A stunning standout on season one of RuPaul’s Drag Race and one of Ru’s most successful professors during the last semester at RuPaul’s Drag U, the eternally gorgeous Shannel returns to the most glamorous campus in the country to help women channel their inner divas!
This spectacular showgirl may have given up the bright lights of Sin City for the star-studded streets of Los Angeles, but she hasn’t slowed down one bit!
Shannel took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to catch us up on her fabulous life, share some experiences from the halls of Drag U and tell us what celebrity she’d like to help draguate with honors!
Socialite Life: Hi Shannel! It’s so great to talk to you again – how are you doing?
Shannel: I’m just living life and keeping super, super busy – which is always a good thing! Things can always be better but they can be a whole lot worse too, so I can’t complain!
SL: Well, we’re glad you weren’t too busy to come back to Drag U!
Shannel: Thanks! It was a lot of fun.
SL: Did you have any hesitation about returning for another season?
Shannel: None. None whatsoever. I knew after being on season one that it was definitely something I wanted to do again. I actually enjoyed doing Drag U a lot more than Drag Race…I think because of the fact that it wasn’t a competition for us so, for me, it was just a lot easier. Plus, I love the art of a makeover so it was right up my alley.
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🖤🖤🖤. Hair Inspired by @theprettymess. Thanks @mrkennethblake for always doing the best hair. #shannel #rupaulsdragrace #rpdr #season1 #theog #lasvegas #lasvegasstrip #lasvegasresidency #lasvegasheadliner #lasvegasentertainer #drag #dragqueen
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SL: I loved your transformation in the first episode and I just have to know how you convinced Lisa/Rai’Zon to overcome her insecurity about showing her legs off!
Shannel: You know, I think it was really just kind of tapping into the internal mindset. I was really able to get through to her that after so many years of her feeling fat and unattractive and all of these different things…you know, when an outsider tells you that you are attractive or that you are beautiful, and it’s coming from someone who isn’t a personal friend per se – or a family member, I think sometimes things get through a little bit differently in that aspect. I think that her being there and her listening to me, she really listened to what I had to say and she took into account the fact that, obviously, I’m there for a reason – because I probably know to some degree what I’m talking about – so she basically just kind of opened up and really put it in my hands and said, “You know what? If this is what you think I need to do to help overcome my own issues, then I want to go ahead and do it” and so she really did. She just opened up and let me do whatever I needed to do.
SL: Have you ever had a low self-esteem moment?
Shannel: Oh, absolutely! Everyday of my life…I mean, who doesn’t? I’ve been very up and down with weight my whole life and you know, the internal struggles with your sexuality, with people and all of these different things – but the one thing I really have learned and really tried to take to heart, Ru actually said in the episode (last Monday), “It’s really none of your business what people think of you.” That is really such a true statement…and I think that if we all were constantly so concerned about what everybody thought of us, then who would we really ever be? And so, learning to just love yourself for who you are and realizing that everybody has faults, everybody has strengths, everybody has weaknesses and you take all of those things into account and that is essentially what makes up who we are and so I just had to learn to realize that.
SL: On this week’s episode, “Suddenly Single”, you’re working with women who found themselves, well, suddenly single. Could you relate with them?
Shannel: Well, yes…but, fortunately I’m not single – I’m not in a single situation, but I know what it feels like to be single. I think (the girls on the episode) are definitely in good hands…more or less they’re lacking that self-confidence to really kind of be able to get out there and get back into the dating world again, so being on the show I think is really essentially empowering for them in realizing, “Okay, I’m single again. My boyfriend/husband dumped me, they told me I was this, I was this…let’s try to regain all of that strength that we need again.”
SL: Later this season, you’re doing makeovers on 80s stars Stacey Q, “Downtown” Julie Brown and Jane Wiedlin. How was that experience for you?
Shannel: It was great. They were all really, really sweet. When you’re working with celebrities who are already divas, of course it’s a little more challenging because the pressure is on a little bit more. They’ve already been in the spotlight for so many years and their expectations obviously are already different but we were able to kind of ground them just a little bit and have them realize that, “Hey, you are also a student here at Drag U and you’re here to be able to learn and we’re going to do whatever it takes to work you into shape as well.” And they were really great when it came to being submissive and learning from us and taking into account our knowledge and what we had to say.
SL: Is (guest judge) Lynda Carter as fabulous in person as she appears on screen?
Shannel: She is even more beautiful in person! That woman is like a mannequin – she doesn’t age, she’s got a perfect body and perfect skin. She was so amazingly sweet and nice. It was a true honor. She was really incredible. I was amazed.
SL: If you could give any celebrity a Drag U makeover, who would it be?
Shannel: Oh my gosh…that’s tough, that’s a question I’ve never thought of before! Gosh, I don’t know, to be honest with you – I’ve never even thought of that (laughs)! You know, probably Lindsay Lohan, because she’s just absolutely gross to me. She needs a serious attitude adjustment and one hell of a makeover. I think she’s a beautiful girl but what she’s done to herself is just an absolute mess (laughs)!
SL: That’s so true, it’s like the women on Drag U really are beautiful, but it seems to take that attitude adjustment…
Shannel: I think that’s a lot about what it is. A lot of the women, even women who email me that say they would like to be part of the show, their immediate thing is always about the physical – and it’s not about the physical because makeup and hair and costumes and all of these things can always make someone look better. I think a lot of it is the internal adjustment because I think when you feel beautiful on the inside, it will show on the outside. So, for example, with Lindsay Lohan, I mean, she’s just a frikkin’ mess and I think that attitude adjustment would make her look a hell of a lot more beautiful.
