Ever since she walked through the workroom door on Rupaul’s Drag Race looking like the queen of England’s more stylish younger sister, drag fans have been completely enamored with Max. If you thought the most interesting thing about Max was what you saw on the show, however, then stop what you’re doing and look up The Max Collective immediately. I sat down with Max and Daniel, her partner in life, art, and (only theoretically) crime, to talk about…well, life, art, and crime!
Courtney Conquers: Hi Max! Hi Danny! You look gorgeous!
Max: You look great too! You look like an assassin!
CC: An assassin? Well that’s definitely the best hair cut compliment I’ve gotten so far!
M: Well I mean that as a really good thing!
CC: Thank you! How are you?
M: I’m very excited!
CC: Because you leave for the UK tomorrow?
M: Yes, I can’t believe it’s tomorrow!
CC: Have you been before?
M: Yes, way back in the seventh grade when I didn’t appreciate it like I will now.
CC: Danny, are you going too?
Danny: No, unfortunately I can’t go along this time.
CC: That’s okay, I’m sure you’ll get to go next time!
M: Yes, when we move there some day!
CC: I lived there once. I had a weird hybrid accent and everything.
M: Oh how exciting, I have one of those too! Or so some people tell me.
CC: It’s just diction and elocution!
M: I guess people have never heard Gloria Swanson speak.
CC: So when did you start doing drag? How long have you been doing it for?
M: Um…officially I started in 2013, I think.
D: Yeah, a little bit before that. 2012 or 2013.
M: Yeah, right before that I dabbled a little bit. I was in Cabaret and Rocky Horror right in a row. It was awesome. I sort of started getting into that scene and it isn’t a big city but it’s a city, you know? And then Danny and I headed over here in 2013 and started getting into the clubs a little more and feeling out what was around here. There really isn’t too much, actually. It’s mostly amateur nights some places and then showgirl style things and they have pretty close ranks. But yeah, we spent a lot of time doing drag in here [motions to room] working on our own projects and things!
CC: And where’s ‘here’ for you right now, city-wise?
M: Minneapolis! We’re moving in September though and we’re not actually settled on anywhere so… whoever has the best suggestion, please let us know!
CC: So basically what you’re saying is you won’t be coming back from the UK.
M: Yeah, no, I probably just won’t come back! I’ll probably just move over to France actually!
CC: France is lovely! Have you ever been there?
M: No, but I would really like to learn French. I would probably spend a lot of time sounding like a fool trying to learn it, but I would like to get a grasp on it eventually!
CC: Do you find that the smaller drag community in Minneapolis is to your benefit because you can stand out and do your own thing, or do you find that it’s more difficult because there are expectations that people think you should work within?
M: I think it’s more of like a test zone than anything, you know? It’s like a tester city. It’s been a really good first run.
D: We were sort of experimenting here.
M: Yeah! Like a workshop of a musical, and now I feel like it’s time to…
D: Take it to the big screen!
M: Oh yeah!
CC: Your dress rehearsal is over!
M: It’s opening night!
CC: Do you have a musical theater background?
M: Yes! Just through high school and local theater, so nothing hardcore.
CC: So you didn’t take it in school or anything?
M: No. Well I was going to school, I went to one year of college for musical theater with Trixie. But then I went back home and decided that if I’m going to go to school for musical theater and actually have it be reliable, I should try to go somewhere that’s a little bit better known or not go at all and just work on my resume and hopefully build from that. And then all of this came along!
CC: Things seem to be working out pretty well so far!
M: Yeah, exactly! It’s been fun! I mean, I don’t know, I’d never want to discourage people from going to school. I want people to follow the path of education that they feel they require. If I ever feel like I need a specific thing taught to me again, I will probably go back to school or get a private tutor or something, right Danny? If we have time between pictures!
CC: Well it doesn’t sound like you closed any doors on the possibility.
M: Oh no, I just left it temporarily alone. Cracked open just a little bit for later.
CC: Had you auditioned for Drag Race before, or was this your first time auditioning?
M: This was the first time auditioning and we wanted to make it count. Danny did a really great job with making it count and I… was in there a little bit too!
D: You were! Well…
M: Just a little tiny bit.
D: Well there was no video without you in it!
CC: That video is ridiculous, I adore it.
