Hard werqin’ queen Shangela (a/k/a DJ Pierce) hasn’t rested on her laurels since appearing on three seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Her Drag Race success has led to acting gigs on Community and The Mentalist. She also helped school Abby Lee Miller‘s dance students on how to execute the perfect death drop on Dance Moms. You can see her now co-starring with Jenifer Lewis (check out our interview with Jenifer) on the uproariously hilarious new web series Jenifer Lewis and Shangela. The self-described “Debutantess of the Deep South” just wrapped up a limited engagement of her new show Laquifa is Halleloosin’ It (featuring her alter ego, “postmodern pimp ho” Laquifa) in New York and graciously spent a few minutes out of her insanely busy schedule to talk about Jenifer Lewis and Shangela, what’s she’s been up to since Drag Race and her budding music career!
Socialite Life: First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on the success of the Jenifer Lewis and Shangela web series – it’s fantastic!
Shangela: Thank you so much! We’re just so excited about how well its done, and all of the fans – you know, Jenifer and I did that show as a special gift to our fans and it’s been really cool to see so much love around it.
There is much more from Shangela!
SL: You know, a lot of people get to meet their idols but you got to actually live with yours. Did you think that was ever going to happen?
Shangela: You know, somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve always wanted it to happen. Did I ever actually think it was going to happen? No. Every day, it’s so amazing to me and it’s so awesome because five years ago, I was sitting in my apartment in Dallas, watching Jenifer Lewis on TV, repeating all of the lines she does and just being so excited whenever I’d see her on – her films or her television shows – and then, everything sometimes just happens in your life and you’re like “Really? That happened to me? Wow, that’s cool!”
SL: What inspired you to do the web series?
Shangela: Well, trust me, there’s a lot of wacky stuff that goes on when you’re living in a house with Jenifer Lewis! (Laughs) It’s been so awesome, she and I have become great friends. I started as her fan – and I’m always her fan – then I was her assistant and then we’ve just become such good friends. We just have a fun chemistry and a fun time together, so we decided to share that with other people – because people would look at us and say, “You know what? People should see how crazy the two of you are together.” And we were like, “Okay, cool!”
SL: The reception to the show has been really positive. Are you surprised at how successful the show’s been so far?
Shangela: Well, you know, I’ve got to say that all of Jenifer Lewis’ projects (to me) have always been popular. So I was just so excited to be able to share something with my fans as well – who may not have been that familiar with Jenifer and it’s been a great thing for me for a lot of her fans who may not be as familiar with me as an actor or as Shangela. I think it’s been great on both ends and I definitely thought it would be great, but I didn’t know it would pick up so fast.
SL: The theme of last week’s episode was recognition. Do you get recognized more now?
Shangela: (Laughs) It always surprises me! You know, I understand that RuPaul’s Drag Race is a very popular show and I’ve been on a number of other reality and scripted shows. But, you know, even in places like New York City, where I feel as big as an ant – because there are so many people – to be stopped on the street or to be stopped in Times Square or on the subway and hearing “Oh my God, Shangela! I love you!” And I’m like, “You recognize me? That’s cool!” (Laughs) You just never expect it. I’m from Paris, Texas, so I can understand being recognized there, but in New York City, that blows my mind.
SL: In addition to the web series, you’ve been in the recording studio and have 2 singles out. Can you tell me a little bit about your latest song, “Werquin’ Girl”?
Shangela: Of course! I’m so excited about “Werqin’ Girl” because I got to premiere it on Lifetime’s show Dance Moms, on season 3. And little Nia took another Laquifa song, honey (Nia first danced to Shangela’s debut single, “Call Me Laquifa” – you can see the video here) and turned the party over at the competition. One of the producers, John Corella, told me it was the first time Nia’s placed so high in a competition and it was with “Werquin’ Girl”. (Check out Nia’s performance here.) So that just really warms my heart, because I see a lot of similarities between my journey and hers and learning and growing and getting better and not maybe always being on top but never giving up. So that was really cool and I’m really excited about “Werquin’ Girl”. I wrote the song and I co-produced it with Grant Nicholas as well as DJ Inman and B. Ames. It was just really cool. When Dance Moms said, “Hey, do you want to do another Laquifa song? Do you have one?” and I said, “Yeah, of course! I’ll send it to you on Monday!” Girl, I didn’t have anything! I went right to the drawing board and within four days, I had written and gone in the studio and recorded and we had finished producing the ‘Werquin’ Girl” track. So it was really awesome – I’m really lucky to be working with such talented people.
