“RuPaul’s Drag Race” competitors and TV personalities Kim Chi and Trixie Mattel have collaborated on a line of cosmetics — BFF4EVR — for KimChi Chic Beauty.
While reality show fans may know them as playful rivals, the two (born Sang-Young Shin and Brian Michael Firkus, respectively) are in fact longtime friends.
“I realized I have a famous friend, and I could use his fame and fortune to enrich my fortune, so I was like, ‘Hey, Trixie, let me coattail off of your fame and fortune and sell some products,’” joked Kim Chi of the launch.
“It’s not like Kim’s a world famous drag queen or anything. She’s just getting started in the industry,” Trixie Mattel jumped in, sarcastically.
Their working relationship began in 2012, said Mattel, founder of Trixie Cosmetics: “I met Kim because I saw her online, and she lived close by. Milwaukee and Chicago are very close. And I DM’ed her on Facebook Messenger at the time. I sent her some clips of myself performing, and I was like, ‘Can I ever come do your show?’ And I just remember meeting her for the first time, and she was so tall and so beautiful and so nice. And we were just instant friends. There were less drag queens at the time. There was less knowledge about drag.”
They would help one another, bring each other out on drag gigs.
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“We would couch surf with each other every weekend, working for enough money to catch the train and get food,” said Mattel, who’s originally from Milwaukee. “Honestly, besides the fact that we were struggling financially to pull together looks, we both have talked and said it’s probably the happiest times of our lives.”
“There was a time when we put our money together just to buy foundation for our gig that evening,” said Chi.
“Imagine Kim and I trying to find a shade that kind of worked for both of us, because we were on a budget,” added Mattel. “Different times. Now I have more foundation than I know what to do with.”
They would both end up making the cut to join “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” appearing on separate seasons. Life has gotten busy, and they’ve reunited to collaborate.
“Selfishly, part of this is just about two friends wanting to hang out,” said Mattel. “It was a little over a year ago that we started conceiving of the products.”
Out direct-to-consumer on Thursday, the BFF4EVR collection comprises a $45 palette with 20 shades — a mix of earth tones, bright pigments and glitter — a $16 blush and $28 highlighter, each with two colors, as well as $15 demi-matte lipsticks in four shades, $15 liquid lipsticks with a matte finish in four shades and a merch folding fan.
Launched in October of 2019, KimChi Chic Beauty has filled a void for “fun and play” in cosmetics, said Toni Ko, creator and chief executive officer of Bespoke Beauty Brands, whose brand portfolio includes KimChi Chic Beauty and Jason Wu Beauty (Ko founded NYX Cosmetics, which sold to L’Oréal in 2014).
“It’s so colorful, and it’s so cute as well,” said Ko of KimChi Chic Beauty. “Before, if it was cute or kind of playful for adults, there was Hello Kitty and nothing else.”
About 80 percent of drag queen fans are “females in their twenties,” she went on, adding drag queens are the originators of major trends and techniques in beauty like baking, highlighting and contouring. “This is a pop culture phenomenon.”
“I think people are finally asking themselves the question of what is drag,” said Mattel. “Isn’t Elvira drag? Isn’t Pee-wee Herman drag? Isn’t Tyler Perry doing Madea drag? All this drag has been in people’s faces for so long. They just never called it drag. And I think now that people have realized it’s just people doing Halloween costumes — of course, it’s a huge political statement — but there’s nothing disarming or scary about drag. It’s extremely wholesome and playful, you know? And I mean, it’s wonderful to see the needle move, but part of what makes people interested in a brand like Kim Chi’s or mine or anything drag queen driven is that the truth is Kim and I wearing the wrong outfit in the wrong part of the United States could still be killed. Of course, it’s easier on the coasts and the major cities, but there’s a lot of places right here in America where Kim and I would not be safe walking from the club to our hotel. So as long as that danger is there, I think people like supporting collabs like this, because it’s a way to pamper yourself and express self-care, but it’s also a way to use your voice and participate in a great conversation.“