Shangela is living a dream.
“I always thought that just waking up in LA was enough, but waking up in LA and being featured on Ariana Grande‘s new album? That’s the ticket,” the drag star tells Billboard.
At midnight, Grande released her hotly anticipated Thank U, Next album, and the third track, “NASA,” features a spoken intro from the Drag Race alum: “This is one small step for woman, one giant leap for womankind.”
Billboard caught up with Shangela to talk about the feature, her Drag Race sister Monét X Change’s cameo in Cardi B’s new Pepsi ad and who she’s rooting for on All Stars 4: “Everybody black. That’s very Issa Rae of me, right?”
How did this guest appearance happened?
I was at dinner with my friend Frankie, Ariana Grande’s brother, who I’ve been friends with for a while. He got a text from her telling him to come over to the studio. He was like, “I have Shangela with me, is that OK?” She’s like, “Sure, I love Shangela,” because we had met earlier that year at Wango Tango in LA. We went over to the studio and — I live Ariana Grande. Call me a fan, a stan, a homegirl — whatever you wanna call me. Love her. She’s like, “I’m gonna play you some songs from my new album,” and she did and one of them was “NASA.” She was still working with the producer on the opening part of it — she’s like, “Don’t listen to that, just listen to the song.”
After it was over she was like, “How do you like it?” I was like, “Oh, girl, I love it, and I’m already thinking of what I’m gonna do for my version.” She looked at me like, “Your version?” I was like, “Oh, I mean a version when I perform in drag. I wanna come out with a moonsuit with some space titties. I wanna come out like I’m walking on the moon. I’m gonna lift up that fake moon mask, and I’m gonna say: ‘This is one small step for woman, one giant leap for womankind.’” She said, “Oh my God,” in her classic, beautiful Ariana Grande voice. She’s so soft and lovely. She’s like, “I love it so much,” and she whips out her cell phone. So I put it on her voicemail, just playing around, being very Shangela Laquifa.
A couple months later, she’s on her way to Ellen, and she calls on FaceTime with Frankie. “How do you want to be credited on the album?” I’m like, “Credited on the album?” So she told me that they used it and I was like, “You gotta be kidding,” and you never know what’s gonna shake out. I’m just so thrilled that she liked it.
So how do we get you into the music video?
Honey, put a call in! Let’s do a séance, let’s pray on it. All of the above.
So now that you’ve worked with Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, what diva is next on your list?
Well, let’s make this note: I am so thrilled to be a diva on track 3 of probably two of the hottest albums this year. I’m track 3 with fabulous French dialogue on the Star Is Born album. I’m track 3 “NASA” on Ariana Grande’s album. From All Stars 3, went to Drag Race three times, never won. Three is my lucky number.
You’re not the only queen making moves. Just this week, Monét X Change was in a Pepsi commercial with Cardi B. Do you think that drag can still get bigger than where it is now?
Oh yes, of course it can. I’m so proud of Monét and applaud Pepsi for being so inclusive with this commercial. I’m just thrilled. Where is my next booking? The sky’s the limit. It really just goes to show people: Life is about putting forth your best effort and showing up. When you show up to the gig fearlessly and put forth your best, who knows what could come of it?
I have to ask since we’re down to five queens on All Stars 4, who are you rooting for?
Everybody black. That’s very Issa Rae of me, right? My odds are good in that way. I’ve been so excited to see these girls. You know I’ve worked with all of them. I’m the OG big sis. I’m just excited to see what’s next on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I always say that I am a fan first and a contestant second.
Before we go, what other plans do you have for 2019?
This year, I’m excited to just continue working in television and film. You know, Lady Gaga just said the other night at her concert, “I think Shangela deserves a new residency in Las Vegas.” I was like, “A Gaga-produced residency?” I’m down whenever she’s down!
Shangela will be reviving her one-woman show, Shangela Is Shook, for a one-night performance at Kathedral near Atlantic City, NJ.