SL: Is music something you’ve always wanted to do?
Shangela: You know, even in my new one hour comedy show, Laquifa is Halleloosin’ It, I sing live – and music has always been a part of me. I was in the gospel choir in college, I was in choirs the whole time I was coming up in high school and I’ve always loved to sing. Am I a classically trained singer? Oh, no ma’am! But do I love music?Yes, I do. It’s just been awesome to be able to share things that go on in my head. Everything’s a song. Every experience in life should be translated into a song. I love to be able to express myself creatively now through music.
SL: Who are your musical inspirations?
Shangela: Well, I can’t sing like them, so let’s make that clear, but I love Beyonce‘s music. My tastes in music go all the way across the board. I mean, I love Colbie Caillat…Beyonce…Prince has always been awesome. I just love listening to music that has a message and that’s fun and makes you want to have a good time – and that’s definitely what my music is. It’s fun, it’s music that gets you going and that you can dance to honey, because I know what it’s like when you’re at the gym with that iPod and you hear that one track come on and you’re like “Whoo!” and all of a sudden your running at 7.0! I’m running! (Laughs) That’s what I hope my music is – it’ll make you want to run!
SL: Do you have any plans to record more songs?
Shangela: Yes. I have a new track called “Turn the Party” that will premiere sometime around November. I’m going to give “Werquin” Girl” a good amount of time to get out there and let the fans get a really good feel for it. We’re going to produce a music video for it as well, but my favorite track is coming. I live my life turning the party, so I can’t wait for “Turn the Party” to come out.
SL: What other projects are on the horizon for you?
Shangela: Yes, I just finished filming my first guest star role on a live TV sitcom – that’s shot in front of a live studio audience – and that was Two Broke Girls on CBS. I think that episode airs Monday, October 1st at 9pm/8 central. And it’s so exciting for me to be able to work with Michael Patrick King again, who’s the executive producer of the show. The episode is actually directed by Fred Savage. He was awesome to work with and the whole cast – Kat Dennings, Jennifer Coolidge and Beth Behrs – it was just really awesome to work with such a great group. And, I’m out of drag in the role and, get this girl, my character’s name is “Halleluia”! (Laughs) I’m really excited about it.
SL: Well, I hope they can get you back on Community some time! You were great on that show.
Shangela: You know what? Thank you! Somebody write Joel McHale right now and tell him! You know, that whole group is great too. I was so shocked the first day on the set of Community because I’m a huge fan of the show and a fan of all of the actors on the show, including Yvette Nicole Brown and everyone. And Gillian Jacobs came up to me on the first day – I was just quietly coming in. I’m there and I want to do a good job and she just looks at me and says” Shangela! Halleloo! Halleloo!” and she had everything from Drag Race memorized. She said “I’m your biggest fan” and I’m like “What? I’m your biggest fan! What are you talking about?” (Laughs) So it was just really cool. I’ve been able to work on The Soup four of five times over on E! and with this new Hallelosin’ It, tour we’re just hoping to continue to work on it. I’ve been working with Out TV in Canada also, I did a Canadian Pride tour of six cities in Canada and they were great. The reception in Canada has been great. I’m hoping to take this Halleloosin’ It tour to DVD or maybe a TV special.
SL: Are you planning on taking Halleloosin’ It on the road?
Shangela: We’re bringing it down to South Florida if not in the winter, then in the spring because I’ve had some interest from the Ft. Lauderdale area to come and do the show – as well as Columbus, Savannah, Georgia – and I’m coming back to New York again to do the show October 20th at Club XL. It’s just been phenomenal. I just got my first review of the show today and you know, if you’ve ever put anything out there to be reviewed, it’s very nerve-wracking. You want what you feel is a good show, you want other people to perceive it that way – especially in the media! (Laughs) I’m really happy I got a really awesome review today (which you can read here) and it really made me happy – and the people who were there really enjoyed it!