Facts are facts, absolutely everybody in the
whole wide world RuPaul’s Drag Race fandom is reeling over this week’s Down Under elimination. Maxi Shields – the Australasian spin-off’s old school queen with “two big melons and a rump to boot” – became the latest Ozzie to hear the dreaded “sashay away” from Mama Ru following her performance in this week’s maxi-challenge; which saw the remaining six competitors makeover a squad of macho rugby players.
Although she served one of the most iconic lip-syncs this season against Etcetera Etcetera (no, we’re still not over that microphone stunt), Maxi was unable to replicate its viral success in her smackdown with Scarlet Adams to the beat of Kylie Minogue’s Better the Devil You Know. But as we’ve seen in the past, winning isn’t everything (listen to Losing is the New Winning now on all streaming platforms!). Over the past six weeks, Maxi has cemented her status as Down Under’s fan-favourite as she blessed viewers with some much-needed positivity (and breast-ivity) in a season chock-full of drama and scandals.
“I think that the one thing that my grandmother imparted on me was to just be kind. Just be kind to people,” Maxi tells GAY TIMES over Zoom following her elimination. “Be a smart ass. She was an absolute smart ass, she would tell people to fuck off. But, she always led with kindness first. In general, we should be kind, but especially after 2020. It was shit house, wasn’t it?”
Read ahead for our full interview with Maxi, where she discusses her makeover with the fabulous Cilla Wet, her instantly iconic lip-sync against Etcetera and how she wants to see the drag scene evolve in Australia. She also spills the T on her legendary stint as Madonna’s VIP hostess for her record-breaking Rebel Heart Tour.
Maxi, you look absolutely gorgeous today. I’m loving this pink theme!
Oh thank you, I’m making sure you can’t see my bra. You might send me home for that!
Your elimination… hurt. It doesn’t make sense with my fantasy, I’m not here for it, I demand a recount…
So do I! Actually, do you know what? Once I was eliminated, there was a weight off my shoulders, so I’m fine actually.
When RuPaul told you to sashay away, how did you feel?
I don’t usually do makeup on other people. But, I went into the challenge and I just wanted to impart the joy of drag onto someone who may not have had the opportunity before. As wobbly as Cilla Wet was in the bloody high heels, I looked across at her and she was absolutely beaming. It was just this great big smile. She loved it and I thought, ‘Do you know what? If I go home on this challenge, and I’ve given that gift of something I love, then it’s in the stars. It is what it is and I could go home, see my partner and my dogs!’
I had such a fun time watching you both on the main stage.
That was the brief that I said to him, ‘Just have fun.’ I try to live by being a silly bugger. Everyone’s so serious. We’ve got COVID and unemployment, let’s just be a couple of dickheads in bright coloured dresses and we’ll swish around and hopefully make someone laugh.
At one point, I was convinced you were going to paint a beard so Cilla didn’t have to shave his…
That would’ve been good, wouldn’t it? I do understand, especially with the gay scene, when you find your tribe – especially the bear tribe – it is really quite important. Asking someone to shave their beard is like cutting a foot off. It’s not so much that he used it as a shield, he was accepted in a group that he found love, or had sex, these big parts of gay people’s lives. He said, ‘I’ll think about it’ and I said, ‘Look, it’s up to you. If you decide no, don’t worry. It is fine. You are going to go down that runway with the best fucking glittery beard you’ve ever seen in your life.’ I said on the show, which didn’t make the cut, is that me and Dan are basically twins. We share a birthday, 1st June. I said, ‘We’re born on the same day, we’re twins anyway!’
I think I speak on behalf of every Drag Race viewer in the world when I say it’s been such a pleasure watching you this season. I don’t think there’s ever been a more obvious contender for Miss Congeniality?!
That would be great, wouldn’t it? But, do they give that out in internationals? I was trying to remember if they did for the UK…
They handed it out to Blu Hydrangea and Bimini Bon Boulash, but I think it was done unofficially after their seasons came to an end…
Oh… Well I bloody hope so! Jesus. Because I’ve been doing it for so long, I think that the one thing that my grandmother imparted on me was to just be kind. Just be kind to people. Be a smart ass, she was an absolute smart ass, she would tell people to fuck off. But, she always led with kindness first. In general, we should be kind, but especially after 2020. It was shit house, wasn’t it?
