Much like his character in the Everybody's Talking About Jamie movie, Max Harwood has been on a journey of self-discovery over the last few years.
The big-screen newcomer and Attitude March issue cover star is set for a breakout year as a teenager who dreams of becoming a drag queen in the upcoming film adaptation of the hit West End musical.
But despite being a confidently assured presence both onscreen and in person, 23-year-old Max admits that just a few short years ago he was still nervily navigating his place in the world as a gay adolescent.
Max wears top by Prada; trousers, stylist’s own (Photography: Olivia Richardson)
Max, who grew up in Hampshire and says he often felt 'othered' at school for being more into dance and drama than football, admits to being "terrified" the first time he went to a gay club, which also happened to be one of the UK's largest and most iconic venues; G-A-Y at Heaven.
"It was seeing [RuPaul's Drag UK star] Detox at Heaven", he recalls. "I want to say it was 2017, 2018 — whenever I was 18, basically. That was my first time to a gay bar, to a gay club."
He goes on: "I was terrified, because I’m from Basingstoke. I’d been in London a few weeks, at [drama] school, and I’d never experienced that many queer people in one space and, also, so openly queer in one space.
"It’s so celebratory that when you go into a club, all the colours of the rainbow are there, and I remember being, like, 'What is going on? This place exists. Why have I never heard of this place before? Why are there no spaces like this in my home town?' It was very that."
"I went with my friends, Jody, Matt and Mason, and I remember having the best night and just feeling, like, also, that I could just let my hair down and feel comfortable to do that."
After coming to terms with his own sexuality and identity, starring in Everybody's Talking About Jamie also required Max to push himself outside of his comfort zone once more by introducing him to the world of drag - something he says took some getting used to.
"I think the first time, the fittings and everything when it all goes on, it’s quite overwhelming," reflects Max.
"What I didn’t really fully understand about really good drag, is that these queens put all of this make-up, this look and the shoes on, but they don’t let the look swallow them. What is going off inside them is carrying the look.
"The first time I got in it, I was a bit swallowed by it and a bit like, 'Ah, I look really fierce. But what is going on?' But, you get into it.
He adds: "Drag has got that element of play, I think, where I just had to learn to just really let go and step up to the level of fierceness and power that it gives you.
"And, I think that’s why, probably, lots of drag queens, drag personas are exaggerated or more confident versions of who they actually are."