We met Shangela before her London performance at  G-A-Y. After a photoshoot and an hour long interview I came to the conclusion that she defines the saying, 'what you see is what you get'. As we sat in her hotel bathroom away from the camera; talking about trans rights, Puerto Rico and Lady Gaga while she assembled her 'look' for the evening, her passion for life shone through in every answer she gave.

 Images by Matthew Parker

Images by Matthew Parker

You visited Puerto Rico at the end of last year to help raise funds for those affected by the hurricanes, does drag and raising awareness go hand in hand?

Puerto Rico is so special to me, some of my close friends live there. After any disaster, we all want to jump in and help out straight away. But sometimes you need to take a moment and consider the most effective forms of providing help. I’m a working girl! I’m always on the road but I felt like I needed to do something. I went to help out the relief effort and we posted the video of me on the ground over there; to try raise awareness as to what was actually going on. A lot of the Drag Race queens had a fundraiser that was really successful and raised ton of cash! We are all human no matter our background so when something like that happens we have to stick together. It has an effect on us can we try as best we can to get involved and help. That’s what I wanted to do.

Within the Drag community and particularly on RuPaul’s Drag Race, some of the language used has been transphobic. Where do you stand on the issue?

I have worked closely with and have been inspired by members of the transgender community. As drag queens with this amazing platform we need to ensure we are standing up and fighting for other members of our community.  When you’re LGBTQ+ a lot of the time growing up you and all the other outcasts get together and stick together, that’s what we need to remember as we get older.

It’s incredibly important for drag queens to be allies for the trans community. Some queens still use words that are transphobic and a lot of time they’re using this language to try and be funny. For example, ‘She got shemail’, before that got used in a derogatory way, I thought that was fine. However, I was uneducated as to how it made others feel, and when you come to understand that words have power and they hurt– for me I don’t want that to be part of my vocabulary. It doesn’t hurt a show to not use those words. The priority is showing respect to everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. If a word hurts, don’t use it.

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Is the world ready for Shangela in 2018?

‘Werq the world’ was amazing. I was co-producer and while I was putting the show together I really wanted a concert feel. In a world of RuPaul’s Drag Race tours, I had to make this one stand out. Our tours the only one that has the support of VH1 and World of Wonder, we sold out everywhere we went. My goal this year is to focus on four things – To continue touring the world, I want to continue as an actor, so Hurricane Bianca 2 and also, I’m excited to announce my role in ‘A star is born’, with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. I mean my role on day one was just ‘drag queen number one’, but by the time I finished my one day on set, Gaga called me over and said ‘Shangela darling, I hear you have a show in Dallas tomorrow, I’d hate for you to cancel a prior commitment but you make me feel so comfortable here, if you come back tomorrow we’ll cancel everyone else from the scene apart from you and Willam’.

So you know when Gaga asks, you do. My role developed into Shangela becoming Gaga’s drag mother and teaching her character the ropes in the movie. Just wait for what look I have in store for that premiere.

Anyway, number three – I want my own full comedy show, I’m working on that now – maybe Netflix. But number four is definitely music, I’m in the studio already working on an album, I want to go to a club and see some girls getting down to my song.

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Do you ever take a minute to look back at how far you have come?

I actually asked Lady Gaga that question not so long ago. We had some downtime on set and I asked how she manages all of her different projects. I’m obviously not at her level and I can’t keep on top of things now.

She just looked around the room and named her team of people one after the other. Her words are still stuck in my mind, ‘’We’ve been together my whole career, I look at Richard and remember the time when we had to wait in line outside a club just to perform Just Dance, I’ve worked for this. These people hold my memories, I look at them and remember everything, people you trust - just hold onto them and you’ll never forget them’’.

So, you know. I took Lady Gagas advice, I find strength through those I love.

Within the Drag community and particularly on RuPaul’s Drag Race, some of the language used has been transphobic. Where do you stand on the issue?

I have worked closely with and have been inspired by members of the transgender community. As drag queens with this amazing platform we need to ensure we are standing up and fighting for other members of our community.  When you’re LGBTQ+ a lot of the time growing up you and all the other outcasts get together and stick together, that’s what we need to remember as we get older.

It’s incredibly important for drag queens to be allies for the trans community. Some queens still use words that are transphobic and a lot of time they’re using this language to try and be funny. For example, ‘She got shemail’, before that got used in a derogatory way, I thought that was fine. However, I was uneducated as to how it made others feel, and when you come to understand that words have power and they hurt– for me I don’t want that to be part of my vocabulary. It doesn’t hurt a show to not use those words. The priority is showing respect to everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. If a word hurts, don’t use it.

Shangela2.jpg

Alaska on All Stars 2, lost some of her fan base after the whole ‘Snake’ thing. Are you fearful of that happening to you?

I can’t control perception, but I can be in control of myself. From the start, I’ve always been real. If you see me happy, I’m happy. If I’m pissed off and throwing a drink, then that’s me. If you meet me on the street or in the club then you know the girl you’re going to meet. I’m not fake or phony. I can’t stand people that are like that. The audience can see through things like that.

All stars 3, starts this month. It’s all already been filmed so what can you tell us?

Back in the work room again, it feels like nothing has changed when you’re back in there. They got one new bit of wallpaper but nothing else has changed! But I’ve definitely changed.

I am fully ready. I haven’t been sitting on my ass the last six years. I went out and made a career for myself, I never won but I’ve always carried myself like a winner. I’m going back with the spirit of a winner. I’m here for the crown.

I’ve done it and been the first one to leave, I went back and made it to the top five. Hell, I’ve come through the door and been rolled right back out. But I always make the most of an opportunity. I’m back for the third time to show everyone who has supported me and stood in my corner from the time I had no make-up on and throwing drinks on people all the way through to now. I’m back to show you what I’ve become.

Will you leave All Stars 3 as THE Queen?

Hallelo!

author: harry joe nettleton