‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ star Shangela celebrates Queer History Month at Syracuse
'RuPaul's Drag Race' star celebrates Queer History Month at Cuse
Shangela, the celebrity drag queen, caught the audience by surprise when she jumped on stage wearing a tight-fitting yellow gown in the middle of a slow bingo game, garnering an explosive reaction from the event’s attendees.
The original schedule had bingo on the back-end of the event, but it was pushed to the start of the show when the reality TV star, who was supposed to kick off the event, showed up nearly an hour late due to travel complications.
“The weather had a different plan but I made it!” she announced.
Shangela Laquifa Wadley, better known simply as Shangela, was a contestant on the Emmy award-winning series “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” She waltzed into Goldstein Auditorium to cheers from the crowd on Wednesday night. The pride event was hosted by Pride Union, Syracuse University’s LGBTQ+ advocacy group, in celebration of Queer History Month.
The “Drag Race” star left the stage for an outfit change, reappearing in a bejeweled leotard and thigh-high boots to perform a dance number to “Call Me Mother” by RuPaul. She stepped down from the stage to grace the crowd, dancing ferociously on tables and pulling off the death drop — a move that Shangela is famous for being the first to attempt on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Shangela is the TV show’s only contestant to return for three seasons, and though she has never won, she has been one of the most talked-about stars to come from the series. The actress’ performance felt akin to a comedy show at times, her witty jokes keeping the audience laughing throughout the night.
“Robbed? No, I was not robbed. Thank you, that’s sweet,” Shangela said, responding to an audience member’s comment on her largely contested season three loss on “RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Star” in 2018.
“I was burglarized, b–ch!” Shangela shouted lightheartedly.
After another outfit change, Shangela came back to the stage for a Q&A session, led by Pride Union President Hunter Gorick. She discussed the importance of visibility and representation for marginalized groups, and how shows like Pose and RuPaul’s Drag Race are providing that for the LGBTQ community.
“No matter what walk of life you come from, your story does matter and it’s important that it’s told,” Shangela told students.
Since her last season on “Drag Race,” Shangela has appeared on popular shows like “Glee,” “The X-Files” and “2 Broke Girls.” Most recently, she appeared in the Academy Award-winning movie “A Star is Born,” and was featured on the track “NASA” on Ariana Grande’s latest album.
Freshman Jaden Chen started watching Shangela on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” last year while back home in China. Chen, whose family doesn’t know he identifies as queer, is new to drag and only began after starting school at SU in the fall.
When he asked Shangela for advice during the Q&A, she invited him up on stage to dance with her and crowned him with a new drag name: Bang Bang-kiana, a reference to the song “Bang Bang” by Ariana Grande, who he said he’s a fan of.
“I love it, because it’s from a person I love so much. I’m going to keep it forever,” Chen said of his new stage name.
Drag Queen Bingo, which first began in the 1990s as a fundraiser for AIDS awareness, is as simple as bingo with drag queens, Gorick said. Pride Union took the event a step further by incorporating LGBTQ history into the game, giving participants brief explanations with each queer-themed bingo answer. Gorick believes this is what makes SU’s Drag Queen Bingo night unique from others. “We thought ‘what a great idea to mix the two together to provide a fun but educational experience,’” he said.
Student Association hosted a similar event last year that brought The Vixen, another former “Drag Race” contestant, to SU’s campus. Though Gorick didn’t have exact figures, he said the turnout at this year’s event seemed to have doubled in comparison.
Pride Union will host more Queer History Month events throughout October, including a media viewing party in Bird Library next week. The film has yet to be decided, although Gorick said that whatever they choose will celebrate the queer art form.
The night closed with a meet-and-greet, where Shangela posed for photos with a long line of students. “Halleloo!” she could be overheard saying — her famous catchphrase from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” — as she met with eager fans.