You were kind all throughout the show, even when the other queens were popping off on each other. How did you handle that environment?
On the whole, I was concentrating so hard that I didn’t hear… There were bits and pieces where I was like, ‘Etcetera said that?! I was sitting next to her, when did she say that?’ There was a funny moment when we were doing the unconventional challenge. I had sewing lessons but it still doesn’t mean I’m strong at sewing. I was sitting next to Anita Wigl’it and they were going off on Elektra Shock, there was all this smack going around. I said to Anita, ‘Should we say something?’ and she said, ‘Oh god no! Let’s just concentrate, do the hems!’ I did notice some of it but Anita and I were just head down tails up, complete the task that was given.
We have to talk about your lip-sync against Etcetera Etcetera. That microphone was, in my opinion, reminiscent of Sasha Velour’s rose petals as in, it was game over for the other queen.
[Laughs] I will take that! I will be in the same league of Sasha Velour any day. In my Bogan prom – see, I’ve been at the bottom for most of my life! – I was a bit nervous about the lip-sync and I had it in my bum bag. I had only told Karen [from Finance]. Karen asked me if I was okay and I was like, ‘Look, I’ve got a secret weapon.’ She said, ‘What do you mean?’ and I pulled out this microphone and she was hysterical, rolling around on the ground. So, I didn’t need it for that but then this one, she was like, ‘Are you doing the microphone?’ I said, ‘I have to. Etcetera is 22 and amazing.’ I was 46 at that point, how can I compete with a split, a spin, a cartwheel and a backbend?! I do have to say, it was a tribute to my Bali sisters. I saw them use microphones about 10 years ago like, ‘This is fabulous, I’m taking that!’ And I do have to say that I’m not the first one, there was a Thailand girl. I’m the first girl with RuPaul at the helm, but Bandit was really fabulous, she takes the crown there!
I recently discovered that you let Madonna on stage with you. That was very kind, to let this emerging singer have the spotlight. What was that experience like?
I can’t believe you’ve heard of her! I was lucky enough to be her VIP hostess for the whole Australian tour, so I got to do all the concerts: Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. The last opportunity, I had done the party and I was sitting in the heavens seat, because that was the only one that was available. I was sitting next to all of these gay boys in drag and I had seven per cent battery on my phone. My contact was like, ‘I think she’s going to get you on stage, you just have to keep an eye on your phone.’ They said, ‘Okay, it’s you. You need to run now. Which door are you at?’ and I was like, ‘I’m at 567’ and he was like, ‘You have to come to door 13!’ As I went past these two gay boys I said, ‘Just cross your fingers!’ She was amazing. I only saw her on stage but she’s 50-something, she kept up with the young dancers, her eyelashes were a little bit sweaty because she’d just done this incredible show and it was like, ‘Fuck everyone, I’m going to do a great show and I’m going to share my music with everyone.’ She was just incredible. I love Madonna.
As one of the more experienced queens in the cast, how have you seen the drag scene Down Under evolve over the years?
I was lucky to start mid to late 90s. In Sydney, I got to experience the Priscilla era and those original Australian showgirls that you saw in the movie were absolutely incredible. I grew up with Ozzie legends such as Portia Turbo and Wyness Mongrel Bitch, as well as trans performers like Symone Troy, Monique Kelly and Carlotta. These names, I probably know to the younger generations mean nothing, but they were so incredible and very quick. They were a bit mean, but they were always very caring as well. So now, fast forward to RuPaul, where we’ve got drag in your lounge… It’s the same but different?
RuPaul has given the world permission to explore gender and that’s not just boys in drag, it’s girls in drag and trans people. It’s lifted up the discussion of gender. I remember when I first started drag, there was a very – dare I say – rugby, stocky, six foot guy with a tattoo of a flower on his head, but he always wore long skirts. I would always look at him like, ‘That’s so fabulous.’ That was 20 something years ago and now you can wear a skirt, no one bats an eyelid. Australia’s a little bit slower than a lot of other countries. You had Lily Savage, for god’s sake! C’mon! We want our Lily! So, I’m hoping that Australia starts to catch up and we see a lot more drag, more non-binary and different genders on mainstream TV. I think we’re pointed in the right direction.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under airs every Sunday on BBC Three.