Here at David Atlanta, we’ve interviewed a number of contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race, but it’s hard to think of one doing as many different things career-wise as Shangela.
From a start as a choreographer, Shangela (a.k.a. D.J. Pierce) moved into drag in what was originally a one-time performance. Five months later, Shangela was on the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, where she was the first queen eliminated. In a surprise twist, though, Shangela was brought back for the third season, making it all the way to the 11th episode of the season.
Pierce also has a different persona, Laquifa, who specifically performs comedy. Between Shangela, Laquifa, and Pierce, a slew of credits in popular TV programs and films have piled up in recent years. And on top of that, there’s still time for live performances from Shangela, like her upcoming appearance at Burkhart’s June 20–21.
In the midst of a busy schedule, Shangela had time to speak with David Atlanta about getting her start in drag, Drag Race, and everything she’s been doing since.
How did you get your start in drag?
I actually fell into drag a little over three years ago, nearly four years now. I was choreographing a “Single Ladies” performance for these three guys at a bar in Los Angeles. The night before, one of the guys couldn’t go on, so they asked if I could fill in. So I did. Someone had shoes, someone had makeup, and—boom—Shangela was born.
Having appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race in its second and third seasons, would you take another go at the show? Say, for another incarnation of All-Stars?
I love the show, and I love what it’s done for all of the contestants who have been on it so far. After going back both times, I would definitely go back another time. I just feel like I’ve grown, and continue to show that growing process and journey to my fans. I’d just do it for my fans. At this point, you know, I’m just so happy with where my career has taken off. I continue to work, and work hard. So would I go back to the show? Yes, of course. Would I have to think about it first? Probably a little bit. When you put yourself in that environment, in a drag competition, it’s based on a lot of different criteria. But yes, I would give it a shot.
What is the origin of “halleloo”?
I’ve always said “halleloo,” just as a part of my own being. You can say it started in the church. I grew up Southern Baptist, in Parix, TX with my grandma. But really, it’s how I live my life. You know, every day is positive-thinking. You don’t say “halleloo” when something bad goes down. I didn’t know it was going to catch on the way that it did, and then it ended up being on the 2010 LA Times “Top 10 Words from Reality TV,” right in between “GTL” [from Jersey Shore] and “prostitution whore” [from The Real Housewives of New Jersey].
You have a new DVD out, Laquifa is Halleloosin’ It! Can you tell me a little more about the project?
It’s a DVD of a stand-up comedy show that I did in New York City at XL Nightclub. It’s a one-hour show, and it also has a number of bonus features, including never-before-seen footage from behind the scenes of “Werqin’ Girl,” as well as the music video, plus a still photo gallery. It’s a ho-ishly good time. I talk about my journey as Laquifa, from the beginning of Drag Race until now. It was just fun, it was a great audience, and we thought it would be a good idea to put it on DVD for fans around the world.
You’ve also released a few singles, “Call Me Laquifa” and “Werqin’ Girl.” Any plans for another single (or more) soon?
You know, a great way to connect with fans is through music. Now, I’m no Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston—we all know that. But I do have a particular sound that I think my fans have an attachment to, so I have a new song called “Turn the Party.” I’ve worked with a producer named Christopher CJ Emmons. He also worked with me on “Werqin’ Girl.” It’s coming out late summer.
You’ve appeared on a number of television programs over the past few years, including scripted programs like Glee, Community, 2 Broke Girls and The Mentalist. What’s it like working on these different programs?
The reason I moved to Los Angeles was to work as an actor, and I’m just so happy that I’ve been able to do that through roles on television, whether it’s in drag or out of drag. I also work as a comedian out of drag. So I’m kind of dual-tasking it here, and I’m having the time of my life. Acting and working in this industry—you’ve got to have a really tough skin. You can feel like you’re the best at something, go in, and you’re not the person for that day. I’ve had tons of auditions, and I’ve just been fortunate to get good work.
I actually did a role in drag in a new film that’s coming out this summer, R.I.P.D. with Kevin Bacon and Ryan Reynolds. However, you won’t see me, because the scene itself ended up getting cut. Thank God I still get the residuals, halleloo.
You’ve just got to be set up for that kind of situation that may happen, but that’s the industry. And to work with great people like Sarah Jessica Parker, and all these amazing casts, it’s just mind-blowing.
You also were in last night’s episode of America’s Got Talent. Can you talk about that experience?
All I can say is that I did audition for America’s Got Talent. I had an amazing time, and I was so excited to see my death drop be featured in the premiere promo.
What else is coming up for you in the near future?
It’s Pride season, so I’m everywhere. Everywhere from Toronto Pride and New York City Pride to LA Pride. I mean, I’m just going all over. This summer’s a very busy one for me, but honey, as Laquifa and Shangela always say, I came to werq. Plus, I’m excited to continue filming a lot of stuff and auditioning, and continuing my journey. I’m just so grateful I have family and friends to support me along my journey.
What can fans of yours expect when you come to Burkhart’s later this month?
I can tell you that I’m bringing the best high-energy performance that Laquifa and Shangela have been known for, and they should expect high energy stage performance, a lot of fun, some stand-up comedy—I’m going to do it all. So for this triumphant return to Atlanta, I’m going to bring down the house.
Shangela appears at Burkhart’s, in partnership with Bubbles Salon and Plaza Theatre, June 20 at 11:30 p.m. and June 21 at 11 p.m. For more information, visit burkharts.com.