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How Shangela Steals the Show in ‘A Star Is Born’

Reality series aficionados may recognize drag performer D.J. “Shangela: Pierce from his tenure as a two-time contestant on the Emmy Award-winning hit “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” as well as “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” but thanks to a small but plum role as a drag bar emcee-cum-bar owner in “A Star Is Born,” he’s drawn in whole new set of fans. In the pivotal scene, he helps introduce Lady Gaga’s character Ally, who sings a rousing rendition of “La Vie En Rose,” to Bradley Cooper’s Jack, setting them afloat on a course of love — and myriad concert performances. The Paris, Texas, native, whose acting credits include stints on “Glee” and “2 Broke Girls,” touts the Cooper-directed film for “having a very inclusive message.”

Shangela: “To be able to work with people like Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, you really want to pull up and make sure you’re putting on your A game. So that’s what I did. And when I went in there Bradley was just such a great director in that he knew exactly what he wanted from the scene. But he was also like, you know what, this is also your world, you know this, feel free to go as far as you want and I’ll pull you back if I need to. So that’s what we did. They did not provide us with the entire script, although everything they did provide us I definitely brushed up on. I wanted to come in here and be tip top, a professional. I also wanted to bring the authenticity of what I know from drag and see if they were open to it, which he totally was.

“They had a great wardrobe stylist for the set, but she was very open to us bringing some of our own pieces or having feedback on the look, because she wanted us to be comfortable in the role. And for this particular bar, as a drag owner — and I’ve worked in a million clubs, honey, so I know — you want to establish yourself as the boss. And my boss [character] was a cabaret-type girl. I had a coat with tails, a leotard, because she’s still a sexy boss you know? But [I also had] a nice little top hat. My real, natural drag character, Shangela, I’m kind of a Beyonce: I like wind, I like hair, I like wigs. But for this particular role, because she was the owner, she was a little more mature, she was more established. So she has short hair, which in the film, they refer to as my ‘bus driver’ wig, which seems to always get a fun laugh in the theater, which is cool. So I say, ‘If that’s the bus I’m driving, she’s going places.’ And I loved it.

“Was I intimidated by Gaga? You know what? Maybe for 10 seconds. And then I had to shake that off and remember who I am. Because, thankfully, this was a role that I was very comfortable with. The nerves came from just wanting to do my best, like, ‘please don’t fall sister when you go out there. Don’t do it!’ But you know what? Bradley and Lady Gaga made, I think, everyone, including me, feel so comfortable on set. Even between takes, she could have gone in her trailer, but she hung out with me in the dressing room: ‘So, like Shan, how have you been? What are you doing?’ And I’m like, oh my God! So I would tell her stories like, ‘Oooh, Gaga, let me tell you about this time I did an episode on ‘Bones’ and I was you!’ That made me just feel like more comfortable. She’s like ‘Shan, let’s have fun.’ And she goes, ‘You know what, I love this so much because I’m having fun on this set. So thank you.’ And that made me feel super special, that someone like Lady Gaga was saying we’re making her feel more comfortable when she was doing so much for me in that moment.”

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