Drag Race judge Ross Mathews dished on the show's historic Emmy wins and why he wants you at his upcoming drag Bubbly Brunch at Rockwell Table & Stage in LA.
We were watching it on TV—history being made—but what was it like to be at the Emmy Awards when Drag Race took home Outstanding Host and Outstanding Reality-Competition Program? ROSS MATHEWS: You know, it was absolutely surreal. It was in fast motion. They said our name and we were up there. I could see celebrities in the audience. At one point, they’re taking our picture backstage and Ru mouths to me, “Is this happening?” It was unbelievable. We were all just so grateful. We continue to be grateful that we’ve had 10 years, a decade of Drag Race, and bigger audiences are seeing it now. These amazing people, these artists on our show, aren’t just being tolerated by their families or accepted. They’re being celebrated, and that is so important!
How did the opportunity to judge Drag Race come together for you? Had you always been a fan of the show? RM: I got my start on television back in 2001 on the Tonight Show. I was a correspondent on that show for fourteen years, and then Chelsea Lately. Because of my work on Chelsea they had me on as a guest judge back in 2003. I was so excited because I loved the show so much. I had talked to my TV, at the queens, from my living room for the first three seasons to finally get to a spot where people could hear me. And it just worked. It just clicked, so they had me back a season or two later. I think they were making changes then and just sort of asked, “Would you want to stick around?” I was very busy, like I always am, but I thought I’d do anything to stick around. I don’t remember there being a negotiation or like agents or anything. I was just, “Yeah, when do I show up?” I showed up and just became part of the family, and I’ve been able to be there and see firsthand this meteoric rise the show has had. I don’t know that drag will ever be mainstream, Ru always says that, but I think our show is now in the mainstream.
And here I thought you might take the Leslie Jones approach if it didn't work out. RM: No, no! [Laughter] I don’t know. I had faith. Maybe if it was 2018 and they still had never had me on I’d be tweeting, but you don’t see me tweeting Dancing with the Stars.
I love that you're now presenting your own drag brunches in LA. I imagine you've seen quite a few shows yourself, no? RM: Well, I’ve been to a bunch of drag brunches and they’re all fun. But I always thought, “God, I wish I could really do one.” You know? Where I could bring my love for drag queens and my love for day drinking and food together to make something really beautiful. The real truth is it’s such a crappy world right now. There is so much going on.
I’m really just trying to do my part to create places for entertainment, whether it’s Drag Race or whatever I do, to create a little bubble where I can sort of shut the door on the outside world and have some fun. That’s what Bubbly Brunch is for me. I have used my resources to book the best queens, faces you’ll know from drag races, new queens that you may have never heard of but who I think are wonderful. I curated the menu with Chris and Wayne, who own and operate Rockwell. I got to name all the items. The names are hilarious and not appropriate for print, but they’re hilarious. During our first brunch I was worried that we might get maybe ten people to show up, but it was packed! And people had so much fun and the queens stayed after, and we met everybody and took pictures. My goal of just creating this little fun bubble for an hour and a half on a Saturday absolutely worked.
Ross Mathews' drag brunch at Rockwell was packed with star power and entertainment.
I saw a few famous faces in the crowd... RM: In the audience, let me tell you this, mixing with everybody were Omarosa, Brandi Glanville, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Frankie Grande, and that’s the whole thing. We are here in Hollywood, so people will always come and get great food, great drinks, and amazing drag performances. But you’ll never know who will be in the audience.
For fans of Drag Race, who should they expect performing? RM: Well, I want to get the best of the best. I’m so lucky that I’ve gotten to work with all these queens on Drag Race and who inspire me every day. I would love to give them a platform to do what they do best, and also get them a job. I want to make sure they get tipped. I know by starting the way we did, big with real Drag Race icons such as Manila Luzon and Morgan McMichaels, we’re going to get all the big queens that people love from Drag Race. Anytime they’re in LA they’re going to let us know and come.
And how long will the brunch run? RM: I don’t know! We’re going to start it. I don’t really have an end point. My goal is that people like it and we just keep it running indefinitely. But I can’t control that. All I can do is sort of present it and let people know, and put on the best show that we can and hope people come. Right now it’s indefinite and there is no end date. Every Saturday at noon.
Are there things that you haven’t done that you’d still like to do? RM: So many things! My goal is to host a gameshow. I want to do that. I’ve worked in daytime talk and in late night talk, and the idea of a morning show makes me very, very happy. I’m only 39. I’ve been broadcasting now for almost two decades. I’m still pretty young, and, not to toot my tooter, I’m really good at what I do. I just think I haven’t even started yet.