Shangela: ‘LGBTQ+ people should be the most accepting community of them all’
Chances are if you ask anyone to name the most iconic contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race, you’d hear Shangela’s name a fair few times. Shangela, or Shangela Laquifa Wadley if you nasty, just narrowly missed out on winning the All Stars 3 crown, a move that still upsets some die-hard fans.
Alongside being certified drag queen royalty, Shangela is also making a name for herself in Hollywood and will be seen on the big screen alongside Lady Gaga later this year. We caught up with Shangela during her whopping 75-city tour, which sees her perform all around the globe including the UK at the beginning of April, to talk her new single ‘Pay Me’, RuPaul, Lady Gaga, and what she really thinks about that controversial All Stars twist.
First of all, congratulations on making it to the finale of All Stars 3. You’ve had one of the biggest transformation on the show, from being out first on season two to a finalist on All Stars. How does that feel?
Well, I couldn’t be prouder. I was able to come back on the show and compete the way I wanted to by being confident and having fun on the runway. I wanted to send a message to my fans that by working hard in life and keeping a good attitude, you can make it to the top.
Despite the twists and turns of the season, you always managed to stay optimistic and grateful. How do you stay so positive?
It’s the just the way I like to live my life. I’ve had so many great opportunities, so if you keep a positive outlook on life then great things will happen for you. I love to have fun, honey.
The Drag Race audience has faced criticism for how they respond to queens online. How do you tackle negative comments?
Whether it’s the love or hate, depending on what goes on or who gets eliminated, we have very passionate fans. The way I deal with negativity, especially on social media, is that I just try to continue moving right on past it. I put my head down and continue working, I ain’t got time to be scrolling down on trolls on the internet, I got 75 cities to perform in!
You can’t control what people are going to do. Look at the finale. I can’t control that those girls just gave me the one point and didn’t put me in the final two. But, at the same time, one of the things I can control is how I react and how I can keep moving on with my life. That’s what I hope the other girls can do too.
Speaking of the jury, why do you think only Thorgy chose you?
At the end of the show, there were six girls who had come back and were then forced to vote for the four of us. I would have loved for them to be a little more – what I consider to be – fair, and base it on track record. That is what the girls said they were going to try and do. But, you know, let’s be real, they’re all human. I sent three of them home whilst two of them felt that they should be there instead of me. So they’re going to behave however they’re gonna behave. Do I think it was a fair vote? Probably not, but what are you going to do? There’s no point crying over spilt Milk. Get it?
RuPaul just got his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Yeah, girl, she’s got a lil star!
What does that mean for drag and the LGBTQ+ community?
Well, I can only speak of what it means to me. It gives me great hope about where we’re going and the direction towards the understanding and inclusion of our community. In addition to that, I think it’s really inspirational to me that someone like RuPaul, who I’ve looked up to for so many years, can achieve something that the Hollywood greats can achieve. Honey, I live in Hollywood and I can’t wait to go and take my picture next to her star. Hopefully one day, I’ll have one of my own!
Right next to hers?
No, let’s not get it right next to her. I better go down the street a little bit!
RuPaul made some comments recently saying that he probably wouldn’t accept a trans drag queen on the show as he sees it as a men only artform. As queen of jumping out boxes, what would you say to anyone who doesn’t feel like they fit into the box?
I think it’s important to be your authentic true self and live your life. If you can’t be and embrace all the parts that you are, can you really share that with other people and allow yourself to love and be loved? Honestly, however people want to identify, however they don’t want to identify, I think we should just all be open. We should accept and allow everyone to live their most true selves so, we can, you know, just be well in life. As a gay community, we’re considered to be on the outside. We’re looked at differently and still must fight for our rights. As the outsiders, I don’t think we should be dividing one another. We should be the most accepting community of them all.
That’s what shocked many fans. We are all part of the same LGBTQ+ spectrum. So it can hurt when someone from within that makes comments about others in the community.
Here’s the deal about RuPaul. I can only judge someone based on how they’ve lived their life. RuPaul has dedicated his entire life and career to equality and standing up for all of us on the outside. If you have someone like RuPaul who has worked tirelessly to create these opportunities, we should not jump to a conclusion that might be taken out of context. We should instead be looking at their career and what they have created for us.
So, what your thoughts on season ten of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Have you seen the first episode yet?
Actually, I just watched it – it was so good! You know what, I’m not jaded in anyway about the show. Whilst the finale of All Stars 3 didn’t go the way I wanted it to, I’m still a massive fan of the show. I’m excited about this cast and I’m excited to see what they’re gonna bring. There’s a lot of talent on there and I love a good Design On A Dime challenge – as long as I’m not in it!
Who are you rooting for?
Some of the girls I know more than others so, you never know who to really root for. I think I root for them all because Shangela is kinda like the big sister of the group. Monet X Change, Eureka, Aquaria, Miz Cracker – I love them. I just met Dusty and Kameron, and they were both so nice. They’re all really talented so I’m just excited to see them all, honey. I’ve known Asia O’Hara for like ten years. When I first started back-up dancing for the pageant girls, I danced for her and that year she won two pageants. I was on the front row. I love her.
She’s known for her lip-syncs. Should the other girls be scared if they go up against her?
Oh yeah, cuz Asia will give it to you. She will give it to y’all.
There’s likely to be an All Stars 4 at some point. Who do you want to see on it?
Definitely Kim Chi, I was surprised she wasn’t on All Stars 3. I love her, she’s so creative and talented. I’d love to see Shea Coulee back and people from the earlier seasons, like The Princess and Mariah Balenciaga. She’s good TV. Ongina, Porkchop, Stacy Layne Matthews, I could name a million!
We’ll see you on the big screen in Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born later this year alongside Lady Gaga. What was it like being on set with such icons?
It’s such a dream come true – pinch me, this is the dream! I’ve always looked up to Lady Gaga. She’s had an outstanding career has been such an icon for our community. To be able to work alongside her in a film project that she’s so passionate about, and for her to be so nice as well. I was like ‘oh my god this is definitely how I want to be in my life.’ I play a bar owner, who is a drag queen, and Lady Gaga’s character works at my bar. You’ll get into it, you’ll see it – it’s super fun. The movie is going to be great and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
Can you tell us a bit about your new single Pay Me?
I wrote this song, not just because I wanted that $100,000 from RuPaul, but because when you put in the work in life, you deserve to get paid. Whether that’s in money, recognition, or even a pat on the back from yourself. I want people to get paid in their lives and that’s what the song is about. I like my music to be the kind you can listen to at the gym when you take that velocity from 6.0 up to 8.
Are there any other reality shows you have your eyes on? Would you be interested in trying to match Courtney Act’s Celebrity Big Brother win?
Oh god, I’m so proud of Courtney – I love that girl. You never know where I’ll pop up but, really, I’m just so thrilled to be working as an actor in Hollywood. I don’t know if reality TV is really where I’ll put most of my energy, but we’ll see!
You’re coming to the UK and Ireland soon with your ‘Shangela is Shook’ tour. Can you tell us a bit about that and what to expect?
It’s a 75-minute cabaret show where there’s gonna be lots of performances, comedy, and all the untold stories from All Stars 3.
Will you be spilling the T then?
Oh, there will be tea! The tea will be spilled so much, honey, you’re gonna need to bring a towel to wipe it all up!
There’s a lot of love for you online. What do you say to your supporters?
I want people to know that you don’t have to have a crown to be a queen. I think I’ve always carried myself as a winner and I hope to continue to inspire people with my journey. You should never give up when you face challenges in life – you keep pushing through. Don’t be afraid, don’t let your confidence get in the way. If you push through, then you can always be a winner.