M: Danny, did you release the Snatch Game part yet?
D: No, I haven’t yet, I’m unsure. There are a few other piece that are still in the vault.
M: They’re just, like, silly old things from the attic.
CC: Well, I’m sure people will go crazy for them if you decide to put them out. You have a whole Facebook group that just completely adores everything you create.
M: Oh, they’re so awesome! They’re always so excited. It’s really healthy. It feels like a really healthy energy to receive.
CC: Your group seems to have a lot less negativity than some that I’ve seen, so that’s always very nice.
M: I’ve never seen anything but good things between those people. I don’t want anybody fighting under my eyes. The other day I saw a hint of fat shaming and I was like…. Uh-uh. No. I don’t like to start things with people on social media, but if someone is being ugly under my reign, I’m like “Psht, to the dungeon”!
CC: How have things changed for you since the show? Do you have more travel opportunities, or more chances to try new things that you wanted to before?
M: I think right now we’re just sort of starting to feel our power a little bit more. I mean, of course the show was a springboard for a lot of things.
D: Yeah, the show definitely kicked some things off, but this was always the goal too. When I met Max, I kind of foresaw the things we’re doing now and his success. I thought oh, if we were to kind of work together here a little bit, we could really work on your talents and, I suppose, “exploit” them a little bit, in the best way possible. Share them with everybody.
M: So Max is like your muse?
D: oh exactly! That’s exactly what it is.
CC: How long have you known each other and been working together?
D: Two years or more now, maybe two and a half.
M: About three, I think. Since September 2012, so almost three years. And then Danny, you used to talk to me when I was in Milwaukee, so I guess 2011 was the first time we ever talked on the Internet. Now it’s 2015 already, which is so nuts, but it’s been a good year! The world was supposed to end, wasn’t it?
CC: Yeah, in 2012 I think. Weren’t there movies about that?
D: I never believed that!
M: It was those Mayans, they were all about it! I’m glad it didn’t. I like being here. I like that Season 7 happened.
CC: How has the traveling been since Season 7 ended?
M: I think the traveling is the best part because you feel like you’re on a quest the whole time, which I like. It’s like I’m on an adventure all the time. Hold on, I’ll be right back, I think I have lipstick on my teeth. Danny, you stay right there!
D: Okay. How’s it going?
CC: Well chatting with you guys is sure nicer than being at work.
M: Where do you work?
CC: Hold on, wait, I’m supposed to be the one asking you questions!
M: No, I love it. Keep talking.
CC: Okay… I work at an online school writing course materials.
M: My sister is doing education too, she’s aiming to be a teacher! She’s nuts in the best possible way. I think anyone who wants to be a teacher is nuts like that because they really put themselves through it.
D: And they deserve so much more than they get.
M: Absolutely, they should be paid more than professional athletes.
CC: My mom’s a teacher, so I totally agree.
M: Yes! Go mama! My sister will be some day.
CC: I’ve chatted with your sister a little bit because she’s so great at hooping, and I used to do aerial silks and hoops.
M: Yes, oh my gosh I want to try aerial silks so badly! I saw Violet Chachki do it, so now I want to do it too. I also need one of those candy ball gag things.
CC: Right?! I want to steal all of her hand-me-downs.
M: Me too! I’ll cinch my waist in like a motherfucker! Pardon my cursing. It must become a weird uncomfortable bunch of effort. So much power to Violet.
CC: Since the show ended have you seen the other girls a lot? I know you’ve been booked with some of them for shows and saw them at the finale, but what about in between?
M: It was kind of like we did the show and then we all dispersed but we talked a little bit on social media. Then all of the media happened and the press stuff came out along with the preconceived notions, so well talked to each other about that stuff. We also did our “meet the queens” videos. Some of the other girls saw each other because they’re within proximity or just had gigs together. Not until the premiere did we all come together again and it was crazy and weird. We all kind of just showed up in the lobby of the hotel dressed in drag, looking at each other for the first time in a while and trying not to pull each other’s hair off!
CC: Well I didn’t see anyone get their weave snatched that day.
M: No, nobody’s got snatched! Not even Kandy Ho’s!
CC: Well that’s probably good since she’s got so much real hair in there too.
M: I know, I love it! I wish I could put all mine up in there like that too.
