With memorable appearances in RuPaul’s Drag Race and A Star Is Born, Shangela is one most of the recognizable drag queens performing today. Earlier this month, she took the runner-up spot in New York magazine’s list of the most powerful drag queens in America. It was well-deserved: Shangela has been performing for over a decade. Which means she’s seen drag skyrocket in visibility, and she’s performed at a lot of Pride celebrations.
This year, Shangela will emcee the first annual Love Above All Ball, a philanthropic, black-tie gala held at the Rainbow Room on Friday, June 28. The night will feature performances from Marina, Betty Who, and magician Adam Cardone, as well as DJ sets by Casey Spooner, Nicky Siano, and Miss Guy. It’s one of the fanciest ways we can think of to celebrate Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, and it’s a good cause, too — proceeds will benefit Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. We caught up with Shangela ahead of the event.
How did you get involved with the Love Above All Ball?
I’m Shangela, honey. Whenever they say we’re celebrating Pride, I’m like, honey, I’ll be there. I think Pride is such an amazing reminder for all of us to continue to stand up for who we are and celebrate equality. It’s really awesome that Rainbow Room is hosting one of their first Pride events at this space — it is called the Rainbow Room, after all.
What are some of the most memorable ways you’ve celebrated Pride?
One of the most special moments for me was participating in the Pride parade in New York City a few years ago. It was three hours long, and I remember coming down the avenues and seeing so many people — people from all walks of life, of all different nationalities — all celebrating love and equality.
I call myself a small town shero. I was born in a small town called Paris, Texas. Growing up, there were not a lot of people that were openly gay, and there were not any people that I saw celebrating Pride. I know how important it is to have that type of visibility. I hope to continue to go from large city to small town, always standing up not only for who I am, but for the belief that it’s important to live your best life visibly.
This year is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, but we’re also seeing the Trump administration refusing to let embassies fly the Pride flag and working to roll back LGBTQ+ rights. What’s it like to celebrate Pride in this environment?
We have to remember that Pride was built out of protest because of the inequalities that the LGBTQ+ community faced. I’m hoping that this Pride, people will remember that the work is not over. It’s important for us to have a voice, and use our voice, and say it out loud and be proud.
We’ve seen drag become so popular recently, but you’ve been performing for a lot longer. What have these past few years been like for you?
Since I first started my drag career 10 years ago and stepped onto RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 2, not only have I grown and evolved as an entertainer, but the acceptance and the visibility of drag has also evolved. I’ve been really fortunate to be a part of that growth and that conversation and that experience. But even though there has been a great evolution in the acceptance of drag, there are still a lot of people who don’t know much about it. So it is important for us to get out there and continue to be our most authentic selves and celebrate that.
You also launched a podcast earlier this year. Why did you decide to branch out into that medium?
I’m Shangela, I’ve done just about everything. Just last year I did a 184-city tour. I’ve done television. I’ve done film. I listen to a lot of different podcasts and I was like, “I’ve got something to say, too!” I’ve been able to invite really awesome guests on my show, such as Andy Cohen and Lena Waithe and Kathy Griffin.
Yes, definitely. I’m co-writing a feature film right now with my friend Deborah Dean Davis. It’s a fun comedy feature that highlights the world of drag that people may not know. In addition to that, I’m out there auditioning.
It’s really cool the Love Above All Ball is benefiting the Born this Way foundation, because Lady Gaga, through all of the A Star Is Born [promotion], talked about there can be 100 people in a room but it only takes one to believe in you. She has continuously been one of my ones. I’m thankful to do this event benefiting an organization she helped found.
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