It's only been 15 months since the reigning RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars queen, Alaska Thunderfuck, was crowned the winner of season two. Nevertheless, with more than 100 queens having appeared as contestants on the show, it's not out of the question to have an entirely new group of All Stars competing for the crown such a short time later. Out of the nine contestants (actually 10, with the 10th to be revealed when the show premieres Thursday) appearing on season three, L.A. Weekly spoke to three L.A.-based Drag Race queens: Morgan McMichaels (season two), Shangela Laquifa Wadley (seasons two and three) and Trixie Mattel (season seven).
Why did you decide to come back for this All Stars season?
Morgan: I'm part of the [Drag Race production company] World of Wonder family and I'm a huge fan of the show. Getting to compete against another set of girls that were not on my season was a challenge in itself and something I was looking forward to doing.
Shangela: I am Shangela Laquifa Wadley, the queen that always returns. When I first came onto Drag Race in season two, I was the baby, I was only doing drag for five months. I had big dreams but the makeup skills hadn't caught up to that yet. I came back on season three and had only been doing drag for one year at that time. Now I feel like I am, as Beyoncé would say, a grown woman and it's time to go get this crown, baby.
Trixie: My real pageant answer is that in real life as Trixie Mattel I've gotten to top the charts with my music and have my own TV show and tour the world. But on Drag Race, for some reason, I only ever got shown the door. So I guess I want my Drag Race track record to match up with my real-life report card. [On season seven], I was scared, I was younger, I was nervous. It was my first time doing anything like a television show and I guess I have sort of an offbeat sensibility that I don’t think landed with the judges the first time. I don’t think they really got it. And maybe they won't this time, and that's fine. That's the thing I've learned, losing Drag Race doesn’t make me a bad drag queen the same way winning Drag Race doesn’t make you a good drag queen — so many great drag queens didn’t win. Shangela and I both lost that show twice and we have some of the most illustrious careers. And I would love to win a bunch of money! I just got Invisalign, I have a lot to pay for.
What can you tell us about All Stars 3?
Morgan: Every single episode of All Stars 3 is going to have jaws on the floor and faces cracked. The challenges are amazing; you're going to see a lot of stuff you've never seen before. There's a lot of surprises and a lot of fantastic runways and guest judges. And I think a lot of people look to see what Ru is going to be wearing.
Shangela: This is All Stars, what RuPaul has called the gold standard of drag. There will be glitz, there will be glamour, there will be drama and there will be fun. It's a competition I feel like my fans have wanted to see me back in, but I've never [really] been gone for my fans. I'm excited to be able to show my fans if you don’t give up, this is what you can achieve, and that's why I'm going for the gold, baby.
Trixie: I think, out of all seasons, it has the most hard and intense twists and turns. One minute you think it's someone's game, and the next minute it's someone else's game. I guess if it was football you could say there's a lot of interceptions where all of a sudden it's a completely different play. And the challenges are so hard and so good and so cruel. They ask so much of us in such a small amount of time. The only thing that got me through my time there was knowing this is the last time I ever have to do Drag Race. [Also, Nancy Pelosi guest judging] is almost surreal. As a gay person you may assume that an old, rich white lady wouldn’t care about a minority group … [but] someone like her is proof you can't profile people. there's people fighting for us, on our side, that you wouldn’t expect. I heard she contacted Drag Race and requested to make an appearance, that's how much she gives a shit. The Republicans collude with Russians, and the Democrats collude with drag queens!
Do you think All Stars season three was able to top season two?
Morgan: I think we definitely served something so different, so I don’t really think personally there's a comparison. The girls from season two just looked like [they were having] a good old-fashioned time, and I think we definitely had that on season three as well. We were there to have fun and be fantastic.