CC: Tell me about The Max Collective. When and how did the idea of the Collective start? It came along before the show, right?
M: Yes, the idea of the Collective came along last spring sort of right before we started the audition process. But the summer of 2013 is when the symbol first came into play. So I guess that’s when we really started with everything with Max and the Collective. The gang!
CC: Where did the symbol originate and what does it mean to you?
M: It’s actually a rune. It’s an Anglo-Saxon rune that means the resurgence or the renewal of time. It looks like an hourglass but that’s only coincidental because traditionally it’s on its side. I just like it standing up and down better because it presents a little more of an impressive silhouette. It also looks like my name. It could be two M’s sideways, pressed together and people also always tell me that my name is in the X of the symbol and things. But truthfully, I mostly like it because it’s also an inverted and irregular triangle, male and female, which is quite nice and represents a lot of flip sides.
CC: When you first started talking about the collective was it something that you had other people involved in as well, or did it start out with just you two? Was there a defined goal of where you wanted it to go, or did you just start out and say “Let’s see what happens”?
M: We started with sort of a goal of where we wanted to take it. We have a couple of friends in Minneapolis that we’re close to and fond of.
D: Yeah, we collaborate with them. That’s kind of what it’s all about. Max and I collaborate with each other to become a stronger unit and that’s kind of what the “Collective” idea is based on. It’s like a network of artists not necessarily using each other, but helping each other get further ahead in their artistry. It’s about being able to appreciate one another and just, you know, admire each other’s work for what it is. That’s kind of what the Collective idea is and where it stems from, because that’s how we got to where we are. Why not continue that with others? It’s still a developing idea, but we’re trying to build that platform for other artists to use the same formula.
M: I always tell people that it’s not completely like Andy Warhol’s Factory, because they always draw that comparison. It’s more like Dumbledore’s Army. We’re all just practicing magic together. We’re the next generation of entertainment and it should be magical. I’m not even 23 yet, we’re little babies so to speak and the future is pretty damn shiny. I want to move somewhere where there’s no winter though. Winter here gets very harsh on the spirit. Now is a really beautiful time of year where I always feel like frolicking and it smells like flowers outside. It makes you much more inspired. I don’t get inspired by dark moodiness! Well… most of the time. Sometimes I love it.
CC: What are some of your immediate goals with your drag, the Collective, or other art projects that you have going on?
M: Right now we’ve been talking about beginning a Kickstarter campaign, as some people do when they’re independently owned and operated. We want to be able to give back to people who give to us. We want to do something really wonderful, whether it’s an EP or another goal, we don’t want to get too crazy. We are able to produce things like that ourselves though. It just comes down to the visuals and the quality of the production.
D: Everyone else has got a productions company behind them these days, you know? So it can make “competing” with them hard. We have to figure out our own methods to do all of that.
CC: You guys already fundraise a little bit by selling Collective t-shirts, right?
D: Definitely, and that’s still running. We’re going to do some new stuff soon too, but that’s been a good way for people to feel like they’re joining us in the Collective just by being a part of the group. They donate or help however they can and then they literally have a symbol to show it, which people seem to think is pretty cool.
M: They’ve got that protection of the symbol on their chest. It let’s people get involved with us right off the bat.
D: And also, I mean, go ahead and make or paint your own design on a jacket too. We promote that and love it!
M: Oh yeah, that’s what we do too.
D: It’s not necessarily about people buying something from a website, that’s great, but you can also get involved and make yourself a part of it creatively.
CC: So you just like to see people interacting with the message and the group?
M: Exactly. And whether or not it has to do with the group or whether it has to do with an Ossian state of mind in general, it’s all just about like-minded people. My personal unit is built up around me because that’s sort of my business but anybody who’s part of the Collective as a worldwide thing is sort of somebody with a like mind for beauty and for entertainment, and for magic in entertainment!
CC: So it’s not about groupthink, it’s about a sharing of ideas and networking over them?
M: Completely. Why shouldn’t we all sit down and talk about ideas together?
CC: Do you have any exciting collaborations coming up, or if not, are there any that you could see yourselves doing? Is there anyone you’d really like to work with, or are you just concentrating on your own work for now?
M: I think I’d just really like to work with Rihanna! She’d be pretty rad. I want to do a… I don’t even know. Wouldn’t it be rad to be in or do a Rihanna thing?
