The Dallas-bred Drag Racer has a new series and a new tour— hallelu!
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
It’s a week before Dallas Pride, and D.J. Pierce — better known by his nom de drag Shangela Laquifa Wadley — is visiting Puerto Rico for a few days, in what is generously characterized as “down time.” But still, Shangela is working daily, even taking time away from the gorgeous water and warm sand to chat on the phone.
It is a hectic time, for sure, but much better than the alternative for one of the most famous also-rans in reality-competition TV history.
Shangela was notoriously booted off of the Season 2 premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and might have drifted off into obscurity. But she would have none of that. Shangela was the surprise return contestant for Season 3, and fared much better, making it to the Top 5. Since then, she’s been as busy as a beaver … and yes, the double entendre is intentional.
“I’ve been consistently touring since 2011, so it’s just become a way of life,” Shangela sighs. “It could be worse — I could be not working. And when you get to connect with so many people in the U.S. and abroad — to Dubai and the U.K. and Australia and all over the world … well, it’s been awesome. I don’t think I ever would have visited the Middle East [without the success on Drag Race] — and to perform in drag in the Middle East!? It’s not even legal to be openly gay there, but they found a way around it.”
“Finding a way” could be the scrappy motto of Shangela, if she weren’t already identified with her praise-inducing “Hallelu!” She’s made her mark not just in gay clubs, but TV (guest stints on numerous shows, including the much-anticipated reboot of The X Files with Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny) and indie film (the upcoming Hurricane Bianca from Texas filmmaker Ash Christian). It’s all a fulfillment of Pierce’s goal to be known as much as an actor as a drag star.
“I moved to L.A. to work as an actor,” he says. “I loved being on Drag Race, but sometimes it’s hard to make that transition back into scripted television. I was very worried about how it would work out. But I’ve guested on every major network — CBS, Fox, ABC. I did a pilot for Michael Patrick King for HBO that wasn’t picked up, called Spring Fall, with
Tea Leoni and Sigourney Weaver. And when Sigourney walked into the table read, I literally shit my pants. She looks just like she does in the movies.”
One of Shangela’s favorite celebrity encounters was working on Glee, when Sarah Jessica Parker was a guest star.
“I was so excited to meet her. I came up to introduce myself and she said, ‘Oh, Shangela! I know who you are!’ And we went and got coffee.”
Indeed, she’s constantly surprised how wide her fanbase runs — especially among straight fans.
“That is the power of television,” she says. “People who wouldn’t normally go see a live drag show know who you are.”
And you don’t need to see a live drag show to experience Shangela. She started a YouTube series a few months ago, Living with Shangela, which will continue until the end of the year. Viewers even get to see behind-the-scenes shot of Shangela and fellow Drag Racers Laganja Estranja and Dallas’ Alyssa Edwards at Vancouver Pride and backstage with Miley Cyrus at the VMAs. “Me, Alyssa and Laganja were the only ones allowed to film at the after-party,” she says.
The trio is also appearing in Dallas for Pride — several times. In addition to a set as Haus of Edwards at The Brick on Saturday, they will be riding in the parade and doing a special ticketed meet-and-greet at the ilume afterwards.
“We’re excited to come down there, riding with Impulse,” she says.
How excited? Well, it’s enough to make a girl shout “Hallelu!”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2015.