Bristol drag institution Eat Sleep Drag Repeat (ESDR) are bringing in Rupaul’s Drag Race star Shangela for a Pride special at SWX this July. Whether you watch the show or not, there’s little chance you haven’t heard about it or the reams and reams of positive comments about the show’s representation and normalisation of the world of drag. 

Now in its tenth season, the reality TV show has officially made its way into the mainstream, with Rupaul t-shirts currently on sale in Primark. The show is praised for capturing an audience from all walks of life and is a much-needed sensation that’s taken the LGBTQ community and beyond by storm. 

The show is praised for capturing an audience from all walks of life and is a much-needed sensation that’s taken the LGBTQ community and beyond by storm

A particular queen that’s captured the hearts of Drag Race fans since her first appearance on season 2 and more recently All Stars season 3, is the box-fresh Shangela Laquifa Wadley. Famed for being of the most professional and entertaining queens in the Drag Race alumni, fans have watched the iconic queen grow right from the beginning of her drag journey in season 2, all the way through to her near-win on the latest season of All Stars. 

When we arranged an interview with the international drag superstar ahead of her Eat Sleep Drag Repeat Pride special at SWX this July, it’s safe to say we were pretty excited. But it was only when Shangela answered the phone with her catchphrase ‘Halleloo’, we knew we were in for a one-of-a-kind interview with one of the most iconic queens to come out of Drag Race. 

Shangela answered the phone with her catchphrase ‘Halleloo’ and we knew we were in for a one-of-a-kind interview

Diving straight in to discuss her upcoming Bristol Pride show, Shangela promises fans will be treated to a ‘full comedy and performance extravaganza’, where she will perform some numbers and share stories about her life, whilst celebrating an extremely important time of year. 

‘Pride to me, is the time of year to remind our community about the great things we’ve accomplished and the challenges that still face us. It’s also a great reminder that we should continue to love each other and continue to work and fight for equality. That’s what I want to encourage at Pride; love, equality and W.E.R.Q – Werq!’

That’s what I want to encourage at Pride; love, equality and W.E.R.Q – Werq

As we move on to talk about how Shangela first got into drag, the queen admitted the character has always been part of her. The entertaining queen gravitated towards theatre and back-up dancing for local queens in Texas before taking up drag professionally. ‘The character has always been there,’ she says ‘I’ve just put a name to it now’. 

Throughout her appearances in the show, Shangela has always come across strong and content, with self-love and confidence shining through no matter what is thrown her way. ‘You’ve got to commit to being the best you possible’ Shangela encourages, when asked for advice on practicing self-love. ‘No matter how you do it, where you do it, or how long it takes, you should always focus on being the best you possible.

Drag is meant to be fun, it’s meant to be messy sometimes and you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be having a good time with it

‘I also like to advise everyone who’s starting out on their drag journey to develop a character and not to be shy. Drag is meant to be fun, it’s meant to be messy sometimes and you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be having a good time with it. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.’

Interview with RuPaul's Drag Race star Shangela

This year Shangela shook the ground for all drag race fans when she returned to Drag Race once again, this time as a contestant on the highly anticipated All Stars 3. Shangela may have been a fan favourite to win from the start, but a controversial twist in the finale episode meant that the crown went to blonde bombshell Trixie Mattel. 

The unexpected turn of events left fans in shock for weeks. Parents of younger fans were sharing videos of their distraught kids who couldn’t get over the news, leading Shangela to give a heartfelt message to her younger fans. 

I realised I had received all these messages from helpless parents showing me how upset their kids were after the finale results. It broke my heart

‘After the finale aired, I just immersed myself in my work, so I kind of blocked the results out of my head for a brief second. When I finally got out of the bubble I was in I realised I had received all these messages from helpless parents showing me how upset their kids were after the finale results. It broke my heart.

‘I wanted to respond somehow so we reached out to the parents and sent a video to their kids to thank them for their support and to reassure them that I’m doing just fine. I think a lot of other fans felt the same as those kids, so it ended up becoming a viral video for all fans to see.’

Since the All Stars 3 finale aired, Shangela has been busier than ever enjoying life both in front of the camera and behind the mic, including her reprised role in Hurricane Bianca 2, the release of her single Pay Me and her new single with Todderick Hall, taken from his latest album Forbidden. Undoubtedly though, the biggest achievement to date for the drag star is her feature in Lady Gaga’s upcoming and tipped to be Oscar-nominated film, A Star Is Born. 

Lady Gaga was a jewel to work with – she was a dream come true and a real class act

‘Lady Gaga was a jewel to work with – she was a dream come true and a real class act. We got to sit in the dressing room together for an hour or two to have a chat and, honey, I told her every story I knew. She would say ‘Oh Shanji, tell me another Shanji!’ It was an experience I will never forget.’

Shortly after discussing what type of gown Shangela should wear to the Oscars if A Star is Born is nominated, the conversation moved back to Drag Race, this time to find out who Shangela would like to win the season 10 finale. 

‘I can’t fault anyone in the top four. Eureka has done a great job all season long, Aquaria is young, but has strong work ethic and I think Kameron is stunning. I’ve known Asia O’Hara for years though, as I used to be her back-up dancer. She’s my girl, so I’m routing for her the most.’

In terms of what the future holds for her, aside from joking that she’ll be back for All Stars season 4, Shangela promises we’ll be seeing a lot more from her as she continues to push herself with her concrete work ethic. 

 I just want to continue bringing my fans together and telling more of my stories

‘You know me girl, I work hard and I am professional. When I finish touring at the end of the year, this would have been my sixth year touring straight. I’m always on the road and I’m always ready to try creative new projects.

‘My long-term goal is to definitely pursue more acting opportunities, because that’s where my heart lies. But apart from that, I just want to continue bringing my fans together and telling more of my stories.’

Photos by Erika Wagner

13 July – ESDR Pride Special: Shangela, SWX
tickets // swxbristol.com

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