Being Shangela Laquifa Wadley is tough work, but the drag queen who endeared herself to fans and critics alike in the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race knows that sticking around is even harder work.
As many drag queens have passed through the revolving doors of newer Drag Race seasons and won over the hearts and minds of Drag Race viewers and fans, Shangela – who is Darius Pierce out of drag – paves her own lane and continues to stay relevant to this date.
The drag queen-turned-mogul set up Say What Entertainment, managing other Drag Race alumna under the Haus Of Edwards headed by drag queen Alyssa Edwards.
Shangela, who will perform at the second White Party Bangkok event this New Year’s Eve in the heart of Bangkok’s CentralWorld, believes that her success is a testament to her endurance in the drag business and her likeability as a personality and business.
“It’s all about being someone who is serious about your entertainment, your craft – you want to be good. You want people to come in, to want to see you,” she said to Popspoken via a Skype interview.
“But it’s about being nice to people as well and creating a solid relationship because you can be the most talented performer out there, but if people don’t like you and they don’t want to work with you… you’re not going to be able to bring people in and that’s really the purpose of a club,” she added.
Being a drag queen is not an easy job: many nights out performing, getting in and out of elaborate costumes and makeup (and countless nights creating these outfits and looks), jetting from venue to venue while still trying to squeeze in daily life.
It also means that to ease off the pressure, many drag queens fall prey to the vices of nightlife. Shangela is no stranger to that and she espouses knowing one’s limits especially since being a drag queen is about putting business first and getting to the next gig sober.
“A lot of people fall prey to (vices) because in this business, people want you to have a good time. So, (promoters) want to give you anything you want and in nightlife, there’s always alcohol and more. But it’s important to know yourself and your limits,” she said.
Although Shangela loves her a mean cocktail (she is in an Absolut commercial), she does not smoke and knows she cannot drink every night while on the road and be great on stage the next day for fear of wearing herself out.
Shangela: the queen who asserted herself early as Darius
Her self-awareness is evident not just as Shangela – her trademark “Halleloo” and mannerisms are hallmarks of her sass – but as Darius in the way he was brought up as an only child with his grandparents. His grandfather was hard of hearing and Darius developed a loud voice to be heard by him, and somehow, an assertive personality came along with that.
“I needed to get attention a lot of times – I’m a performer, that’s who I am,” Shangela reasoned.
His confidence also has a side of vulnerability but Darius takes it in his stride in his life and also in drag as Shangela as he begins to be more fearless and tunes out the voices and judgments of others.
“You just say “this is me, I love me, you don’t have to love me, I also love me because I love you but here I am, take me””.
Shangela also believes that putting in the work was important in the development of her career and it is evident in the evolution of her aesthetic from when she first appeared on Drag Race.
“When I started in Drag Race, I didn’t know anything about drag – my makeup was a mess, my hair was a mess, but I love what I was doing. If you can find your passion in life, hold on to that. Go for it and don’t be afraid to put in the work: things will work out for you,” she said.
Performing amid Donald Trump and Thai king’s passing
It is a tenuous time for drag queens like her in America, with the recent election of Donald Trump as US president and a Congress that looks to reverse many of the progresses made for the LGBTQIA+ community. Shangela recounted how distraught she was when her vote for Hillary Clinton failed to materialise into a mandate and the hate crimes ensued post-Trump.
“(It’s) what Donald Trump stands for: the way that he is divisive, the way that he doesn’t support immigrants, the way he doesn’t support the LGBTQ community, the way that he doesn’t support non-white Americans – the way he doesn’t support the freedoms and values I stand for,” she said.
She is heartened by anti-Trump protests that are happening as these provide a voice for Americans to say what values they disagree with and urges more to be hopeful that they will be heard.
“We can’t live in fear. There are going to be people who will disagree with us, but it’s important for us to stand up and say what’s right and what’s wrong… the more we (voice out), the more we get the government to uphold the law. They have to. We will make sure we are heard,” she said.
Shangela’s arrival is Asia is her first (and the sixth continent she has visited – “I just need one more (Antartica) and Shangela will have gone all around the world, ok?”) but White Party Bangkok is happening on the heels of a sad year for Thailand with the recent passing of their king.
To that, the drag queen eloquently sums up how the new year is a time for a fresh slate.
“2016 was a rough year. We lost people who meant a lot to others. I’m hoping that when I come, since this is very new to me, that I’m also bringing a feeling of renewal, a fresh start. Let’s bring in 2017 the right way, with a good party, lots of energy, lots of fun, lots of smiles. I’ll be hugging everybody – let’s start new.”
And yes, Shangela says she will be hanging out after the show and is single and ready to mingle. Hit her up on her social media and let her know of your plans – she gave Popspoken express permission for us to tell you this. Don’t say bojio.
All images courtesy of White Party Bangkok