In my humble opinion, media personality Ross Mathews is having one of the best years ever. If you haven’t been keeping up with the funny man you’re missing out on the magic that Ross is bringing to the world as an icon for the LGBTQ+ community. Long gone are the days of being known as ‘Ross the Intern’ on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno—instead, Ross has made bigger waves as an author of his popular book Man Up!, television host and correspondent, judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, the creator of his own podcasts Straight Talk and Pop Talk, runner up on Celebrity Big Brother, co-host of the Miss America pageant, an award-winner, and now the visionary behind the Dragtastic Bubbly Brunch that will leave you gagging—I’m out of breath just typing all of that!
Ross has teamed up with Straight Talk accomplice CJay to bring the most fabulous drag brunch Los Angeles has ever seen. The Dragtastic Bubbly Brunch takes place every Saturday at Rockwell Table & Stage and features Drag Race and local queens, endless flowing champagne, and a curated menu by Ross himself.
Between jet setting to Puerto Vallarta and lounging under the sun in Palm Springs, Ross has managed to forge his own path while staying 100% genuine and winning the hearts of his fans with his unforgettable voice and infectious character. Ross has made a successful career out of being a people person who many identify with. It’s no wonder that GLAAD recently awarded Ross with the Davidson/Valentini Award, a recognition bestowed upon an individual for making a significant difference in promoting LGBTQ equality and acceptance through media. In his acceptance speech he acknowledged how important it has been to his career to remain authentic so that younger generations have a role model with whom they can identify and from whom they can garner hope that they too are worthy of acceptance.
There’s no doubt that Ross Mathews leads with his heart and puts himself fully into everything he does. It is with his love that the LGBTQ+ community is are fortunate enough to have projects such as Straight Talk with Ross Mathews, a podcast that is comprised of Ross and his closest friends and that is a weekly escape from the frustrations of quotidian life. A podcast that helps drown out the loud buzzing of a hard day at work or the constant disappointments of our current political climate. It’s his Liza Minnelli and Casey Kasem impressions mixed with witty banter that elevate listeners known as Straight Talkers and remind us with their mumbo jumbo jive that we are all part of a circle of chosen family that accepts us for our eccentricities. If you’re not listening—you better get on it!
On top of staying constantly in motion with Straight Talk, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and working on his second book which I am anxiously awaiting—Ross has created Pop Talk a departure from Straight Talk that focuses on pop culture and Hollywood topics. The show is co-hosted by Ross and TV personality Trish Suhr and touches on the Top 10 pop culture stories of the week.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Ross to talk about the amazing things he’s doing to make this a highlight year in his career. It was an inspiring conversation and reminder of why Ross Mathews is one of the hardest working guys in showbiz.
I wanted to talk to you about all the great things you have going on this year. I know that you’ve had a tremendous year for you with your GLAAD award, the Emmys, two podcasts, Celebrity Big Brother, a new brunch show, and your second book on the horizon. Would you say that you are having one of the best years ever?
You know what? I’ve been doing it for so long now—going on 18 years and it just feels like part of the process you know? Sometimes years you’re busier than others and I’m just so grateful when I’m busy. There have been times when I haven’t been so busy and you have to really force yourself to appreciate those times and think “ya know, one day you’re gonna think ‘I’d love a day off’” So I’m so grateful. That anybody cares what I have to say, or what I think, or buys a ticket to when I perform—I’m just so grateful.
Yeah, well—everybody loves you!
Awww. I just like creating things and whatever is next I just like to have a product that I’ve contributed to the world and the fact that people want to read it, or see it, or listen to it makes me really happy.
Yeah, and I know you’re very much a perfectionist like myself so I appreciate that you have that attention to detail and people can definitely tell that you put yourself into it.
Thank you. If I’m going to listen to anything, or buy a ticket, or go see something I want it to be good. So it’s my way of saying ‘thank you.’
You have an amazing work ethic with the variety of projects always in motion. How do you juggle it all?
I’ve just always been good at compartmentalizing and I’m really lucky that I always surround myself with great people who help. I have the ideas and I just say ‘help me make this happen’ and they do. I think anybody who does anything is only as good as the people who help them do it because I can’t do everything myself. So—good team around me!
So you just celebrated the 250th episode of your hilarious podcast Straight Talk with Ross—which I absolutely love–
Oh you’re a Straight Talker! That’s great!
Yes, my partner and I listen to it and we go about our day listening to it and then when we are together we will replay it so we can catch the things together. It’s hilarious!
