After Manila, the RuPaul's Drag Race queen I was most excited to meet was Shangela. The constant knock against her was that she was too inexperienced to even deserve to be on the show. And maybe she should have waited to become the winner or at least in the top three of season 4 or 5 instead of being an also-ran in season 3 and the first one eliminated in season 2.
But that's not what she wanted. And every damn week, Shangela worked her ass off and managed to claw her way to a top five finish.* And she was just as hard-working at the press event; she had the longest line of people waiting to talk to her. (That's me with her in the photo, which was taken by my nondrag superstar, Tony P.)
Shangela is determined to make it big. She's already shot a pilot for a show starring Don Johnson that might be picked up by NBC for the coming fall season, though she won't be appearing in drag in it. She's playing a male hairdresser named Snip under her given name, D.J. Pierce.
Shangela told Riot and me that she spent the summer of 2007 in New York and has friends in Brooklyn and the Bronx and her drag sister Sahara Davenport in Harlem, whom she had to unsuccessfully lip-sync for her life** against in the first episode of season 2. She's happy on the West Coast, though. "I love Los Angeles," she said. "I'm a sunshine girl."
Shangela rattled off a list of cities where she's performed recently and replaced her hometown in that famous lyric about New York: "If you can make it Paris, Texas, you can make it anywhere."
While emceeing the first part of the party at Providence, Shangela joked that she might be back for season 4. I'm sure she'd relish facing the competition again, but I suspect she'll be too busy with other things to even miss it.
I agree with Riot in that Mariah's personality didn't make much of an impression on me from the show, but I thought she was the prettiest queen from season 3. I enjoyed meeting her and found her to be fiercely intelligent.
As Riot related, Mariah sees the importance of connecting old-school drag performers with younger ones. The more experienced can teach those just starting out some old tricks while gaining insight into what's fresh and new.
Mariah, who lives in Atlanta, also told us she had a nightmare travel experience and was rescued by Manila at the airport. They later went shopping together.
That's Mariah, dressed like a black-and-white swan, and Riot throwing some big shadows in the photo.
We didn't have long to talk to Yara Sofia, the wacky diva from Manati, Puerto Rico, before we got shooed away by the girls' media handlers. She agreed with Riot's suggestion that Puerto Rico was much like American suburbs in its embrace of conformity. She said she's going to be in this year's Puerto Rican Day Parade, and when asked which neighborhood she'd like to live in if she were to move to New York, she said, "A cheap one."
Here's part of a group shot of the eight season 3 contestants at the press event; the right side of the group was washed out by an ill-placed spotlight.
That's Alexis, Yara, Mimi Imfurst, and Shangela from left to right. I was disappointed that Mimi, this season's other New York–based queen, didn't do better; she was bounced at the end of the third episode. She's been derided for picking up India Ferrah, her lip-sync competitor during that episode's elimination, and hoisting her over her shoulder, but I was more disappointed in her frequent crying jags on the show. I sympathize with the pressure she was under, but how the hell you gonna become America's Next Drag Superstar when you're bawling all the time on camera? Can I get an amen?!
*Or top six, if you want to claim the fifth spot for Carmen Carrera, who was eliminated before Shangela but was brought back for a second chance by judges Santino Rice and Michelle Visage in the episode after Shangela was sent home.
**And speaking of lip-synching for your life, here's a link to a tumblr blog of that name that has a great photo of Raja being crowned by BeBe Zahara Benet at Providence last night. And here's one of the top three: Manila, Raja, and Alexis, who lip-synced to RuPaul's "Main Event."