For the last seven weeks, Los Angeles RuPaul’s Drag Race fans have gathered at Micky’s in West Hollywood to watch the episodes of its latest season, All Stars 3, alongside one of the season’s queens, Shangela Laquifa Wadley. After seven episodes of memorable moments, outrageous lip-synchs and unforgettable runway looks, Shangela was emerging as the frontrunner to win the entire season.
For the finale on Thursday night, March 15, her fans and even her mother were on hand at Micky's. They had been on this journey with Shangela and were prepared to see their queen crowned. Unfortunately, that wasn’t exactly what happened.
“No matter what happens, no matter what anyone ever says or does in your life, I'm no stranger to being told no. … I would have wished it [had] gone a different way but in life, sometimes you don’t pick the rules. But you do pick how you're going to respond, and I'm going to respond by continuing [to set] an example of never giving up.” These words could have been said by Beyoncé at the Grammys in 2017 or even by Hillary Clinton after the 2016 election.
On Thursday, however, they were said by Shangela to the crowd at Micky’s after the episode finished airing. She knew the outcome, of course, but wanted to reassure her fans that she was OK.
After an unpredictable season full of twists and a shocking self-elimination, Shangela was one of four queens to make it to the finale of All Stars 3. One final new twist brought back all six of the eliminated queens from the season to decide as a jury which two queens of the final four should go on to lip-synch in front of RuPaul, who would then pick a winner.
Despite Shangela having more challenge wins than the other three queens (a total of three wins), only one of the six queens, Thorgy Thor, voted for her to continue to the final lip-synch. Ultimately, Kennedy Davenport faced off against Trixie Mattel, with RuPaul crowning Trixie as the winner.
“I could say that in the moment I found out that I wasn’t moving on from the four to the two, I was extremely disappointed. I not only went back to the All Stars gig for myself but also for my fans. I wanted them to see the story of even if you get knocked down, you get back up, you keep going and you can win,” said Shangela. She was the first queen eliminated from season two and then returned in season three, making it to the top six.
Clearly, Shangela's fans felt the message she wanted to portray. Once it was revealed in the episode that she would not be moving on, the crowd at Micky's screamed and booed. Some even had tears in their eyes. They expressed shock; as one person put it, everyone was “shooketh” and “gagged.”
Micky’s was the perfect venue for Shangela to feel the love. It was the club where she got her start and where casting people from RuPaul’s Drag Race first approached her about an audition as she was doing a show.
“I said, 'Oh honey, I ain't going on TV as a woman. I just started. I don’t know how to do make-up, I don't know how to sew,' [but] she was like, 'You'd be perfect,' and here we are,” Shangela told L.A. Weekly. “I've been death-dropping on [Micky's] stages for seven years and to be able to showcase to this audience how much I've done [has been amazing]. I didn’t just go on RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars, we all went on RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars because we've all been in this gig together.”
So what would have happened had Shangela moved onto the final lip-synch, which ended up being “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus? In usual Shangela style, she, of course, had some tricks planned. She was concerned about making a moment out of a slower song like “Wrecking Ball.” But a good drag queen knows how to make a moment, she said.
“Under the gold coat, I had white balloons that I had filled with confetti and glitter. I had them stapled to my white two-piece bathing suit and I had a dart from the dartboard in my hand,” she said. “So I was like, 'Came in like a' [makes exploding sound] 'wrecking ball.' And then I had a piñata duct-taped in the back of the jacket with a sledgehammer up my sleeve. Bitch, I was about to wear you all out!”
Many of her fans no doubt feel robbed of that big moment. But Shangela says she feels no animosity toward any of the eliminated queens who made the decision. She says she felt the decision was definitely personal but is choosing to not let anger get the best of her.
“Thorgy sent me a message just now saying, 'Sister, I just wanted you to know I voted for you.' She told me, 'They all had it in for you because they felt like you’ve done so much that you always win, [so] they didn’t want you to win,'” Shangela said. “Michelle Obama, one of my inspirations, said when they go low, we go high, and it was a thing that I really carried with me. Kudos to my sister Trixie, congratulations, [and] I loved Kennedy's performance.”
Ultimately, with that attitude, as well as a jam-packed world tour and an appearance in season six winner Bianca Del Rio's upcoming film, Hurricane Bianca: From Russia With Hate, it's clear that the loss will not be a setback for Shangela.
While she may not have won the crown, she definitely won the popular vote. As she told the crowd, “I went to drag school, baby, and tonight, even if they didn’t crown me the valedictorian, I walked across the stage and I got my diploma in drag.”