Image source: Getty / Matt Winkelmeyer
This interview was edited for the sake of length and clarity.
"Darling, I give birth to children across the nation," said Shangela Laquifa Wadley, aka D.J. Pierce said during a phone interview on June 6th. The bubbly drag queen – known for her three RuPaul & # 39; s Drag Race Appearances, A star Is Born Cameo and the keyword "Halleloo" – refers to her experience with the HBO documentaries. Were here, followed by Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O & # 39; Hara and of course Shangela who only do one night drag shows with residents of different small towns. "The Wadleys go on tour one day," added Shangela.
The six-episode season that aired its finale earlier this month takes the trio to cities in New Mexico, Missouri, Louisiana, and more. Each queen is responsible for coaching a different performer, and they range from regular drag guests to beginners and people who have never seen a drag show. Unfortunately, the season ended abruptly when production in Spartanburg, SC was discontinued due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the finale consisted of interviews with the performers at home.
The good news, however, is that Were here has since been extended for a second season and Shangela is in the end what they started. "Girl, I kept a dress over there! I have to pick it up," she said. "There are so amazing stories to tell in Spartanburg and in so many other places around the country."
Speaking to POPSUGAR, Shangela talked about the show's debut season, how Pride Month will look a lot different this year, and her new Feed the Queens initiative helps fight hunger in the drag community.
POPSUGAR: First of all, how are you? What have you done during this time to process and cope?
Shangela: So far, 2020 has been a very challenging year for people in many communities, particularly in the Black Community and also in the LGBTQ + Community. One thing we need to remember is that in our most difficult times, we are the times when we are most closely brought together. Even though it was a tough week, I was empowered with this really strong feeling of hope, because of all the activism, because of all the engagement, because of all the difficult conversations people are currently having about race in America and equality for everyone.
PS: Given the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests, how do you imagine Pride Month celebrations will take shape this year?
Shangela: Pride will undoubtedly look very different in 2020 than anything many of us have ever experienced before, but just because we have to adapt does not mean that we have to forget it completely. Just because we are locked up does not mean that our spirit of pride has been locked up.
"Pride is not just about getting together for a parade."
For me, I'm here at my grandmother's house in Paris, Texas. I am usually with my friends and people around the world during the Pride season to celebrate the great sense of community we have, but I will still be here in my hometown to celebrate Pride because at Pride it's not just about coming together for a parade; Pride is about coming together to strengthen our community for the things we value in our community, namely freedom of self-expression and equality for all. I will do that and I will do it differently. I have to do it through social engagement, maybe I'll make some videos in my garden. But I will also continue the conversation about how important it is that we keep holding up our rainbow flags, be it physically or in our hearts, and continue to encourage everyone to vote because we talk about how pride it means to support equality , and the only way we will be the same is to get in there and talk to these legislators and vote for people who have similar values.
PS: There is a lot of talk about effective alliance at the moment. How can people outside the LGBTQ + community show their support and demand justice for police brutality victims?
Shangela: I have always said that we have to lead with love. For the first time, many people are talking about race, inequalities in the judiciary and the violence that trans people – especially colored and black trans members of our community – are exposed to every day. The right words are not always said, but interest in learning is the first step.
Everyone is different in how they conduct these conversations. My only way is to be open to listening so people are ready to hear me when I speak. People need to feel that they are being heard to have a two-way conversation, and I am open to difficult conversations because I think this is the only way we can get to a place that people are more familiar with the challenges of our LGBTQ + community. We need to understand where people are in their learning spectrum and be ready to take the time to educate them, to inform them and to share our experiences with them so that we can hopefully all get to a place where we can true meaning of understanding equality. You can't really understand equality if you don't know the differences your community is facing.
PS: Right. Something a lot of people are expressing now is the idea that it's okay to grow, change your mind, and admit your mistakes.
Shangela: Yes, these are conversations that I not only had in my community, but also conversations that I did not only have in these small, conservative cities that we visited Were here, but also that I had in my personal family, among my own friends and with whom I went to school. . . People will not be able to really develop their mindset – this kind of breakdown of systemic racism – overnight. We have to be aware of it and understand it. This is not a weeklong dynamic of activism. This must be a position of lifelong learning, teaching and speaking for what is right.
Image source: HBO
PS: Tell me about your new Feed the Queens charity.
Shangela: We have all tried to find ways to get involved and help our specific communities that have been hit so hard by COVID-19 and the closure of nightlife. I am a drag queen, I came to the bars and I understand that many drag entertainers really depend on the wages of the crowds that tip them. This is how they make a living, and without the ability to have these spaces to perform, entertain, and make money, the drag community was one of the hardest hit in this pandemic. The LGBTQ + community is already facing very high numbers when it comes to hunger. The statistics are really amazing, and now we have all these unemployed queens who have no money and cannot buy some of their basic needs, and that's food.
