In Homecoming, Beyoncé’s 137-minute documentary on Netflix chronicling her Coachella performance, there’s a particular moment where the star points out into the audience.
“I see you,” she says, after pulling on her pink hoodie and looking at someone in the crowd. “How did you do that so fast? She has on my outfit, y’all.” The moment was a small one of genuine surprise from Bey, but was a sign of recognition for Michell'e Michaels, known as the performer Miss Shalae, who has made impersonating the multi-hyphenate performer a career.
“I had the yellow outfit when she had on the pink,” Shalae told Out Wednesday morning in a phone interview, clarifying that in the clip during weekend 2 of Coachella 2018, while Beyonce is wearing a pink hoodie, she was wearing the yellow look the star had worn the week before. “That would have been absolutely insane if I had intel on what Beyoncé had on before she wore it. She totally would have been freaked out.” Still, the likeness struck the queen enough to call it out.
But getting dressed like Beyoncé is only a small portion of with Miss Shalae does. The performer, who is also the overall mother of the house of Yves Saint Laurent in the ballroom scene, performs around the nation as a Beyonce impersonator, sometimes completely mimicking her idol’s performances, but sometimes just using the music and mannerisms to tell her own stories.
“I have a show today in San Diego where I will be recreating BeyChella and I have show tomorrow,” Shalae said. “I’m booked and I’m blessed and very grateful.”
Here, we talk to Miss Shalae about what the shout out meant to her, how she recreated Lemonade in 16 hours, and her experience in ballroom.
So how did it feel to see yourself get shouted out in Beyoncé’s Homecoming documentary?
I honestly just screamed, and it’s so amazing because when I saw that it was the actual performance — I didn’t know what it was going to be. I thought it was going to be mainly behind the scenes stuff — I’m watching it, and obviously there were two weekends. So for her to choose to put that in there, I thought it was just touching. I was truly overjoyed and overwhelmed. I was so excited when she did shout me out that weekend and to see how she included that and to just hear her message after that saying that she wanted everyone to feel included on stage, I noticed that there wasn’t any trans women up there. And so for her to include me in the documentary, I felt that was kind of like her way of reaching out and doing so in that way.
How was that weekend overall?
It was pretty amazing actually. That’s kind of how we got to the front. That’s also kind of how we got out of the crowds after. Everybody was just kind of like wait a minute and second guessing. I took a lot of pictures with people. This was my third time doing Coachella and this was the easiest one.
Is Beyoncé impersonating the majority of what you do and are passionate about?
I am absolutely passionate about it. Performing is something that I truly love. I’ve been performing since I was a kid and doing drag since I was 16. I’ve always loved Beyoncé, the first song I ever performed was actually “Work it Out” off of the Goldmember soundtrack with the full outfit and everything. Not until about 5 years ago did I really take it there. I used to do Rihanna and other people, just as a performer expressing my creativity. I did my own costumes, my hair, and things like that so performing allows me to express myself fully in all of my artistic abilities. With Beyoncé, she’s the number 1 singer, performer, everything so it just made sense to go with her. I love her attention to detail and I try to give the same attention to detail to my performances, and tell my story through her music.
Was there a moment that made you realize that Beyoncé was the person for you?
I did Beyoncé at a club and then I got hired to do Beyoncé at another club actually. They specifically requested Beyoncé. Then they hired me again the next week, but at the time I was still doing other music. So I did a Rihanna number and they fired me after that. It wasn’t clear to me before that they expected me to only do Beyoncé so after that I was like “Oh! Ok! Well, I got it, this is what I’m sticking to.” I always was taught if you’re going to do something, be the best at it, so I focused on this and everything sort of took off from there.
What has been a particularly big moment for you? I remember you recreated that Lemonade movie.
Yeah! Lemonade was huge for me. I recreated Lemonade and we did that in 16 hours. It was just me, my partner who is also my creative director and choreographer, the videographer, and maybe about four other people in the video. We shot that and put that out and it made a lot of buzz. It was one of my groundbreaking moments for sure. Also I would have to say my performance last year at San Francisco Pride and the official Los Angeles Pride after party was pretty amazing. I took Beyoncé’s music and told our own Pride story with Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera about the Stonewall Riots. I wanted to use her music to empower trans women because we were the ones who started the LGBTQ+ rights movement.
When I saw you perform, it was in DC it was at the On the Run Ball. I know you are the overall mother of the House of Saint Laurent. Can you tell me a little bit about your ballroom experience?
Ballroom is my home. Like most ballroom stories, I was kicked out at a young age and so I had to find my tribe. Ballroom people were the ones to take me in and show me the ropes and be along for my life experiences. I’ve been a part of ballroom since I was 15 going on 16. So it’s been everything to me. To grow up in that and go on to start my career and then fuse the two — because not often do you get someone who throws a ball and can do something like that during the Grand March —feels good. They’ve always supported me and I’m forever grateful for all of the support.
People who have seen Paris is Burning sometimes call ballroom houses gay street gangs, — which they can be at times — but I tend to think of them more as gay fraternities or sororities. In the sense that there’s networking opportunities and ways to build yourself inside of this familial context. Did you have this experience?
Being in ballroom, we have a lot of creative people that do so many things with people from the scene. Some of them run their own magazines and are a part of ballroom, or do hair for celebrities and makeup, or who do costumes and styling or things like that. But I do think especially ballroom has that talented. Especially because when you look at some of the major celebrities, people in ballroom are behind them.