Well, Straight Talk is very different from anything else I do. Not only tonally, but how I approach it. I don’t approach Straight Talk like its work because I do work for money—but also because I love it. I do Straight Talk because to me it feels like hosting a dinner party. You don’t do that because it’s work. It’s a joy. The stories you want to tell, what do you want to serve. That’s how I approach Straight Talk, what stories do we want to tell? Who do we want to involve? Who do I want to invite for the audience to get to know them? It’s really different than anything else we’ve ever done and we’ve done enough of four years, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing it.
I love it [Straight Talk] because it honestly feels like we’re there with you. With all of you. The banter between all of you makes it feel like we want to respond as well because it’s so natural and I think you guys have such a great chemistry and you’ve managed to put out something that—if for nothing else—kind of helps us to pass the day and to help us forget that there’s all this shit going on, you know?
Yeah, the whole point is for people to smile. That’s the whole point. I know that sound so cheesy, but that’s the number one thing people say to me “I listen at work. I hate my job so I listen at work to get me through the day” or “I listen in my car because I hate my commute and you guys get me through the day” so that’s the whole point.
You know, I listen to it [Straight Talk] when I fly because I’m a bit of a nervous flyer. It helps me to just decompress and get out of my body—you guys are my travel buddies.
Oh yeah! Good. I love that.
How does it feel to have reached this milestone with a project that you have put yourself wholeheartedly into?
Well I started it when I wanted to create something that had no one between me and the audience. No executives, no focus groups, no bosses. I wanted my voice and the audience’s ears to meet right there in the middle with no filters. And the fact that hundreds of thousands of people tune in and listen all the time makes me so happy. I’m just so grateful that anyone cares because we’re pretty dumb. What we talk about is pretty ridiculous.
You guys get into some pretty serious topics as well. I mean, I know you don’t like to talk about politics on the podcast, which is probably the best thing—
Listen, there’s enough politics out in the world. And I think people are tuning in to escape so we don’t really talk current events on the show, it’s more about playing games, or art, or drama of our families—you know the Straight Talk family—what’s going on with our listeners. That’s what I like to focus on, you know? Finding a date for one of my co-hosts. That’s what I want to talk about.
I think you all have a great dynamic. What do you think is the secret ingredient that makes Straight Talk so successful?
Point-of-view. I think people want to hear opinionated people come together. We don’t agree on everything. We’re very real—we keep it real. And I think people have really invested in our lives—each one of us. All the main co-hosts, characters, if you will. We also have a tremendous deep well of peripheral characters—people from my life, from my realtors, to my gay senior citizen best friend from Palm Springs named Bill who does our movie reviews, to listeners who have actually become co-hosts once we’ve met. I think people are just invested in what’s going on in our Straight Talk world.
Yes, I think everyone has a very unique perspective. I think it’s really beautiful. Other podcasts that I listen to sometimes feel like a lecture—and this [Straight Talk] is more like a hangout.
Well and with some successful shows like Golden Girls or Sex and the City everyone identifies with one of those characters. So I think people really get to know our show—some of them are a Nikki, some of them are a CJay, some of them are a Ross, some of them are a Fagsy, I hope none of them are a Mark.
Do you have a favorite moment or episode?
We had a couple leprechaun experts come on the show—I met them at The Abbey and they told me they were leprechaun experts and I thought that’s fascinating so I had to have them on the show and have everyone guess what they were experts in. It really took a while to wiggle it down. We’ve also had a dominatrix on the show, we’ve had many psychics on the show, we’ve had huge stars from Rosie O’Donnell to RuPaul. So I feel that Straight Talk is this intersection of family and superstars and people you never thought would be interviewed. I like that the listener never knows what they’re going to get.
Like your living birthday funeral.
We make fun of that, but we should be celebrating people every day. You should be celebrated every day. Tell the people you love everyday what they mean to you. So okay, it was a stupid funny bit—for my birthday I wanted a living birthday funeral and I forced all of them to tell me how special I am to them, but the underlying message is love and I think that is the message throughout Straight Talk—always love.
–And you got a pregnancy pillow out of it.
That was so weird!
On top of having Straight Talk, you recently jump started Pop Talk, a podcast you co-host with Trish Suhr. How did this come about?
Well, on Straight Talk we don’t really talk current events or pop culture because I like it to be evergreen. People find that show three or four years later so if you started listening now, it wouldn’t feel old. It would still be relevant. But I happen to love pop culture and so I though “God, I wish I could be talking about these stories!” so I thought—let’s build a separate one. I think about Straight Talk and the ‘Talk’ area as a franchise for me. We went from Straight Talk, to Pop Talk, there could be Food Talk next, there could be Political Talk—there could be whatever. I mean, I talk so much, I have an opinion on everything. So now it’s time to frame it so that it makes sense for the audience. So if people are looking for pop culture—they can get it from me. And Pop Talk is hilarious and fun. It is the Top 10 stories of the week and I break it down with Trish Suhr, who is an amazing co-host, and my best friend CJay produces it. We’re only six episodes in and it’s taken off! So many people are listening I can’t believe it.
