Life As A Professional Drag Queen Is Everything I Hoped It Would Be

Maxi Shield

I wake up, roll in glitter, and off I go!

When I was 10 years old, I had a dress-up box. My sisters and brothers and I used to do fashion parades all the time.

But the first time I dressed in drag, was at a fancy-dress Christmas party for a five-star hotel I worked at. I was a starry-eyed boy who stumbled into the LGBTQ bar scene in the early 90s. What I saw in the shows, the girls, the lights and the boys (oh, the boys) will stay with me forever.

So much has changed since then. Including the fact I’m now a professional drag queen performer. I’ve seen what technology has brought to the stage, and so it’s great to think someone else might follow the same path as I did, and be having that same ‘wow’ experience now.

Life as a drag queen hasn’t been all fun and dress-up games, though. For starters, drag is incredibly expensive; from the makeup to the costumes and wigs, it’s a financial investment as much as it is a life investment. Still, I’ve been lucky enough to make it my full-time job for the last 18 years, and I can say hands down that it’s one of the best jobs in the world. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

My life outside of performing isn’t as outlandish or dramatic as many people would expect. I’m just like most average working people. I have two little dogs, Maxwell and Celeste, so my first chore of the morning is to go into the courtyard and clean up after them. I try to go for a swim – a mile or so a day. Then it’s vitamins and shower. The rest of the morning is a blur of rehearsals, washing Spanx, cleaning wigs, and sorting out music for shows.

Like any artist, I’m always learning. My work has me on a microphone all the time, so I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my comic timing.

It usually takes about an hour and half to transform into my drag alter-ego, Maxi. I shower and shave, and then start the makeup process. This is often interrupted by an episode of The Bold and the Beautiful. (Okay, so my life has some drama.)

I really don’t get nervous stepping on stage anymore. Sometimes I get a few butterflies, but I think that’s a lot more excitement than it is nerves. I love standing on a huge stage all by myself, looking into a sea of people, but my most favorite part is when I make that crowd laugh. I can’t describe the feeling; just fabulous.

Of course throwing on an inch of makeup and getting dressed up as someone else helps with confidence. However, after so many years I had to stop and say, ‘If I can do this in drag. why can’t I do this as myself?’ Dressed up I’m indestructible. Out of drag, well, I’m getting there…

I consider my drag a glittery extension of myself – I may be a little louder in drag, but all in all, it’s much the same, with a lot more bling. I have a jewelry addiction. It’s the sparkles I love; there’s never enough of them. And wigs…I LOVE WIGS.

I like to talk about personal experiences in my performances. I find the audience understands a lot more when you’re speaking from the heart. It’s so much more relatable. I also find it very important to have a message when talking to an audience. Being a part of the advertising campaign for Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia, this year really bought that into focus, because of the simple things, like receiving photos or personal messages from members on the LGBTQ community saying things like, “Hold on, I’m not alone!” or, ” felt that too”. Mardi Gras is a fabulous time, in the way it  brings everyone together like that.

Even on the hard days, I love going to work. What a job to have, to be able to say that. I get to be glamorous, wear sparkles, and make a difference in people’s lives, whether it’s making them forget their troubles for a few moments and laugh, or reminding them that they’re not alone, and it’s okay to be different. I hope to have this job forever. 

As told to Josie GleaveImages via shutterstock and Instagram.