Shangela, a drag queen known for her time on the show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” came to UNC on April 26 as part of her 100-city worldwide tour. Staff writer Jessica Abel spoke with Shangela about her life on tour, best advice, favorite looks and more.
The Daily Tar Heel: You’re on tour right now. What does a typical tour day look like?
Shangela: Well, I feel almost like I’m in the movie “Groundhog Day,” where you go to sleep and you wake up and it’s the same experience, but you try to make it better every time. This year alone, I’m on a 100-city tour around the world. I’m super excited to be bringing my performance to UNC-Chapel Hill and to the students there. I know we’re going to have a fantastic time.
DTH: How do the college stops on your tour differ from other cities?
S: Well, the way that it’s the same is that it’s always going to be high-energy and full of performance. It’s going to be fierce, fabulous and oh, so fish, as I like to call it. In the college ones, of course there are elements of performance and comedy, but also I like to try to connect with the students. There’s a little bit more crowd engagement. And I try to bring the lessons I’ve learned in my drag career and throughout my life to the students, telling my story so people can relate and draw inspiration or motivation from it.
DTH: What lessons do you typically tell?
S: One is kind of a theme that’s always been in my life and even more so now since “All Stars 3” is that you have to persevere and never give up. I was first in my family to be able to go to college. I’m from a very small town, and in my life it hasn’t always been easy. I’ve broken a leg and have had to come back.
I was on "RuPaul’s Drag Race" a number of times before coming out on top. It’s about pushing through life, even if you have hardships and challenges, and never giving up. Which, I think, a lot of university students are attracted to that story because a lot of students have hardships in their lives, whether it’s with school or things back home. So I hope to be able to share and connect with them through that.
DTH: Do you have any favorite memories from "RuPaul’s Drag Race"?
S: Ah! I’ve got plenty of them, girl. Honestly, I would say, during the second season, my first time on the show — as a baby, you know — was being on the show with my good friend Sahara Davenport, one of the other contestant queens who has since passed away. She was a great light and mentor for me, and to be on the show together, that was really special.
And, also, I would say creating my stand-up comedy character, Laquifa. And, of course, this entire season of "All Stars 3." I went back to make some magical moments, and looking back, definitely did that.
DTH: What are some of your favorite drag looks that you’ve done?
S: Anything not involving a sewing machine that I had to use myself. One of my faves is the entrance look for "All Stars 3," the Tiffany blue look with the huge Tiffany box that I jumped out of. That was created by some designer friends of mine, the Estrada twins. They were fantastic. I remember concepting the look with them and they nailed it, and I was so excited to come back, honey.
DTH: How and when did you first get into drag and performance?
S: My first time performing in drag was back in 2009 and I was just signed up to do a volunteer drag event for the sober community. I did Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” My first song, sister! I had my little black leotard, girl, my little up-do. I was ready. And from that point on, I never looked back, honey.
DTH: "RuPaul’s Drag Race" has gotten a lot of media attention and gained popularity. Where do you see drag going?
S: I see drag continuing to grow and, hopefully, inspire confidence in many different communities. I hope that drag in television, in addition to “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” continues to evolve and grow even more around the world.
DTH: Is there any advice you would give to aspiring drag queens?
S: Yes, honey! Three tips. Number one: If you’re going to do a performance, know the words. Know the words, because you can’t get into it and other people can’t feel it if you don’t know it wholly. Number two: Practice, practice, practice. You can only get better the more you do something — the more you watch, learn and grow. And number three: Have fun. Drag is supposed to be your interpretation of your creative expression. Have fun with it. Because nobody don’t like no bitter queen, honey.
DTH: Do you have any favorite songs or bands right now?
S: Girl, we could stay on this phone all day. I’m Beyoncé’s biggest fan, OK? I love Beyoncé, and in my shows, I love performing Beyoncé music. I couldn’t even pick a favorite because all of them are my favorite. I’ll start out with “Single Ladies,” “Crazy in Love,” stuff from the newer albums like “Lemonade,” “All Night,” “Halo.” Don’t get me started, girl. I could go on and on.
DTH: Is there anything we didn’t talk about that you’d like to mention?
S: I just want to tell everyone, just because "Drag Race" is done, Ms. Shangela has not slowed down. I just released a new song called “Pay Me,” currently available on iTunes and Spotify. In addition to that, next month, I’ll be in the sequel to the movie “Hurricane Bianca” called, “Hurricane Bianca 2: From Russia with Hate.” That movie is going to be going around on demand as well as in select places starting in May. Also, I’m in a new movie with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper called, “A Star is Born.” I have a role in that film as well, and I’m so excited. That comes out in October of this year.
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