By Michael Cook
As He Hits The Road This Summer,
Ross Matthews Has A Message For Us All:
I Gotchu, Girl!
Whether he’s sitting alongside RuPaul on the judges panel on RuPaul’s Drag Race or revolutionizing daytime talk with Drew Barrymore, Ross Matthews remains at heart, a fan first. As he hits the road for his one man tour with his aptly titled show “I Gotchu, Girl”!, Matthews thriving both personally (he is married to Dr. Wellinthon Garcia since 2022) and Matthews is finding himself on some of the most culturally important television shows today. I sat down with Ross to chat about his brand new tour, the powerful women that helped frame the person he is, and how at all times, he remains leading with gratitude.
Michael Cook: There is a very simple trait of yours that both myself and so many other people that are such a massive fan of yours notice about you and every project you dive into, including your tour “I Gotchu Girl!”. Simply, you’re still a fan at heart as well and are so inherently thankful for the opportunities that have come your way.
Ross Matthews: Oh a super fan. And such gratitude. Because you have to remember, when I started on television back in 2001, there were not people like me on television, especially unapologetic people who refused to be the butt of the joke because there was no other choice. I am so grateful that my gratitude comes across on the screen because it is absolutely one hundred percent real.
MC: How do you stay so grounded? So many people reach levels of success and the fame turns them into a completely different person.
RM: It’s not in my my nature. I was raised by my mom and my dad who are just good kind people. I grew up in a small town and I also think that most artists have almost an insecurity where they feel that it could all go away. I think you mix small town, good values, and insecurity together and it makes this perfect gratitude pie; that is sort of what I have going on. There are days when I am tired and where I do too much, but I just every day, go to gratitude.
MC: You are coming to NJPAC on June 25th with your stand up show I Gotchu, Girl! How do you narrow down the stories you are going to tell from such a storied career?
RM: That’s a great question. I have gone on tour with both of my past books and they were their own thing. This tour is about specifically a few things. It is about getting back together with everybody, knowing what I know and what we all know after those rough few years of solitude and missing each other. There is a lot of my gratitude about being out of the house infused in the show. Also, what I really found out during that time is how much we need our friends and our family and my husband so there is a lot about that. Really, it’s about life through my POV, my lens, life through Ross colored glasses; it’s what I wanted to say. Mostly though, its about making people laugh.
I’m telling you, it is feeding my soul going across the country. It sounds so cheese-fest I know, but when I go in these rooms and I can shift the energy of the people in there…bring them this way, bring them that way, make them think that I am going this way, but then flip the script and bring them that way, it is so fun. I see the surprise on people’s faces, I see the joy and I hope that they see the joy in mine. Every show is different, I sort of follow where the audience wants to go. It has been a real joy and a real exercise to flex this comedy muscle live.
MC: Recently, I said to someone that every single person in my life that I have a deep personal relationship with is different post-pandemic. Do you think the same?
RM: I think that we all are; every relationship that we have is. Just like anyone who has been through anything traumatic, and I think that we all sort of have, I certainly have, if you pay attention during trauma you can learn invaluable, beautiful things.
MC: What do you think you specifically learned from those years we were all separated?
RM: Oh I don’t take anything for granted anymore. I took hanging out with a friend for granted for years in my life, I think that we all did right? After the year 2020, everything changed. I remember thinking “I should go visit my Mom more”.
But I’m busy, I’m working hard, “I’ll see her later, I’ll take her on a great vacation”; and then she died. I wish I could redo that. What about “Oh I’m going to have a barbecue and invite everyone over to the house”. We couldn’t do that anymore. What I learned is how important it is to carve that stuff out and to tell the people that you love that you love them and to spend time as much as you can with them. And to not think that that’s just a given.
MC: I think that it is so important to see someone like you represented and sitting on the panel of RuPaul’s Drag Race. You seem to truly see the contestants’ heart and getting to see them flourish year after year seems like a complete joy. What does it feel like for you to be able to be a part of this show and family?
RM: I still don’t know how it happened! I am not a drag queen, but I am a super fan of what they do and I always have been. I am the person in the front row in the clubs, first one there with all my singles ready to hand them out on stage, screaming when they come out, following them on Instagram. When they asked me to judge, I thought that I could represent the fans. I could be the one that won the golden ticket and gets to sit there.
I hope you notice when I judge, it’s never me telling them how to do it. It’s me giving my opinion of how I think I can nudge them towards their greatness, their potential, what I see their superpower being and how they can get there fastest, quickest, most efficient, and in the best way possible. Ru can give them advice on how to be a drag queen and does, and no one knows better than her, and Michelle too, and Carson can give advice on fashion. I really try to bring the super fan POV. All I can do is give you my thoughts on how to be the best version of yourself.
MC: There is absolutely nothing like working with drag performers and helping them see their fullest and greatest potential, and seeing the best in themselves, don’t you think?
RM: Completely, that is absolutely it. I don’t find the fandom or the viewers giving me a lot of crap because I don’t pretend to be what I’m not. It’s always how I’ve earned my spot at that table, that is exactly what I bring. I’ll tell you this through, being a judge at that table is a legacy job. It’s the kind of thing that I know will be in my obituary. This show has shifted the culture in extraordinary ways and I am so proud to be included.
