RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season Three star Ivanna Drink, AKA Shameel Kennedy-Hall, discusses his life behind the makeup!
Where did you grow up, and how was growing up there for you?
I grew up in West Auckland, and while a lot of people think it’s a bit rough, I think it was the best place to grow up! Everyone is so friendly, and there’s more of a sense of community than there is in Central Auckland, which is where I live now. My parents still live there, so whenever I go, I always see someone I know.
When did you first get into drag?
I started doing drag eight years ago. I was a drama kid in high school, and when I left, I really missed performing live to an audience. Drag Wars was just in its early days at the time, so I entered to see if drag would be something I’d enjoy. I ended up winning and really loving the whole experience, and the rest is history!
What was it about the experience that convinced you that you wanted to be a drag queen?
You know, I just really love entertaining people, making them laugh, and having a good chat! It’s the social aspect that I love the most, but I also love playing with gender and getting to wear such fabulous things that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise!
When, where, and how did you meet the gorgeous Anita Wigl’It, and was it love at first sight?
We met the good old-fashioned way, on Tinder, just over 8 years ago! We had our first date at Mezze Bar (which is also where I proposed). We definitely had a connection the minute we met, and what was meant to be a short coffee date turned into dinner and then a walk around the viaduct. We saw each other a lot after that, and the rest is history! Now we have the white picket fence, two dogs, a cat, and are married!
How is it to work with your partner, who is also your boss at drag restaurant Caluzzi?
It’s no different from our day-to-day lives, really. We have a really great connection and share the same work ethic and values, so working together at Caluzzi is really easy! I actually manage the Queens at Caluzzi, so we work closely a lot! I think it works so well because we are a team through and through – he’s always there when I need someone to tell me the truth…not that I really listen to it anyway!
Tell us a bit about your career path and what led you to ANZ?
I started working at ANZ in 2018 – I was working at a different company and had really done all that I could, and there wasn’t much room for growth, so I started looking for jobs at places where I knew there would be a lot of room to move around. I started working in branch doing the usual customer care – opening bank accounts, lending, then moved into taking care of our new home loan customers, and eventually moved into my operations role in the head office, helping with AML compliance for our bigger business customers. I love the role – it’s like being a detective, and a lot of the role involves doing research to build a clear picture of the type of business they do!
What do you love about your job?
I love everything about my job – the people are great, and we have such a good culture of working together. I like the nice balance of customer contact (because I love talking to people) but also having my own time to do my work. I like the challenges as well – not every day is the same, and some of the work really gets you thinking. I get to make risk-based decisions and build a case to make the decisions that I do (it sounds boring, but I love it). The flexibility is amazing and makes being able to do gigs really easy for me, which was initially a concern when I accepted my current role, but it’s never been easier!
How do you find working in a corporate job as an openly queer person?
I know that other people may have different experiences, but mine has been great! I’ve always felt comfortable to be who I am and have not had to hide any aspects of my life. I’m treated like anyone else, and I love that. There are a lot of other queer people where I work, and it’s so nice – it’s like we have our own little community.
What is it like doing drag full time while working full time? How do you balance the two and still find time for you?
It’s definitely not easy! But I have been doing it for so long now that I’m used to it! There are some months where I work as many as 8 weeks in a row without a day off. It helps that I love what I do and that the balance of a more serious day job with the outrageousness that is Ivanna Drink ticks all the boxes. I find such a high level of satisfaction with getting things done, and I always get compliments on how quick I am to do things – which is all the reinforcement I need. I always manage to find time for myself – whether it’s a short nap in between gigs or a rare night off where I’ll just stay at home with my dogs and watch TV. I do make sure to take holidays a couple times a year!
What was your reaction when you found out that you had been selected for Drag Race Down Under Season 3?
I was actually on holiday in Queenstown with my family when I got the call, and I couldn’t believe it! It didn’t seem real, and immediately I knew I had to get myself organised and started reaching out to costume makers right away!
What advice did your husband, Nick (Anita), give you for your time on Drag Race?
He told me to be myself, enjoy the moment, and go with the flow. No one can really prepare you for what a rollercoaster the whole experience will be like.
What did your colleagues say when they found out you were cast on Drag Race, and have they been supportive?
They were all really excited! They’ve always been so supportive of my life in Drag – one year they organised a Christmas Party at Caluzzi, and I hosted a trivia night, which was a lot of fun! ANZ are actually organising a viewing party for one of the episodes, which will take place across the country! I’m definitely feeling a lot of love in all parts of my life – I feel so lucky!
What did your time on Drag Race teach you about yourself?
I learned that I can adapt to any situation and how comfortable my usual routine is and that I thrive in such fast-paced environments. I also learned a lot about the importance of kindness and being there for others.
Catch Ivanna on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 3, with new episodes screening every Friday on TVNZ+.
Photos | Peter Jennings.