Maxi Shield on Her Drag Dreams and Being Madonna’s “Unapologetic Bitch”

"Age is no limit, size is no limit," says the "Drag Race Down Under" queen.

Maxi Shield is an Australian drag legend. The Sydney queen had the most experience (read: she was the oldest) out of the contestants from the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, but even the youngest queen of the bunch, Etcetera Etcetera, said it was “an honor” to sashay away after going up against Maxi in the lip-sync for your life.

Alas, even drag legends aren’t guaranteed to make it to the finale of Drag Race Down Under, and that was the case for Maxi after the Family Resemblance challenge on the latest episode. Even though she won the mini-challenge, Maxi’s makeover of her sports stud wasn’t a score for the judges, and after a Kylie Minogue lip-sync, she was sent packin’.

Maxi spoke with NewNowNext about walking into the workroom as a drag legend, her go-to Kylie lip-sync, and her plans for a Drag Race-inspired tattoo.
 

Hi, Maxi! How long have you been doing drag?

Oh, Christopher! You make me say numbers, don’t you? This year, I celebrated 24 years.

Wow, that’s crazy. You’re the oldest queen in the cast. Did you find yourself becoming a drag mother to some of the younger queens?

I know, I was like the third eldest on set. It was RuPaul, Michelle [Visage], then me. [Laughs] But you know what? I have a maternal instinct anyway, and Etcetera is 22. She’s so 22, it’s crazy. But I also come from a large family. So to have nine sisters in the room, I sort of… it was very much, “There’re quiches out there,” or, “There’re pies. Come on, come in, have something to eat, hurry up. Are you cold? You want a blanket?” So it’s sort of maternal or maybe just a big sister thing.

What’s the biggest difference in the drag world now compared to when you started out 24 years ago?

Everyone does drag now. I was lucky enough to start at the tail end of the Priscilla era. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was so big in Australia, and around the world as well. It’s like everyone does drag now, which is fabulous — don’t get me wrong, I love it. But there’s no age limits on how young or how old you can do drag now. I’ve found that you’re finding those boys that when I was a baby drag queen would say, “Oh you’re really funny, you’re fabulous, but I can’t date a drag queen,” are now dating drag queens or going to parties in heels and dresses. So, you have to thank RuPaul for bringing Drag Race and drag into the mainstream because it’s helped our dating lives.

Well, when I was going through your Instagram, I saw you’re just constantly surrounded by hot men. Like, every photo was you surrounded by these gorgeous guys. Is that how your life really is?

Oh, it sucks, doesn’t it? I like doing stuff like that because I’m older and I’m plus-sized, and a lot of times, they think that you’re not sexy. And you can’t be around sexy people and gorgeous people because you’re always just the funny one. I think it’s a great sort of, “Hold on. Age is no limit, size is no limit.” We should be all surrounding ourselves with everyone, not just the good-looking group.

Let’s talk Drag Race Down Under. I loved when you pulled out that microphone during “Absolutely Everybody.” Did you think of pulling a trick during this week’s lip-sync?

I did, but I just had no more tricks. When I was up against Scarlet, who’s like a burlesque performer, I thought, She’s going to have tricks, she’s going to have tricks. And I just… It was just so overwhelming, and what have you, that it was just like, Okay, I’m just going to perform this as best I can, and we’re just going to have to give it a go. I just didn’t want to be that one that always pulled out a trick. And I just wanted to do a performance that you would see in a bar in Sydney.

I thought it was a great lip-sync. Were you surprised when you were asked to sashay away?

I think this is where my experience comes in. I was there, I was going to do as best as I could, but if I went home last or I went home first, I was still so happy to be a part of it. And to show the world that size and age doesn’t matter, and you really just need to go as hard and as strong as you can. So, I was disappointed. I wanted to win the crown, but I know that this is the start of something incredible.

I’m guessing that’s not the first time you’ve lip-synced to “Better the Devil You Know?”

How dare you!

But what is your go-to Kylie song for performing?

I do “Spinning Around” quite a lot, which I love, and “Get Outta My Way” is fantastic, I do love that one as well. But I usually don’t really do Kylie numbers. I’m one of those weird ones. I do operas and yodel. I do a yodel by Mary Schneider, who’s a world-famous Australian yodeler, which is just incredible as well. So, yeah, I do Kylie, but I stick to my age bracket.

What surprised you the most about filming Drag Race?

How intense it is. As soon as you step on the set, to the time you go home, you’re on. And it’s just so quick as well. I was describing it to my partner as Star Wars when you see a spaceship take off [into hyperdrive] and all the lights are going past you, that’s how it felt. It was just crazy. You just never knew what was going to happen. And you just can’t prepare for it.

I love your tattoos. Do you plan on getting one inspired by your time on Drag Race?

Yes, I am. I’ve got a great tattoo artist, Lauren Windsor, who’s going to be designing something for me. I’m running out of skin, that’s the problem. I’ve done all the parts that don’t hurt that much, and now I’m going to start getting into the tender bits, so we’ll see. But she’s going to design something for me, which will be great. It has to have a microphone. Maybe a cassette with “Better The Devil You Know” and “Absolutely Everybody” as part of the playlist. Yeah, so we’ll see.

I saw the picture of you on stage with Madonna. Can you tell that story? How did that happen?

A friend of mine worked with Live Nation, and it was crazy because I was putting my makeup on, and he rang me and said, “Look, we may have a touring artist. Would you be interested in hosting the VIP parties for the Australian tour?” And every time he rang me, a Madonna song would come on my shuffle, and it got to the third phone call and I said, “Is it Madonna?” And he’s like, “I cannot confirm or deny anything.” So when that happened, it was just crazy. But then, that was the last concert. So I was a VIP hostess for her party’s pre-show, and at the last concert in Australia, I got a phone call. I was sitting in the audience watching this show, sitting next to all these gay boys up in the rafters, and my friend was like, “If I call you, you run down to Gate 12.” I was in Gate 82. “You run down, and I may have got you as the ’Unapologetic Bitch.'” And it happened. It was incredible. She’s someone that I’ve been such a fan of. And I love that the older she gets, the more sexy and determined she is. Someone says, “No,” so she does it bigger. I love that.

I think Rebel Heart is a really underrated album of hers.

It was fabulous. I loved it.

For us international fans who are just now learning about you through Drag Race Down Under, what can we look forward to next? Where can we see you, where can we find you?

Let’s get rid of COVID. Vaccinate! I hope we get to tour internationally. We will be touring Australia and New Zealand later in the year, which is great. I have been putting it out in the world. I do want to create a cooking show, and I do want to focus on LGBTQIA chefs. I’ve always had this crazy relationship with food and you’ve got to be skinny to be fabulous, but since I’ve got older, being fit, healthier, and stronger is where I’m going. So I’d love to learn how these chefs have had food in their lives and how it became a major part of their lives, and what have you. So fingers crossed that’s in the works. Now Drag Race is on in Australia, I hope we can dream bigger. Australian media sometimes is a bit slow on the uptake, so I’m hoping we see drag everywhere and anywhere. Why not? Why can’t we be front covers of magazines?

No, it’s a very good question. Shoot for the stars.

Shoot for the stars.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
@chrisreindeer