Let me tell you something, not an episode, not a moment goes by that I take that for granted. You know, getting to make RuPaul laugh it is one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard. I love the sound of my chihuahua eating her food in the corner means she is safe and she’s eating, I love certain songs, I love the sound of Judy Garland’s voice, and I love the sound of RuPaul’s laugh.
MC: So much of your own career is marked with powerful women, everyone from Chelsea Handler to Joan Rivers to Drew Barrymore. Have you aways found yourself gravitating towards powerful and strong women?
RM: Yes, strong women and kind women. I don’t think tough and kind are opposites, because I think sometimes being tough on someone is the kindest thing that you can do. I was lucky to be raised by an extraordinary mom who had strong female friends.
I am lucky to have my longest lasting friendships to be with strong opinionated women and it is a lot of what informs this tour, I Gotchu, Girl! where I talk a lot about having each others backs. I have learned that my relationships with women shaped me more than any of the relationships that I’ve had, until I had met my husband, shaped me into the man that I am. And I am so grateful for it-and I am grateful for them.
MC: Speaking of kind and powerful women, you and Drew Barrymore have put a seventies style spin on daytime talk and its wonderfully revolutionary. You have definitely put your own special ingredient into the recipe of daytime talk and the result is something beautiful.
RM: Thank you so much, that means a lot because it was really different at first. It had elements of Regis and Kathie Lee with a whole different intimacy and goofiness and heartfelt and takeaway, and that was all purposeful. It was like when you eat something and you know its a little bit of that and a little bit of that but “whoa what is this, I’ve never had it like this before”!?
I think at first people didn’t know how to digest it, but luckily we got time because of Drew and who she is, the network gave us a little time to figure the recipe out and for the audience to find us. And now, it is amazing to say this, we are the fastest growing show in daytime! What Drew has created and brought me on board with, it has just caught fire. The best thing about Drew is all that she wants from me is to be me and to love her and let her love me. It is the healthiest and most beautiful thing to find this kind of friendship in adulthood.
Did you feel that way at some point, like I have enough friends; I’m not meeting new people. When I met Drew in 2020, it felt like I was meeting a sibling, that’s what it felt like. Right away, the trust level that I felt…here she is, one of the most iconic people in the world, but I never thought of her like that once I met her. And I just felt like could speak the truth to her. Even with our relationship out there we so support each other, but if she says something that I disagree with, I’ll roll my eyes and be like “girl come on”. The fact that I can do that to someone of her stature and notoriety says so much about her behind the scenes.
MC: Meeting friends like you have met Drew and I have met friends of my own in adulthood are almost like when you say you’re “done” dating; that is when you end up meeting someone who is truly a game changer.
RM: I think you’re right. I believe my mother made this all happen, she passed away in 2020. 2020 is when I came to New York, got engaged, and met Drew Barrymore. It’s almost like when she passed away, she was like, “Let me carve out some paths for you, you have some weeds in the way”.
She did this. Drew always says, when I talk about my mom she comes and hugs me because she says “I feel your mom here”. My mom had only been to New York one time, its not like she was based in New York where we do the show, but my mom is there.
MC: Where do you feel your mom the most in your career right now?
RM: I feel her in the certainty that feel in my career right now. There were so many years where I felt scared that it would go away, scared that people weren’t taking me seriously, or scared that I would have to just go into real estate and give it up. Now there is such a certainty that I deserve it, that I deserve where I am, that it’s because of the work that I have something to say and what I have to say is worthy. I think that is my mother in me. When she left her body, I think part of her came into me. I’m made from her, so I don’t think its insane to think that some of her spirit would come into me as well.
MC: How do you combat your inner saboteur and those feelings of unworthiness and those feelings of everything going away and stay so positive?
RM: I just made peace with it going away. That was part of what happened when I got married. I didn’t expect it, but what I felt was that if it all goes away, if I tried something and I failed miserably, if I embarrassed myself, if I failed-that I still would be okay. My husband…he got me girl. He’s got my back. There was this freedom that happened, not long after my mom passed where it was this perfect storm now where I feel completely safe to try, completely safe to fail, and completely safe to succeed.
MC: For myself, there is no me or what I have gotten to accomplish without my partner in my corner. Do you feel the same way?
RM: What’s interesting is that my husband and I met each other when we were forty. I brought with me my level of success and he is very successful in his own right he is a Doctorate in Education. We came to the table as fully formed people, or so we thought. Because then when we met each other, it was almost like he lent me his power and I lent him mine and we became stronger individually, a superpower together.
Could I exist without him? Maybe. I did exist before I knew him. But existing together, side by side and combined together, is like a power I have never felt before. It is a strength I have never known. What I know and how I feel and what I know to be true now, it is infinitely better because of him.
Follow Ross Matthews on Instagram: @helloross
Ross Matthews is on the road now with his show I Gotchu, Girl!, get tickets here: