-love, though that’s in the book, too). Of course, it wouldn’t be a Trixie and Katya creation if this wasn’t all seasoned with delicious lunacy, but that lunacy doesn’t water down the inspirational messages that would make RuPaul proud.
There are also multiple chapters of the two having conversations, where they show off that unified drag superbrain that was discussed earlier. There are some weaker moments of these interactions, like the section where they talk trash on a couple other drag performers (which Trixie and Katya have since admitted wasn’t necessary to include in the book). But that same section also contains what I consider to be one of the strongest parts of the book, where they discuss the craft and passion that goes into doing drag. It’s just always nice to see masters of an art form talk excitedly about the thing that they live and breathe, especially when that thing is so damn detailed.
Not only are they both really funny people, but they’re also funny in much the same way, which is dark and dirty and surreal (there’s that drag superbrain again).
In classic drag form, not only is nothing off the table to use as comic fodder (including suicidal ideation and past drug addiction), but the joke-teller is gaining cathartic strength over their demons by laughing at the grim abyss that is this terrible world.
It’s comedy at its most powerful, a nod to the audience that says, “We’re all going through dark shit, and it’s okay because regardless of what our individual problems may be, we’re all in this garbage dump of an existence together.” I’ve seen few performers that matched this feeling better than Trixie and Katya do, a feeling that permeates through this book that is very worth your time.