So I'm determined to fight hunger in the drag community. I teamed up with The Actors Fund and they said with me, "We're going to work together to raise $ 100,000 to feed 1,000 drag queens or more across America, and we'll provide gift cards to them in the amount of $ 100 each, specifically for food. "
I would also like to add a few things: First, this program was designed to fight hunger among drag queens, drag kings, trans drag performers and other types of drag performers in our community. So it's very inclusive. The second thing is, we understand that drag queens from color communities, especially Black and Latinx drag queens, are more affected due to COVID-19 and existing suppression in the different communities. For this reason, we provide 30% of the amount of money raised specifically for those queens who identify themselves as queens of color.
PS: How can people get involved?
"I remember having to put together the money for your art or the money for your food."
Shangela: How to help: You can go to FeedTheQueens.com. There you will find a donation button through which individuals can provide financial support. That is the first thing. Second, I'm going to program an upcoming event where we're giving fans the opportunity to have great entertainment while also collecting donations to help fight hunger in the drag community. The third thing is that queens can apply from June 11th. You can go to the website and fill out a really simple application to get this financial support for food. I think it will be really special. I'm happy about this project because I know what it's like to be hungry. I was a drag queen who worked for $ 50 each per gig, so I remember what it was like to choose between putting the money together for your art or putting the money together for your food. I hope people don't have to do this alone, and I'm grateful to have this platform and can help. I went to Drag raceI have never won $ 100,000, but I bet it will be really nice to pass it on to those in need.
PS: Pan too Were hereLately there have been many discussions about representation in various positions, but especially at management level. I think it's worth noting that Bob, Eureka and you were all advisory producers and not just on the show. How important was that to you?
Shangela: It was incredibly important and I am so honored that HBO recognized how important our voices are not only in front of the camera but also behind the camera to produce parts of this show. We have such amazing leaders on this set as our creators Stephen Warren and Johnnie Ingram, who were standing right next to us and said, "We want this show to have the most authentic feel, the most authentic sound, and it will." These queens contribute in front of the camera, but also outside of the camera. "HBO and the leaders there – Nina Rosenstein and Casey Bloys – came in and said," Let's make sure these queens are heard. "It's so nice to have a seat at the table, not just as an on-air Talent, but also as an advisory producer.
Image source: HBO
PS: When you look back on this first season, is there a certain moment that you particularly notice?
Shangela: Well, you never forget your first one. On my first drag show with Hunter, it was just wonderful to take this journey of its own growth. I think he had this development of owning more of what he was, not just as a young gay boy in a conservative city, but also as a budding drag queen.
PS: I wanted to ask! Will Hunter continue to perform?
Shangela: Oh yes, honey, I give birth to children across the nation. The Wadleys go on tour one day! I am so proud of Hunter. It's difficult because none of us are really on the go, but he does makeup tutorials online and shares them with his newly discovered fandom. I talked to him and his father recently and it was so nice to see their relationship and see how this whole family is getting closer. I feel like I had a little hand with me, so it was just beautiful.
PS: It was really incredible to see how his father changed and how he even participated in the lip synchronization video at the end of the final.
Shangela: Dad was so proud. He learned the words, honey!
PS: It seemed like many of the locals you met were supportive and excited, but there were also some unwelcome people. What was going on in your mind during some of these more difficult interactions?
Shangela: Once again I was always taught to lead with love. So I go into these rooms. I go to these small conservative cities, many of which I have never been before, but they seem very familiar to me because I grew up in a small conservative city. I'm not scared in any way because I feel like I'm in a place I know, but I'm definitely determined to walk in the shoes my drag kids run every day.
PS: In the second episode, Bob, Eureka and you thought about being "rough on the edges" at the beginning of your respective careers. What role does mentoring play in this process in order to improve as a drag performer?
Shangela: It makes a big difference whether you have someone in your life who you can look up to and who takes the time to look after you. I was very grateful to have a number of teachers in my life and they came in many forms. I think it's great to have that, but if you don't, you can rely on those in your life from whom you get any kind of inspiration. I think these queens we visit in these cities are drag queens. Drag queens are known to be some of the most imaginative people in the world who can create treasures from garbage.
PS: Congratulations on the extension for a second season! Are you all planning to finish work in Spartanburg, which was unfortunately canceled due to the pandemic?
Shangela: We have just learned that we will be renewed, so we are riding this wave right now, but I would love to return to Spartanburg. Girl, I kept a dress over there! I have to pick it up – I want to wear the dress! But there are also amazing stories to tell in Spartanburg and in many other places in the country. I am pleased that HBO has given us the opportunity and recognized what a powerful show this is with such a great message that people need right now. We will be out there sometime and do it again.
Image source: HBO