SL: You’re working with some new queens on this season of Drag U. Did you pick up any tips from your fellow queens?
Shannel: Ummm…to be honest with you, no (laughs). I really like them all. I think that they’re all amazing. They all are unique in their own way. We get the opportunity to be able to work together often in different venues across the states or even locally and it’s been interesting to see the progression – for example, from season one and the queens I was involved with – of how their lives have changed and how their makeup has improved and their wardrobe and different things like that. In our season, obviously, we knew nothing about what to expect and what Drag Race was going to be. In the other seasons, after having seen ours, they had so much more understanding and expectations of knowing they were going to have to do makeup and they were going to have to sew and things like that. It’s always great to be able to work with them and to be able to meet the queens from the new seasons and I’m obviously a veteran at this point – the oldest on the block – so it’s kind of nice.
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SL: It seems, from the first episode at least, that there’s more of Lady Bunny on the show this season…
Shannel: You know, I like Lady Bunny, I’ve known her for quite some time. She’s just a character and she has an interesting insight that a lot of people I don’t think would necessarily get. You look at her and she’s so over the top that you probably don’t take her very seriously – but when you kind of delve into the actual mindset of who Lady Bunny is, she’s actually very intelligent. There’s a lot of knowledge that does come across there that I think a lot of people wouldn’t really pay attention to because you don’t necessarily take her seriously when you’re seeing such huge over the top hair and jewelry and makeup and all of these different things.
SL: There’s been some Emmy talk surrounding RuPaul’s Drag Race. Why do you think the show has become so popular?
Shannel: Well, you know, obviously it’s the first show of its kind. It’s a competition unlike any other competition. People love to see the art of a true transformation and you’ve got a group of 12, 13, 14 everyday-looking boys and through the power of makeup, costumes and wigs, they transform into these over the top beautiful and creative glamazons. I think people in general are very enticed to see how well someone could pulls something off – how realistic can they look or how amazing their wardrobe is and the challenges kind of allowed for people to see a different side of a person that is “not typical”. Drag isn’t something you walk into a store and see every single day. People are enticed by something that’s almost kind of taboo. It’s so unusual and it’s so different and it’s the ultimate form of creativity – the art of transformation. I think people are just intrigued by it.
SL: How do you feel about having so many straight, female fans?
Shannel: I love it! It’s great because I think that we kind of give women hope and allow them to tap into that inner diva side that they wouldn’t necessarily and realize that they don’t have to wear simple boring clothes everyday – like “Mom pants” and sneakers and all of these different things. They can really step out of their box a little bit. I think that watching Drag Race and Drag U gives women a little bit of hope and reassurance that, “Well, you know, if these guys can go up there and do it, why can’t I?”
SL: Who’s been inspiring you lately? Have you added any new characters or looks to your performances?
Shannel: You know, every two weeks of my life, I think I’m adding new things, to be honest with you. And that’s part of the game with what we do. Traveling so much and having so many local shows, people get tired of seeing the same old thing and you are constantly having to reinvent yourself and reinvent the wheel. And I am my own worst critic – I like to think that what I do is kind of like “living art” so sometimes it can be difficult to try to essentially out-do yourself. So you have to go bigger, you have to go bolder, you have to go stronger – so it becomes more expensive materials, more intense labor, etc. I am constantly working on new things and new characters. When there’s a new movie that comes out, you look at the characters that are in it and when a new song comes out…and you just kind of go from there. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of time and it’s probably a lot more involved than the average person would ever really think.
SL: You recently moved to Los Angeles and have been performing with a lot of Drag Race alums. How have things been since wrapping production on Drag U?
Shannel: It’s great. I love working with the Dreamgirls. I was with them for many years several years ago, before I moved to Las Vegas, so for me it’s essentially coming back home. I can’t complain…it’s an amazing cast of entertainers. We are able to bring such a wide variety of entertainment to the playing field – from your character and comedy illusion to sex and showgirl and everything in between, including male illusion, so it’s really great that we’ve got this incredible show that is essentially free to get into so that you can see a whole bunch of everything.
SL: Do you miss Las Vegas?
Shannel: You know what? I don’t, to be honest with you. It’s too hot for me and, being that I’m only a few hours away, I still am out there about once a month to work on costuming – but it’s not somewhere I would want to live again.
SL: How are things going with your makeup tutorial DVD? Is it still available?
Shannel: Absolutely! Go to facetheillusion.com – it’s still on there!
SL: When we last spoke, you were pondering the possibility of a sequel. Is that still something you’re planning to do?
Shannel: You know, it is, but on the other hand…it costs so much money to produce it that I don’t know that it’s really worth it in the long run. And, more importantly – and it’s probably horrible to say – a lot of the secrets and things I know where it comes to drag makeup I don’t know that I really want to share them with everybody! I think I can share my knowledge on a one-on-one basis, but I don’t know that it’s something I’d necessarily want to put out on DVD. I don’t know, we’ll see.
SL: What else is in the works for you?
Shannel: You know, I’m not too certain. I try to take things one day at a time and just go with the flow. There’s a possibility of a European tour for me, there was some interest in doing a reality show based on my life out of my home, I was talked to about maybe doing a movie, so I just take everything for what it is. I became part of an organization called Hope’s Voice. I’ll be traveling to different colleges across the United States and doing seminars and kind of raising awareness of the life and all of these different things – as well as performing – so that will be great to be an inspirational leader to college students across the United States, so that should be really fun. You know, just living life and taking every day for what it’s worth!