Years before RuPaul’s Drag Race, there was another drag queen on television: Brini Maxwell. A creation of Ben Sander, Brini is a kitschy lifestyle expert who is a combination of Martha Stewart, Donna Reed and Auntie Mame. On The Brini Maxwell Show the hostess taught viewers how to lead a “gracious” life and be the perfect housewife. The series aired for two seasons on the Style Network back in 2003.
Brini stepped out of the spotlight for a few years, but now she is back hosting a regular event, Knit at Night, at New York’s hot new nightclub, Club Cumming. We caught up with Sander to ask about where Brini has been and what is next for the drag queen domestic goddess.
We miss your show! What have you been up to?
Thank you! I took a little break from the public eye. I’ve been doing some teaching and making some plans for new projects…
You were doing drag before Drag Race, how do you think the scene has changed over the years?
Well on some level, I don’t think of Brini as drag, really. She’s a character that I play. I think the scene has blossomed in some beautiful ways. Drag has become so much more accepted and that’s wonderful. There was something sad about its alien quality in the early days – so many wonderful entertainers that people couldn’t enjoy because they couldn’t get past the medium. That’s pretty much gone now, and that’s a great thing.
What do you think Drag Race queens could learn from Brini?
Hmm, period detail? They’re all pretty accomplished when it comes to the drag arts… I am an excellent seamstress, however.
Have you watched At Home With Amy Sedaris? It has a very Brini Maxwell Show feel to it…
Yes, there’ve been a few comments to that end on social media. It’s wonderful to see her show—she’s so creative, and so wacky!
With the holidays coming up, what do you like to serve at a holiday party?
I’m particularly fond of glögg. It’s a mulled, spiced wine that hails from Scandinavia.
Is there a dish you think everyone should know how to make when it comes to a holiday dinner?
A good place to start is mac-n-cheese. It’s a delicious side dish, but if you’re challenged in the kitchen it can do double duty as a main course. My recipe is based on a roux and features two kinds of cheese and buttermilk for a tangy flavor. Christmas dinner at Chez Maxwell will be boeuf bourguingon.
What is your favorite thing to do every year during the holiday season?
I love gathering friends and family for a celebratory meal done up right. I’m a little proprietary about my kitchen, though. Holiday dinners are no place for amateur food.
What advice do you have for people who are about to go home for the holidays and have to deal with their Trump-loving family members?
Become adept at changing the subject.
We loved your duet with Michael Musto at Club Cumming, are we witnessing the beginning of a Brini resurgence?
That’s a possibility… I’m excited to be hosting these knitting nights, and doing Michael’s has been such fun!
What can Brini fans look forward to next?
I’m developing a new series of online courses. The first one is one called “The Home In Your Head,” which is about home decluttering and organization. That will be available again this January, just in time for New Year’s resolutions.
Available right now is a course on how to hire and work with a contractor. Soon to be released are courses on organizing your craft space, organizing and displaying collections, fitting out a small space for multiple purposes among others. In pre-production are courses on interior design, cooking, sewing, and now that I’m hosting these knitting nights, look for one on needlework as well!