Not since Alaska beat out Katya on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2 has there been so much public outcry and support for a runner-up. While Shangela may not have snagged the crown on All Stars 3, she gained a whole new legion of fans, as well as a few detractors. We caught up with our favorite “Werqin’ Girl” following her surprising elimination, and in this Shangela interview we discuss her growth from the show’s earlier seasons, a brand-new single (one of four) and how she’ll stay positive, crown and scepter or not.
HORNET: Condragulations on a very successful season! Despite not winning the crown, from Raven to Katya it seems the runner-up on All Stars gets as much love as the winner. How does it feel to be in such illustrious company?
SHANGELA: When I look back on my journey, starting as a baby in Season 2 — with hardly any makeup and a dream — I have worked so hard and traveled the world, learning, watching and growing. Now to come back and get to perform at a level that I have always envisioned myself performing at, I am just so happy and so proud. I hope I inspire my fans to know that no matter where you start in life, you can always make it to the top.
Do you see the growth in yourself from your first two seasons compared to how you fared in All Stars, or is it almost like watching someone else?
Oh, I can absolutely see it. Not only in the way that I look but in the way that I carry myself in life. Had this All Stars experience happened to me during Season 2 or 3 I would have reacted totally differently. I don’t think I was as wise then. You learn so much more about yourself as time goes on, and you learn how not to get pulled into things that really don’t have anything to do with you. You learn how to keep your head focused on the prize.
During Season 3 the girls said I had a sugar daddy and I went off and threw a drink. [Laughs] This year I may not have been picked to go to the top two, but I still carried my head high and carried myself with class. I know things are going to be fine. I am a professional. I am a working diva. Honey, I broke my leg onstage and went back to performing within four months. I ain’t goin’ down, baby!
Was it surreal to have contestants from this season of All Stars be a “jury” of sorts when your career has surpassed some of these girls and they’ve been some of your biggest critics?
The thing about those girls is that at the time I considered them my friends. Even though I had friction with some of them while on the show, I have worked with these girls outside of the show. Even though during the show we had to send people home after challenges, we still had a lot of fun. So even though I knew this was not necessarily a jury of my “peers,” I felt like we were going to be fine. There was a possibility that people wouldn’t hold a personal vendetta because they knew me and knew how hard I worked. I felt people respected me in that way. I don’t put myself above anyone in any way. That simply is not the way I carry myself.
We have different careers; I work in television and film and I want to work as an actor, and also continue to tour as a drag professional. Many of these girls do things I don’t do, and I applaud them. I will retweet a bitch and am so proud of other people’s successes, and I have no intention of not being that way.
You had a successful web series with the iconic Jenifer Lewis and you even got to impersonate her during this season’s Snatch Game challenge. Was she as thrilled with your tribute as the fans were?
She actually said, “You should have mentioned by book, The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir! [Laughs] She was over the moon about it. She calls me Eve Harrington now. She is like my friend, my sister, my aunt and my mom in Los Angeles. I still live in her basement; I’m not moving out until she kicks me out. I get a master class in entertainment every day, every morning, from a legend like Jennifer Lewis. I get little tidbits from her all the time. It’s like that book Tuesdays With Morrie; I get all of these jewels of life from her.
After All Stars she said to me, “It makes me mad that they would do you like that, but baby you know who you are, and that is the most important thing of all. You know you can pick yourself up from this situation. Keep it movin’, one step in front of the other, what’s next?”
By now you have seen social media and people’s reaction to Trixie Mattel winning All Stars 3. Do you feel you should have won the competition?
I can tell you, I wanted to win. Do I feel like I should have been in the top two? Yes. Based on the way we had moved through the competition and what I brought, yes, I should have been in the top two. As for deserving to win? We will never know. I wish people had made their decision in the same way I possibly would have. In life, though, you can’t control what people are going to do or how they behave. You can only control how you are going to react.
I think when people remember the season they will see some moments I created that I am very proud of. I was funny, I made people laugh and I entertained them. I think that is what makes people connect with me. I am exactly the same person you see onstage that you’d meet in person. We build a connection with each other. If people say I was robbed, that does not take away from my own experience; people are going to feel how they feel. I always tell them, if you want to keep supporting your girl, go buy my new single, “Pay Me.”
“Werqin’ Girl” was a hit, and you can see it performed by girls all over the country. We’re definitely ready for some new music from you.
Well, you’re going to get it — four new tracks this year from me, actually. I had them all in the vault. I just didn’t want to put them all out at the same time. I like to let a song breathe. I’m going to shoot a music video for “Pay Me” also.
My touring schedule is just so rough now, it’s tough to be able to do that, but I am definitely doing it. I love upbeat and high-energy dance music the girls perform in the clubs. I love when the girls perform my songs in the club. I am a little bit of a perfectionist also, though. I have a song called “Turn the Party” that I did with Alyssa Edwards. She’ll ask me “Girl, where’s our song?” and I just tell her that it’s good, I just want to tweak it so it’s amazing. That’s how I feel about “Pay Me” also. I love it and will be giving you even more this year.
You are known for being extremely positive in the face of adversity. Is it difficult to stay as positive as you do?
You gotta know where I come from. I come from a little town called Paris, Texas. It was great, but it was sometimes difficult being a gay kid there. I worked really hard to get where I am and have been blessed with where I am in my life. I have a very loving grandmother who’s still with us and watches the show and loves me. My mom loves me, Jenifer loves me, and I have great friends, family and a drag family.
I get to do what I love doing — to travel and meet people all over the world who have opened their arms to me because they feel like they know me from television, and that is an amazing feeling. Why I gotta be mad? I have the best life and I know that the sky is the limit, because I know that I do have talent. I have the opportunity to put that out there, and I have the platform that is able to support it. I am just so thankful for that, and I thank God that I am so blessed, and I hope to give that back to people as well.