D: I mean, yeah! If you did a cover or something and she was like “Damn, let’s do something”! I mean, that’d be a really interesting dynamic!
M: But of course that’s just a… well actually… you know, nowadays nothing is too lofty of a goal. Anyways, other than that, there are a couple of the other Drag Race girls who want to do collaborations. Violet and Fame maybe, which would be very cute.
D: It would be very cute, depending on what it is.
M: We’re actually in talks with a couple of producers to start our own production but we haven’t really talked to too many people about collaborations yet aside from a couple of fashion brands.
D: Some independent fashion designers have gotten Max’s measurements and are going to be making us some wonderful things I’m sure! We haven’t seen them yet but it’s amazing that they would want to design for Max and whatnot. That’s very inspiring.
M: Well, we’ve got the H0les collaboration and campaign, those crystal eyeglasses. We’re doing one of those. We’re also doing something over in Tokyo with people who do these awesome crystal shoes! That’s really all for right now.
D: Yeah, that’s like, out there in the future though.
M: Yes. Other than that, it’s just all the touring in between!
D: The dust is now settling just a little bit from the craziness and hype of the show, so that means we have more time and hopefully more finances to do the projects we’ve always dreamed of doing. So that’s really the next step, is to just take it all to the next level and share our ideas on a higher level. And Max can certainly do that!
M: As long as I get to go to New York City sometime again soon, I’ll be happy with whatever we do. I want to go in, like, late summer or autumn. I’ve heard it’s just gorgeous.
CC: It’s absolutely beautiful this time of year!
M: Have you been in the summer?
CC: Yes and I was supposed to go see Lady Gaga this weekend but it fell through. Drag Coven met through Lady Gaga. We just really like to fangirl.
M: What! It’s all right, I do too!
D: That’s actually kind of how we met a little bit. That’s something we major-league connected on.
CC: Really? How did you guys actually meet each other?
M: Through our love of the visuals, I guess?
D: Yeah, definitely. I think she means straight up how though. I actually just found Max on Facebook somehow and saw all of his pictures. He used to dabble in makeup and costuming and wigs. Wigistry, if you will. I was really intrigued so I just reached out and I said let’s do something together. We worked together once and here we are!
CC: That’s amazing. That’s how I meet most of my friends lately.
D: That’s just how it works now! It can, like, weed out everyone else, you know? If you can clearly find people that…
M: Are on the same level as you.
CC: Besides the UK, do you have any other crazy travel plans coming up that will let you take the Collective internationally? I know you did Australia recently.
M: I think we’re in talks to do Brazil.
D: Yeah, there are a few people there that we’re “in negotiations with” I believe. That or they’re just not emailing me back! That’s my way of saying that!
M: Sometimes it’s a really long process to negotiate.
D: Yeah, but that won’t be until towards the end of the fall so we’ve got some time, but we’ll see what happens.
M: And some places in California and Florida. And Canada!
D: We’re going to Calgary!
CC: You should come to the Ontario side of Canada too.
M: Well I need to come to every single side of Canada, I just need to be summoned!
CC: I might know a few Coven witches who could work on that! So a few other fans gave me questions that they want me to ask you. One question was whether you guys make the pieces of clothing Max wears that involve bone and fur. Do you make those yourself, or do you work with a designer?
M: No, that’s something that Danny and I do a lot of actually.
D: It’s a collective effort.
M: Yeah, those designs are all Danny and me. It’s conceptual and easy creation. It all happens very quickly. We convert…
D: Raw materials.
M: …And old things into brand new pieces. I mean, there are a couple designers that I’ve worn, like I’ve worn Syren latex from prizes that I won on the show, but most of it is just stuff that we have glued together!
D: Or heavily altered.
M: Or taken in a little bit.
D: We love creating and shifting costumes. That’s kind of also part of how we met. I was like wow, you have a ton of great costumes and Max said “so do you” and I was like oh… well oh!
M: “Let’s get more costumes!” That’s what I said.
D: Because nobody ever has a costume rack. I felt like I was the only person ever!
CC: Danny, you have a character too. You get all made up as the “wolf”. Where did that come from and what’s the story behind it?