Do you find that the audience might be a little different than Straight Talkers?
Yes. Straight Talkers are very unique minds—that’s why I love them so much. Pop Talk is much more broad. It reaches a much broader audience because people may not necessarily be tuning in for me. They may just be tuning in because they love pop culture.
You recently received GLAAD’s Davidson/Valentini Award for making a significant difference in promoting LGBTQ equality and acceptance through media. What does that mean to you?
Well that meant everything. I talk about this in my speech—I grew up in a time when you couldn’t look out your window and see gay people in my little farm town. I couldn’t turn on television and see a gay grown up person. I didn’t know what my life could be like, what does a gay grown up person look like? It wasn’t reflected in the media. It’s something that even when I started almost 18 years ago I took seriously. I wanted to be that representative that I didn’t have as a kid. So I’ve worked with GLAAD for a really long time and I trust what they see and I trust what they think. And for them to think that I deserve recognition for being that for kids or being that for allies or being that for our community made me see myself differently. It made me feel like I’ve done something.
And you have. You’re so deserving. I mean, I have to thank you while I have you here. You have done so much and I always admire you because you are so much yourself and you’ve never deterred from that. I think it shows on all the things you do and I look up to that.
Thank you so much for saying that. Thank you, honey.
Your first book Man Up! was such a great read–how is your second book coming along?
Second book is going great! I’m writing it right now. Early 2019 I’ll finish it and then it will come out after that at some point. I haven’t announced a title, but it’s good! It occurred to me in the shower. I was rinsing and repeating. I was loofing my naked body and the idea hit me and I jumped out of the shower dripping and grabbed my iPhone—luckily I upgraded so it was waterproof—and I just started typing. I typed out 13 chapter titles. And that’s how I work I’m a Google Earth kind of person, I don’t get stuck in the details. I have to think big big big and then I fill in the details later. Now, the writing process is fun, but it’s brutal.
How long have you been working on this book?
I worked on it for a bit, then I turned in the treatment, then we sold it to the publisher. Once they green light and send the check, you start writing. When you’re writing, it’s like pouring out of you so at a certain point you feel empty. So you have to recharge that’s how I work.
What has it been like to be a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race?
I’ve been so lucky to have been on some phenomenon in my life. From The Tonight Show to Chelsea Lately and now RuPaul’s Drag Race. It has taken over the world in terms of popularity. But I’m on a show now that not only entertains the nation and the world, but shifts the culture—contributes in such a positive way to the culture. I’m so happy because it’s an amazing job, but I’m so grateful to be a part of that contribution.
And what does the Emmy win mean for LGBTQ media?
I have to say, when I was standing on that stage next to Ru accepting that Emmy I thought to myself, “okay, now some kid in some farm town is watching this moment happen. Not just us on TV, but us being celebrated for being on TV.” It was the next level. I always wanted to live in a world where a show like RuPaul’s Drag Race was on TV—and I would have taken that—and then to be recognized by that in the mainstream way…I was just so pleased that kids from all over could look at us on that stage. All those people who work on Drag Race, we all sit at the same table in the cafeteria if you know what I mean. And it may not have always been the popular kids’ table. I think a lot of people can relate to that. We were on that stage representing our table in the cafeteria. If they can see us not just being ourselves, but being ourselves and being rewarded for it and holding trophies for it, then what can they do?
So speaking of drag queens– you’ve put together the Dragtastic Bubbly Brunch so people can get their weekly dose of champagne and wigs. Tell me more:
I think maybe the only thing I love more than drag queens—is brunch. So I thought “How can I put them together?” And I have been to a couple of drag brunches in my life and thought “Hmmm, I would do it a little differently.” So my best friend CJay said, “Stop talking about it and do it!” So we put it together every Saturday in L.A. at noon. It’s Dragtastic Bubbly Brunch—it’s the drag brunch I’ve always wanted to go to. We have challenges like Lip Sync for your Drink that the audience does. We have the best queens, queens I love. Of course queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race and queens that maybe you haven’t heard of yet that you should know. I hand pick the queens, I hand pick food, I name the menu items, I name the drinks, and I’ve been shocked by the turn out! We have a full house every single week. So if you’re in L.A., you live in L.A., you have got to come. Get your tickets ahead of time. I’m not there every week, but I’m there most of the week. We all hang out afterward, we take pictures, you can meet all the queens, it is so much fun. You gotta come!
REALLY phenomenal work, Ross!