Secret life

“You see the light in people’s eyes”

SpaMedica patient coordinator, Matthew Stephenson, on transforming into his drag queen alter ego, Emma Maezin – plus why his role is like an everlasting Christmas


I’m a patient coordinator for SpaMedica in Sheffield, which is a blend of administration and reception work. We help to improve people’s vision, providing NHS eye patient services, including cataract surgery. It is rewarding going to work and knowing that the job you are doing is truly benefiting and helping people in their everyday lives. I can see a patient who has come for their assessment and has been apprehensive and nervous, I might be with them on their surgery day keeping them calm and then I get to see them thrilled when they have had their treatment. A lot of them write nice feedback or bring in chocolates. It’s like an everlasting Christmas.

Drag in some form or another has always been part of my life. I’ve always wanted to entertain and often say I was made for the stage. When we went abroad and they had the kids club, I would always be the first person up performing.

Matthew Stephenson performs as Emma Maezin
I see drag as a way of dialling up my personality to 200. Everything I know as Matt helps Emma, and vice versa. There is that full circle. I remember how I felt watching RuPaul’s Drag Race growing up and now I am probably that for other people. You can see the light in people’s eyes as they adore the performers living their authentic lives.

I really love the peacock because it is the only species I can think of where the male is so much more vibrant, exotic and extravagant. I see my drag as a way of being a peacock. In my normal job I have my shirt and tie on – it is very formal. When I go into drag, I have my glitter, sparkles and rainbows. These are the perfect polar opposites to my life.

The root of the name Emma Maezin (I’m Amazing) started with me not having that confidence in myself. I needed to find a name that would give me that switch in my brain – the name was like a shield of armour. The very first time I did drag was at a competition called Drag Idol UK. I had my mum coming up on stage occasionally to pull down my dress. She has been there since day one and I can't thank family and friends enough for their support.

What I am about in all aspects of my life is bringing people together and making sure they are having a nice time. I think that’s what life is

At work, we celebrated Pride Month in June. One of our drivers, Nicky Taylor, is transitioning from male to female. It was the first time I had seen her come into work as female presenting and I'm grateful to the business for giving people that opportunity to feel brave, supported and included. I had rainbows painted on my face and used a make-up tool to paint my colleagues too, to show our support to Nicky and Pride. When people asked why we were wearing the rainbows it was an opportunity to start the conversation.

I get comments from people all the time asking why I don’t move somewhere bigger like Manchester, but I want to make the drag scene popular where I am in Sheffield. There is the realisation that if there are no opportunities, you have to make those opportunities. I think it is really important to have safe spaces where people feel comfortable. What I am about in all aspects of my life is bringing people together and making sure they are having a nice time. I think that’s what life is.

Emma Maezin has a new album, 3am, out now. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify or YouTube.