D: That’s a good question. I mean…
M: A lot of witches have familiars, and we wanted to… you know how, like, Sabrina has…what the fuck is his name…Salem! Oh, pardon my cursing. I think that I should have a little creature too, and I like that he can transform because then he can be a little bit more easily adjusted into everyday life.
D: I frickin’ love putting on makeup. I would just always play with makeup when Max used to get ready before the show and I kind of just started doing the wolf makeup because it was easy for me to do and I thought that I looked kind of cool. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was not so good, but it was fun and cute distinctive and I mean there’s not…
M: It’s always been good, don’t lie!
D: It’s just cute, like a cartoon wolf come to life. There’s not too much of an explanation behind it other than fantasy.
CC: I don’t think I’ve ever seen it not done well…
M: Right? What is he talking about?
D: Well thank you very much!
CC: Danny, another fan wanted to know whether they saw the picture wrong, or whether your teeth are really shaved to points like fangs?
D: Yes, yes they are.
M: They’re extended upon like a total weirdo!
D: I had four teeth adjusted.
M: Isn’t that crazy? Who changes their appearance?
D: I’m sure that’s what the people at the place thought when I asked for it!
M: No, I’m just kidding, I really love it.
D: It’s like a dream come true, kind of.
M: I like it a lot.
CC: How long have you had that for?
D: Maybe about a year and a half. Almost two years now, actually.
CC: People get veneers and no one thinks it’s weird. It’s like a unique veneer.
M: A more interesting veneer!
D: It’s custom.
M: It’s better for eating meat.
CC: You’re probably better off nutrition-wise. And you could protect yourself if you ever needed to bite an attacker.
D: Oh ya, I can totally just rip right through flesh.
CC: Well that’s a life skill, really.
M: Oh good lord! Yeah, that’s a super cute life skill. A “Walking Dead” life skill.
CC: Max, I love your top. I always love those little sparkly crops. Do you make those yourself as well?
M: That’s all us as well.
D: Those are Collective pieces.
M: We like the Swarovskis a lot of the time because they’ve got somewhat of an iridescence. They sparkle all different colors. They’re like jeweled beetle pieces, or they look like the inside of a geode, which is really pretty. We think they’re beautiful and they’re really personal and they’re just, like, my little…
D: Signature pieces, kind of thing.
M: Yeah, it’s like how Lady Gaga always used to wear those padded blazers with the hoods and things. I loved it. So that’s sort of the stage we’re in right now, it’s like our “early on” look. Like her very first disco stick.
CC: Have you had any crazy fan experiences on the road so far? Can you tell us any unique or funny stories?
D: Well there was that portrait you got that was just amazing, that’s sure a notable piece of fan art.
M: Yeah, I’ve gotten some really great fan art! Well, I don’t want to call it “fan art”, but pieces that are inspired by our look. We get really, really cool things like oil paintings, dolls, collages… we’ve got boards and shelves of things! We’ve got like a big collage and it’s just awesome, they all mark the places we’ve been to so far. It’s been more traveling than I’ve ever done in my life!
D: Me too!
M: Australia was great. That’s where we get the most stuff, actually.
D: They were all waiting at the gate where you walk off of the airplane! They were waiting there for us.
M: I didn’t even think you could do that! They went through security with their stuff and all of their gifts and went to the gate so they could meet us there.
D: Apparently they can do that there.
M: It was really awesome!
D: The fans for Max and Violet were just great, people waited outside the hotel for hours. It was totally cute and adorable and crazy. I love that.
M: They were so…It really was just really crazy. We would get recognized places and stuff. It’s just nutty, the world is way smaller than you think it is! More reason for you to create your own world! It’s like, okay, I’ve got this world covered. Next! I want to be able to travel all over, just everywhere, all the time. Live in the UK, go to like…I don’t even know! Everywhere!
D: Soon enough!
M: I’m impatient of this city!
D: Soon enough. We’re going to put some new things out there and new things will come our way, that’s the plan. That’s the short plan! Create some new things once and for all.
CC: I’m so excited to see you do it. What’s the biggest, craziest thing you’d like to achieve in the next year?
M: Hmm… A touring experience. A film, short or otherwise.
D: More of our recordings and videos.
M: Yes, but like a feature film! And a MAC campaign…
D: How about that!
