Maxi Shield is most likely now known as the first ‘Lip Sync Assassin’ of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under (complete with diamanté microphone), but it’s her path to the Down Under workroom that is the most fascinating. Coming up during the age of Priscilla, Shield rose in the ranks as a professional and dynamic queen, and when the last fifteen months presented challenges to queens worldwide, she took her engaging personality to those that need it the most .I sat down with Maxi to chat about her Drag Race experience, that microphone revealing moment on the main stage, and when this multi-talented performer feels the most authentic.
Michael Cook: The fandom fell in love with you completely this year; what was it like to be part of the inaugural cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under?
Maxi Shield: I described it earlier on…in Australia, we have toasted sandwiches, they are cheese and tomato toasted sandwiches. You usually grab it out of the toaster when it is really, really hot and you bite into it and it burns your mouth. It is so delicious though, you keep biting it. That is a little bit like Drag Race (laughs). It is so crazy, it is so full-on, but it is so exciting at the same time. It is stressful, hard, amazing, exciting. it’s a cheese toasty that burns you mouth! It is just amazing…
MC: You are probably the queen that many will consider the first “Lip Sync Assassin” from RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. Did you ever consider that that could be what you would be known for?
MS: No, definitely not! (laughs). Etcetera Etcetera is twenty two, she is absolutely amazing! I thought to myself “what am I going to do to put myself out, to stand out“. I had been going to Barley quite a lot and there is a small bar called Barley Joe’s there. For many years, I have been going and watching the girls there. They always had diamanté microphones, so probably for the last maybe eight or nine years, I have been inspired by those girls. I always pull out a diamanté microphone when I am performing. It was really a tribute to those amazing performers in Barley that do it all the time.
MC: Could you possibly be the first girl that has ever pulled out a microphone on the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise?
MS: I think Drag Race Thailand actually..I think one of the girls on Drag Race Thailand, one of the girls did it as well. I think that this was the first time it was done in front of RuPaul; RuPaul was there (laughs)! The Thailand Drag Race was amazing, if no one has not watched it, those girls are incredible!
MC: What was your path to a drag career like, to making a name for yourself Down Under in this industry?
MS: I first started, we used to have a dress up box as a child. My brothers and sisters and I used to dress up. I am sure mum smelled a rat when I used to always dress up as the female schoolteacher or the lead singer of an all-girl group. In Sydney, I went into hospitality. It was very work oriented. There was an opportunity with a sister that said “lets go out and do drag”. I went out to do it for a charity event, jumped on stage, and it just…changed.
It was what I was supposed to do. I think at that time, it was the tail end of the Priscilla era. At that time, a lot of the queens were six foot two, a size two and we used to call them The Beige Brigade. I never looked like that, I was a short round man. It just meant that I did stand out, but I had to make my own work. I was doing karaokes, bingos, trivias, that sort of stuff. I think it actually helped because it got me on the microphone and it got me interacting with people. Sometimes with The Priscilla type show you do the show and then go sit in the dressing room, whereas with the interactive stuff, you had to talk to people. I think that has definitely benefitted my career.
MC: Drag Race consistently asked you to step out of your box. Whether you are doing Queens Down Under or dressing someone in your image for a challenge, you are challenged. What is the one part of Drag Race Down Under that you were the most apprehensive about going in, but quickly realized it was not that bad?
MS: It was all really hard (laughs)! I think writing the verse, I think it didn’t make the cut but I did say “if I could write music, I would be on ‘Australian Idol’, I wouldn’t be on bloody ‘Drag Race'” (laughs)! I knew that my singing was dreadful, but I knew that I could bumble through. Performance-wise we do that weekly in Australia, so I knew I could get through that as well. The writing the verse, that it is true to yourself and that sort of thing, that was the most daunting. And it was okay (laughs)!
MC: Now that the world is starting to open up a bit, what do you think you want to do now?
MS: I really want to tour. We have an Australia/New Zealand tour starting. I fell in love with Japan quite a few years ago. My dream was to work in Japan in some sort of capacity as a drag queen, that is my ultimate goal. While the borders are still closed, I still have a few dreams. I really want to do a cooking show that focuses on LGBTQIA chefs. I am not a skinny person, I have always been plus-size. I would like to see and hear about how they got into food, their relationship with food, and what have you. There are a few things on the horizon that I would like to do and try. I really do love performing in the clubs that I perform in weekly. I have big aspirations, but I would still like to keep my toe in the local water, dare I say. Maybe call it Chewing The Fat With Maxi…
MC: Maxi Shield in a cooking show is a stroke of brilliance. What is your favorite dish to cook?
MS: I can actually cook, I am actually quite fabulous at cooking. I grew up with a big family, so I do like slow-cooked bolognese, or tomato sauce with pasta. My partner is not a chef, so he marvels sometimes when I say I made something and just say I “made it up” (laughs). I come from a big family, so mum would get us in the kitchen all the time. We had it ingrained into us almost.
MC: The last fifteen years has given us a very different appreciation for so much. When does Maxi Shield feel the most authentic today?
MS: It has sort of changed I think. When the pandemic hit, we all lost all of our jobs and I was lucky enough to get a job at a a nursing home. I facilitated activities out of drag for many residents who had dementia. I think being around my chosen family, I feel the most authentic self, and being around my dogs. The nursing home was very stressful, I think it helped me deal with Drag Race to be honest. It was really stressful, but I just learned how important it is to have family or chosen family around you. Those oldies were really doing it tough, but for me to come in and see their face light up just because they had someone to yarn to, or have a chat with, it was really important. I think that is when I am at my most authentic self, when I am around my chosen family and my grumpy little dogs.
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