Shangela is screaming (literally) over Emmys' drag queen invasion: 'I'm living!'
The drag superstar teases We're Here season 2 to EW while yelling at Walgreens shoppers in celebration of the show's Emmy nomination.
It's early afternoon, and all is quiet in Paris, Texas. Unless you're standing outside the town's bustling Walgreens, where hometown legend and international drag superstar Shangela is screaming unintelligible exclamations of joy at strangers passing by.
"I’m picking up my grandmother’s prescription and I’m living!" the entertainer — still high on her HBO docuseries We're Here's first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program — tells EW while honking her car horn and squealing at the locals. Receiving confused stares from townsfolk is nothing new for Shangela, especially given the nature of We're Here's format, which sees Shangela, Eureka, and Bob the Drag Queen traveling to remote regions of the country to give queer residents a drag-sized makeover.
In fitting fashion, though she's still celebrating while running errands at the drugstore, Shangela (fresh off the debut of her free stand-up special Shangela Is Shook) actually found out about the series' nod during — what else — a trip to get her nails done.
"I was in the nail salon, and that woman chipped my toenail when I screamed [about the nomination]. She thought she’d f—up the toe, but I said, ‘No, I was nominated for an Emmy!’" Shangela recalls, adding that her publicist was the first person to call her with the news, a call followed shortly by a congratulatory chat with longtime friend, Jenifer Lewis, who hired her as an assistant years ago: "I called Jen and she was like, ‘Oh, all I think about is you coming upstairs from your room and making eggs. You’re horrible at making eggs.’ And I said, ‘from eggs to Emmys!’”
Between beeping her horn at Texan Parisians, Shangela takes a few beats to get serious on the impact of the show's nomination alongside a staggering 13 total Emmy nominations amassed by the RuPaul's Drag Race franchise (the series that gave Shangela her mainstream launch as a season 2 and 3 contestant) on Tuesday morning.
"Can you believe it? I went from throwing drinks in Untucked to now being in a category nominated alongside it for an Emmy," Shangela says with a laugh. "I’m so happy to see drag recognized in whatever show it is, on whatever platform, because it gives us space and a visibility to our stories. Look at us drag queens, honey! We own 51 percent of this category!"
Still, Shangela doesn't want to settle into a false sense of comfort simply because drag is finding its footing on commercial networks.
"I don’t want to give us a false sense of ‘We’ve made it! Drag is being recognized on television, which is exactly where we need to be in the world.' You can look around you and recognize that we are not," explains Shangela. "But, this nomination gives me hope that there are people out there that are open to experiencing communities that are different from their own and respecting those communities, and also supporting those communities in the most unlikely places."
Part of that hope comes from HBO's willingness to bring on the trio of queens at its center as producers in addition to on-camera talent. It was a move Shangela says enhanced the overall authenticity of the project while giving queer people "a seat at the table" in positions of power for once. That table, she says, is currently plotting a direction for We're Here season 2.
"Season 1, we were excited to do the show, but on season 2, we’ve learned a lot. It’s like going back into high school your sophomore year…. I know what to do!" she teases. "HBO and our production team are all working together to figure out what adjustments we can make to make sure we can get back out there and tell these amazing stories even more in a safe way. They’ll put that together and make it lovely, and we’re figuring it out. If you loved season 1, you’re going to live for season 2!"
Though Shangela is overwhelmed by the support the show has received, she hopes to keep shining the spotlight she's been given on We're Here's underserved subjects.
"It’s not really about us, it’s about showcasing these unique stories about the queer experience in conservative spaces…. we give them this moment they don’t get on a daily basis," she finishes. "To see the showcasing of queer stories in conservative spaces be recognized as something valid [and to see that we’re] making a difference — especially in a moment when so many people are fighting for their validity and visibility — means so much to me. That’s why I’m screaming outside of Walgreens!"