Catching Up With Shangela
By Jordan Shavarebi
(From left): George Kotsiopoulos, Jake Conway, and Shangela / Photo by Gavin Bond
Comedian D.J. Pierce, known to most as Shangela Laquifa Wadley, is coming out.
He first burst onto the scene in season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and then out of a box in season three. Since then, Pierce has tirelessly proved that nobody puts Shangela in a corner.
He’s filmed pilots for big league networks, headlined comedy clubs in L.A. and taught the children (literally) how to death drop on Dance Moms.
We chewed his ear, as Shangela, about divas on a mission, toddlers (and tiaras) and the mild flirtations of Chevy Chase.
I think we should start by talking about your recent appearance on Dance Moms. I mean, you taught the girls how to death drop.
Of course. I coined that the Death Drop Heard Around the World.
Did you come in contact with the moms while you were on the set?
On screen, not so much. But off camera I did have a chance to connect with the moms, and they were really fun, actually. A lot of times on reality shows—and I know this better than anybody—you can get a bad rap based on what’s going on in the show. But on a personal level, all the moms I met were really nice. And of course, I love me some Abby Lee Miller.
What about the girls? Did they worship you?
I think they worshipped my rhinestone costume more than they worshipped me. But they were really sweet and fun to work with. First of all, I love kids and I think I’m pretty much a big kid myself, and so, it was amazing to be able to go on that show and teach them the death drop. They wanted to know if I knew anybody famous… When I told them that I met Lady Gaga once in Orlando, they screamed. They wanted to touch the hand that I had touched Lady Gaga’s hand with.
You were also recently featured, in drag, on an episode of NBC’S Community. What was that like?
It was a dream come true for me to work with people like Joel McHale and Chevy Chase. The whole cast made me feel so welcome on set. The first day I stepped on, one of the actresses—her name Gillian Jacobs—started screaming to meet me, and I started screaming to meet her. She said, ‘Oh, my God, the Nancy Drew of drag.’ She knew everything about Drag Race. She watched every episode. And I think that says a lot about our show, Drag Race, and what a cross-gender and cross-cultural appeal it has.
Chevy Chase is a legend. How did it feel to work with a legend?
Oooh! I was like, now please tell me I can hug up on him and kiss him! But that wasn’t happening. However, he was great on set. He’s one of those artists that’s really dedicated to his craft. He told me, ‘you know, you look pretty good as a woman.’
Are there more television appearances in your near future?
Well, I certainly hope to do more TV roles. I’ve done ABC’s Detroit 17, I did this show on NBC as well as two pilots—one for HBO and one for NBC—and of course, the show on FX, Terriers, which was so much fun. I just wanna get more roles like that so I can continue to represent out community.
In the television pilot for Mann’s World, you worked with Chris Crocker. Could you handle him?
Chris was hilarious, crazy, and hell… he was fun. On the show, we were a part of a haircutting trio: Snip, Snap and Snur. And honey, you put Chris Crocker and me and, from New York, Christian Dante White together and it was something. I was really sad to see that the pilot didn’t get picked up, but I know other great opportunities are gonna come. And hopefully, Chris and I are gonna be able to work together again.
How’s your standup career going?
I’m continuing to do standup comedy with my comedy character Laquifa, as well as with my male character, DJ, and I have a couple shows coming up at the Comedy Store here in L.A. I just finished filming an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras for TLC. I’m going to be the first drag queen to ever be on the show, although those little girls give me a run for my money.
Will you be in New York for the Out100 Gala?
Oh, honey, I wouldn’t miss it for the world! I’m on my way to Philly right now because I’m working with an organization called Hope’s Voice through a program called Divas of Diversity, where I go to different college campuses to talk to the students about anti-bullying and acceptance and creating a really great Gay Straight Alliance and culture of inclusion on the campus, and then I perform. Right after Philly I’ll be heading up to New York City for the gala, which I am so pleased and proud to be a part of, and then I head out in the morning to Hartford for a college conference.
Season four of Drag Race is almost here. What do you think of the sneak peaks and trailers? Have you seen them? I saw the Halloween one, where the zombies ate Laquifa. Did you see that one? Listen, I know that the anticipation is so high for this new season, but honey, if there’s a box, you’d better watch out because it might be me again.
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