Shangela talks ‘Fully Lit’ Tour, growing up in Texas

Shangela apologizes for being a few minutes late for the interview. He was having a little drag queen drama.

“I apologize for being a little behind schedule,” Shangela says. “I was sifting through a mountain of wigs looking for one specific wig, and just completely missed the call.”

Did he find the wig in his Los Angeles stockpile?

“I’m in mid search,” he says. “I took a pause, but I’ll go back to sifting right after this.”

So many wigs, so little time.

“I’m looking for a specific blonde color that’s really going to offset the red costume that I plan to wear,” he says. “I know it’s here.”

“If there’s an apocalypse in LA, it’ll just be me and my wigs remaining,” Shangela says.

Shangela will be wearing a few wigs on Thursday at The Wiltern, one of the stops on his nationwide “Fully Lit” Tour

The “RuPaul’s Drag Race” veteran also is recognizable from “Dancing with the Stars” and HBO’s “We’re Here.” 

Shangela has co-hosted the series with fellow “Drag Race” contestants Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka O’Hara. The trio of drag queens travel across the United States to recruit small-town residents to participate in one-night-only drag shows.

In between looking for that wig and preparing for Thursday’s show at The Wiltern, Shangela spent some time talking with Q Voice News.

Here are some excerpts.

The ‘Fully Lit’ Tour

“One thing that people should expect is what they’ve always grown to expect from Shangela, a great night of high energy performances, hilarious comedy, and fun,” Shangela says. “That’s what this tour is really about. This is my first time touring a 90-minute solo show, since pre-pandemic. I’m excited to be out here reconnecting with my audiences live and in person on stage.

“All the milestones that I’ve been able to have over the last couple years are included in this show,” he says. “If you love me from ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ if you love me from ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ if you love me from ‘We’re Here,’ all of those elements are included in this show.”

The name ‘Fully Lit’

“The reason I call the show ‘Fully Lit’ is because I’ve always had an excitement and a burning passion for drag,” Shangela says. “Now, with all the things that I’ve been able to experience in the different places I’ve been able to go with drag, I like to call myself fully on fire.”

His journey from Paris, Texas

“I hope that my journey from Paris, Texas, to Paris, France, and even to the red carpets of Hollywood, inspires someone in Paris, Texas, to know that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, as long as you keep going and don’t give up,” he says. “You can always be a winner.”

Growing up in Paris, Texas

“Looking back at it now, I would not have wanted it to be any other way. Growing up in a small town allowed me to feel like a big fish in a small pond,” Shangela says. “I knew that I was different. The people around me knew that I was different.

“Thankfully, I had my grandma and my mom and people at home that gave me so much love,” he says. “Any of the discrimination or any of the bullying or whispers about me that I heard, whether it was at school or in the community, it didn’t diminish me. I knew that I was loved and I was supported at least in my home. I just went out there and continued to be DJ Pierce.”

Active in high school

“I was involved in every student activity possible,” he says. “I was the first male cheerleader at my high school since like 1963 or something. I was on the varsity squad for two years. I was the president of the student council and also captain of the debate team.

“That’s carried me through my life, being a person that’s not afraid to do the work to achieve the things that I want,” he says. “I’m so grateful for my hometown and that experience that I had.”

All towns are not supportive

“But I know it’s not like that for everyone in a small town,” Shangela says. “Hosting the show ‘We’re Here’ on HBO, we go to small conservative towns, and I see people very much like myself, going through experiences very much like my own. Some of them have a support system, and a lot of them do not. What we do is to try to create a sense of community in these spaces.”

From out of the closet to Dairy Queen

“I wasn’t out at the time in high school. I was not the out loud and proud advocate for our community that I am today,” Shangela says. “I had to go on a journey of self acceptance for myself to be able to say, You know what, I am a gay man, a gay person. I love being gay.

“When I go back to my hometown, I’ll go through the drive thru at Dairy Queen. The kids are like, Oh, my God. Shangela. We love you. We saw you on ‘Good Morning, America.’ You said Paris, Texas. It’s so cool to hear our town’s name.

“I enjoy being someone who’s gay, and a drag entertainer from that small town,” Shangela says. “I know what it means to the younger me.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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