Drag queen and actor D.J. "Shangela" Pierce gained national attention as a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race. Shangela was the first queen eliminated in season 2, but Shangela's personality won fans and the producers over. In the premiere of season 3, the queen surprised the other contestants by popping out of an oversized gift box and joining them in the competition.
Since then, Shangela has appeared in the Oscar-nominated remake of A Star Is Born, The X-Files and Ariana Grande's 2019 album, thank u, next.
Shangela's most recent project is the unscripted series, We're Here. The six-part series follows Shangela and two other drag queens, Bob The Drag Queen and Eureka O'Hara, as they adopt small-town residents as their drag daughters and train them for one-night only drag performances. New episodes air Thursdays at 9 PM on HBO.
Recorded remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, NPR's Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg and house musician Jonathan Coulton talk to Shangela about quitting a corporate job for Drag Race, landing a role in A Star Is Born, and finding small-town queer communities in We're Here.
Then, inspired by the iconic Drag Race "unboxing," Shangela takes an audio quiz on unboxing videos found on YouTube.
On Moving Back To Her Childhood Home
(Shangela is currently living in Paris, Texas during the coronavirus pandemic.)
"It's been really nice being close to my mom. Although, you know when you get back in your family's house, all of the sudden you're 16 again... As much as I'm like, 'Mom! I'm an adult! I'm on a show on HBO!' She's like, 'Right. The trash cans need to go out and you look too skinny, come here and eat more.'"
On Quitting A Corporate Job For RuPaul's Drag Race
"I literally quit my corporate job in PR at the time...In season 2, the cash prize was $20,000. You know, being a novice diva, I just knew that $20,000 was gonna make all my dreams come true. So I was like, 'Y'all can keep this job. I'm gonna go win Drag Race!'"
On The New HBO series, We're Here
"The creators, Johnnie Ingram and [Stephen Warren], came to me and said, 'Look, we've got this idea about you guys traveling to these small towns and putting on these one-night only drag shows and partnering with these people who have these amazing stories.' I just knew that experience. It resonated with me because I grew up in a small town...I know what it's like being a young, gay kid that looks around and thinks, 'Oh my gosh, I'm the only person like me maybe even in the world.'"
Heard on D.J. "Shangela" Pierce: Quaran-Queen.