Shangela was hand picked by Lady Gaga herself to be in her upcoming movie A Star Is Born. In a recent interview with Billboard, Shangela explains how she landed the role and how it was to hang out with Lady Gaga on set.
Although, she had originally declined the role until she received an email from Gaga’s manager, Bobby Campbell asking on Gaga’s behalf why she never showed up for the audition.
She later learned that she did not get the role for the Marilyn Monroe drag impersonator, but a better one: a role with dialogue!
Read the interview with Billboard below!
Both you and fellow Drag Race alum Willam have roles in the movie. Were you cast at the same time?
No, I believe we were cast at different times.
The film, to be honest, as the film came about, the scene with the drag bar got cut, I believe. And if I had this right, Gaga fought for those scenes to be brought back into the film because she really felt like this is where the heart of her character lies. Obviously [Gaga’s] roots are very closely tied to the LGBTQ world as well. So you’ll see how that all shakes out in the movie, but she really wanted to make a stand for her LGBTQ fans, so we got back in.
That’s amazing. Did you get to interact with Gaga or Bradley Cooper much on set?
Honey, I’m Shangela, you know I was gonna pop out of a box and go to their dressing rooms, OK? [Laughs] And yes, we did.
I remember the first day on set with Bradley Cooper, he came up to me and was like, you know, “Shangela” — I’m sure that was the first time he had said the name “Shangela” — he was like, “Shangela, honey, I know you had the script and your lines and everything, but this is your world. This is drag club scenes, this is your world, so feel free to go as far as you’d like with the character, and I’ll pull you back if I feel it’s too far.”
And I said, “OK, Mr. Cooper,” and baby, he hit action, and I just went into full-on Drag Queen Bar Owner Shangela mode, because I do this — I’m on a 181-city tour this year. I’ve been doing this for seven years. I know some draaaag and how to make this character really pop. So I do what I thought was good, and he called, “Cut,” and I was like, “Oh lord, what’d I do?”
So he comes up to me — he’s very intense. He grabs both sides of my face, and I’m like, “Whoa, baby, my makeup,” you know? He grabs my face and is like, “That’s amazing. Do it again. Action!”
To have that validation, it made such a welcoming space on-set. He created such a good environment where he allows you to be you and bring what you bring to the character, but also with great direction. I loved working with him.
Wow, that’s incredible. Did you get to hang out with Gaga?
Gaga, oh honey. So you know how they change set-up cameras — they have to take time to change the cameras around and all that? They would have us in a dressing room all together. It was me and Gaga. She could have gone out to her trailer, private, lush, I’m sure. But she’s in the dressing room with me and a couple of the other queens, and we just kicked it.
And me, I’m doing full-on Oprah-interview style. I was living! I was telling stories. I went into my one-woman cabaret. It was wonderful. I asked her, “You know, what do you do with all those fabulous costumes, girl? ‘Cause over the years, you have worn some things. You have anything you want to give me?” And, she was like, “You know, Shan” — she calls me Shan, OK? — she says, “Shan, honestly, I love my wardrobe and my costumes so much. I actually collect them. I collect different costumes. Not just mine, but other artists that I love, like Michael Jackson.”
So she has this collection, she has these warehouses where she keeps the clothes, and I was like, “Ooh, honey, you need to put me on a golf cart and do celebrity tours!” OK. And she was like, “Oh Shan, yes,” and she was laughing. She was very loose on set, but also very focused. When they called “action,” honey, she was in character and she was in mode and you could tell.
That honestly sounds magical. I haven’t seen the film yet, so I’m in the dark here: How much of you is in your Star is Born character? Is it a different character from the Shangela we know and love?
Well, with this being a drag bar owner and a performing drag queen, I didn’t have to do too much of a stretch to really take ownership of that role. Because it is what I do, so I do bring a large part of Shangela to it, but it’s also a character, so I kind of want to dive into that. But honey, she’s a drag queen, so she’s gonna be fabulous, she’s gonna be loud, and she’s gonna be in charge! How is that not Shangela? [Laughs]