Shangela speaks on Emmy-nominated HBO series ‘We’re Here’

'Once you're when you get here, you start to realize that when people say it's just an honor to be nominated, they're actually telling the truth,' the actress says

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When Shangela first burst onto our small screens as a contestant on season 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2010, we knew it was only the beginning. 

The beloved drag queen born Darius Jeremy Pierce has appeared in several TV series, including 2 Broke Girls, Community, Broad City, Glee, and The X-Files among others. After snagging a role in the 2018 hit A Star Is Born, Shangela made history as the first drag queen to walk the Oscars red carpet in drag. 

Read More: Beyoncé co-signs video of Shangela’s amazing #BeforeILetGo performance

Shangela’s most recent project, We’re Here, is equally groundbreaking. In it, Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka O’Hara join Shangela as they travel to small towns across the country and encourage residents to take part in a one-night-only drag show. 

theGrio caught up with the superstar whose HBO series We’re Here is vying for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program.

“I always had the dream. I didn’t know the direct path to it. I’d never foresaw a great show like ‘We’re Here’ and being a part of it through HBO, but I always had the brain when I was a little kid and I would watch the Oscars or the Emmys, and big red carpet events and think, ‘Gosh, I wish I could be there one day.’ And I always had that that feeling,” he says. 

Guinness World Record With Madame Tussauds New York And Ripley's Believe It or Not! Times Square In Honor Of World Pride.
Shangela attends the Guinness World Record with Madame Tussauds New York and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square in honor of World Pride at Madame Tussauds New York on June 20, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds New York)

“Once you’re–when you get here, you start to realize that when people say it’s just an honor to be nominated, they’re actually telling the truth. It really is,” he continues. “The win for us and for me even in this moment, is that so many people have been able to enjoy a project, a product where we created these experiences, these moments, these emotional stories from people who are just like us.”

Shangela admits he can relate to a lot of the people he encountered while filming the show.  

“I grew up in a small town. I know what it’s like to stand out in a very small, conservative type space. I have an amplified voice right now, whether it’s because of my social media following or being on a show like ‘We’re Here,’ that helps us to have a more amplified voice,” he explains. 

“I do take great responsibility in that because I think it’s so important for everyone to feel like they have a voice, that their voice is being heard, that they matter. It’s great to be a part of a show that is pushing that same type of dialog about compassion and the importance of us unifying and being willing to listen to each other, to understand communities that are different from our own, to realize that there are a lot of things that actually unite us and bring us together in a time where so many folks are divided.”

Shangela also opened up about what it was like to have to pivot production when the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards Los Angeles - Inside
Shangela performs onstage during the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards Los Angeles at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 28, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for GLAAD)

“We never saw it coming out during a global pandemic when everyone had to be home. I mean, you saw the sixth episode all of a sudden, we’re filming from the house now because that’s what we had to do. But at the same time, it provided a greater opportunity for people who were at home, who were feeling distanced or alone to see a show that had compassion, to see a show where you saw the importance and the connection between people and the importance of listening and understanding. That’s, I think, the proudest part about this whole show being recognized,” he says.

The series has already been picked up for a second season, so there are a lot more stories to tell and Shangela intends to make the most out of his platform. 

“I’m really involved with regards to this show, with regards to this political cycle that we’re coming upon with regard to Black Lives Matter and Black trans lives matter and just all the different movements that are deservedly having a voice right now and greater representation. I’m trying to be as involved and active as I can, while also maintaining my own level of sanity and taking care of my family unit that’s immediately around me. I think that’s a great way to contribute to our community as a whole is to take care of those around you,” he says.

Read More: William Jackson Harper on his Emmy nom and protesting for social justice

“I’ve got nieces and nephews that have questions. I’m able to, you know, represent what a gay person looks like to them or to give them advice when they are confused about what’s going on with the pandemic. I want their road to be easier as well so they can, you know, be good standing citizens and contribute and feel like they have somebody in their corner.”

To hear more from Shangela, check out this week’s special Emmy’s episode of Dear Culture. 

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

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