CC: I’m sorry…Did you just say MAC campaign? Like MAC makeup?
D: We have some ideas and some tricks up our sleeves and we’re thinking we might develop something really cool and that they might just have to have it.
M: And it might have to become widespread, and things might just amp themselves up because we’re not done with Drag Race.
D: We’ll see how things go.
CC: That is so mysteriously exciting.
M: We’re just very deep in thought lately because these are big, bold times. I’m not going to be 22 for very much longer!
D: Every decision counts.
M: Oh yes, every single one! You look great right now. Danny is wearing a feather boa. He’s just beautiful.
D: Oh, this old thing? Why thank you! Where is the Coven traveling next?
CC: We’re going to Toronto and New York for Pride!
M: That’s so exciting! Traveling is so worth it.
D: Always. We’ve driven across the whole country for shows now and we actually like the ride, it becomes part of the trip.
M: I love it so much! Let’s get a caravan.
CC: Do, and then come to Canada.
M: As soon as they call for me!
CC: We’ll make some light suggestions around Toronto!
D: I mean, at some point we’re going to need to start finding our own gigs following the show, because next season comes quickly. So we’ll need to be reaching out to people. That’s why we’ve built a Collective! Our little minions! They help us spread word!
M: I don’t know about minions, that doesn’t sound the best…
D: What’s a nice word for minions?
M: You’re all my buddies, my friends. The people that I would like to hang out with! The people who are interested in any way. The people who also like Harry Potter a lot.
CC: Dumbledore’s Army?
D: That’s a clear indication of how we think.
M: Kennedy Davenport actually just called me and got me a gig in Orlando, Florida! I love my mama Kennedy. She’s an enigma. I was just talking to Trixie too. We were shopping at the mall together. We went into H&M and she managed to find the one thing that they still had that had Barbie on it. I was like “You sniffed it out all the way at the back of the store”!
CC: Of course she did! We love to make her Barbie themed things. We love giving you all strange gifts.
M: I love getting your strange gifts. And candles. I like a good scented candle.
CC: Duly noted. Thank you so much for talking with me tonight! I could chat with you two forever, but I know that you have suitcases to pack.
D: Yeah, we should probably start that. You leave tomorrow.
M: Ahhhh! I’m going back to my kingdom!
D: You have just over 24 hours.
CC: The queen of England is returning.
M: Here she comes, accent and all! I’m sure if I spend a lot of time there I’ll pick one up in no time. I kept trying to do an Australian accent the whole time we were there.
D: They said it was perfect! They were all like “You’re spot on”!
M: Well, I just kept doing it because I couldn’t help myself. Nobody got annoyed of it, I thought I was being foolish and they didn’t mind at all.
CC: Well you’ll have to ask them in the UK how your British accent is. You’ll also have to try Jaffa Cakes.
M: What are Jaffa Cakes?
CC: They’re cookies with orange jelly inside and chocolate on top. They’re all I ate when I lived there and I survived off them when we traveled around for Battle of the Seasons.
M: Battle of the Seasons! I went to Battle of the Seasons in Minneapolis a couple of years ago! Back when I was a little baby.
D: Oh my gosh, yeah! That was like Max’s “coming out”. Back when the tour kind of first started. They were all very impressed by you, Max.
M: That was when I had brown hair. I’m never going back! She was a young lady then. Now she’s old.
D: Max, shall we pack?
M: Yes, let’s. Goodbye Courtney. You look like Rogue, defender of justice.
CC: Bye Max, I hope you have a wonderful trip! Bye Danny!
D: See you soon! I don’t know when. I’m sure you’ll know before we do. Spread word in Toronto.
CC: I will. I’ll make Collective propaganda flyers and spread them through the city.
D: Spray paint the symbol on the buildings!
CC: Oh, I think I’m too well behaved for graffiti…
M: One of the other two Coven witches could do it for you!
D: I’ll do it. I’ve got it covered.
CC: Danny, I hope you have a good time while Max is gallivanting! Max, bring Danny presents.
D: Thank you for your time, and for having an interest in Max.
CC: Well how could I not?
M: I don’t even understand it. I love all of the love that we receive. I wish I could thank every single person. Thank you for being at the helm of it.
CC: Thank you for giving us something to admire and look up to. See you soon!