Shangela: Watching All Stars 2, that was a good season. Some people wonder how do you go up from there? Oh, baby, we go up from there because I understand that every single time you get on that runway, [it] is an opportunity to make a moment. I have a lot to prove to my fans, to RuPaul [and] to myself, and that's why All Stars is going to be the best one ever. Set the DVRs, get ready, stay tuned because it's going to be EVERYTHING in all caps.
Trixie: Definitely. All Stars 2 was a lot of kumbaya-ing and a lot of alliances and people being carried through from the beginning. This time it's every man for himself. You know what people say — keep your friends close, keep Shangela closer.
Who do you think was your biggest competition?
Morgan: I think my biggest competition would be myself because you have to get out of your head and I haven't been in the competition for seven years now. … I don’t really look to the other queens as competition, they're sisters and co-workers and they're my family. I'm tougher on myself than anybody else.
Shangela: Everyone always gives that “I'm my own competition” [answer]. Honestly, I feel like all different girls have different strengths. I'm sure they see me as competition because I'm Shangela, I pretty much do it all. I know that Trixie's a fun comedy person so she was someone [when] we have challenges related to that, she's going to be strong like I feel I am in this category, so keep an eye out. Kennedy [Davenport] is the dancing doll from Texas. She does all those acrobatic tricks and splits so I said when it comes to that, keep an eye out for [her]. You know I'm a strategic fish, so I went in there ready to play the game.
Trixie: I think if you walk into a group of people as talented as this cast and you're not threatened by everyone, you're a sociopath. Everybody's good; everybody can send you home at any moment.
Who brought the drama?
Morgan: You're just going to have to wait and watch!
Shangela: I will say drama comes from everywhere. You have queens all fighting for one title and one prize, and as much as we love to call each other sisters, there is going to be drama. Look at the previous seasons, who brought drama before? None of these hos have changed! So get ready, it's coming from all areas. Certainly not me though, darling. Listen, I don’t really focus on bringing drama, but here's what I do. I am and always have been 100 percent authentic, genuine and real. And if a situation arises that calls for me to keep it real, oh, Shangy's gonna keep it real.
Trixie: RuPaul, she's the one making us do all this shit! RuPaul's the drama stirrer, RuPaul's the shit stirrer.
RuPaul has revealed that there's going to be a surprise 10th queen. Did you have anyone in mind as to who that could be?
Morgan: No because I think that every single time I've seen RuPaul's Drag Race, one thing I can be sure of is to never expect anything. Even in my wildest dreams, I would never have thought that things would have transpired the way they did. We have over 100 sisters, and if you take away only Sahara [Davenport], who passed away, you still have such a great selection of ladies, so [I] never knew who was going to be the girl.
Shangela: I was in support of [bringing back another queen] because I'm Shangela, the girl who always comes back. I'm thinking, oh great, another girl to compete against. However, I'm ready. Everything about me is, bring it. Whatever you got, RuPaul, bring it, honey! Looking around the room there were some people missing who I expected to be there, so I was like maybe it's one of these girls, like my sister Laganja [Estranja]. I think she's evolved so much since her time on season six. Or Valentina was a fan favorite from season nine and didn't get to go super far with the whole mask thing.
Trixie: Before I went to All Stars, I had my own personal mental cast as to who I hoped would be there. My personal favorites like Kim Chi, Ongina, Shangela, Delta Work [and] Darienne Lake. But I think we all know that the 10th queen is Kellyanne Conway.
You're an L.A.-based queen. What's it like doing drag around L.A., and where can fans find you performing usually?
Morgan: I love being a West Hollywood queen. I got my career started in Southern California and it's taken care of me before Drag Race, [and] it'll take care of me after Drag Race. I think the people of Southern California have embraced me and supported me through thick and thin. I was proud to represent them on season two, and I'm proud to represent them on All Stars season three. In West Hollywood, you can find me at Micky's every Monday for Showgirls, and then on Tuesday nights you can find me at Hamburger Mary's for the Dreamgirls Revue hosted by Delta Work, who's from season three and now creative producer of RuPaul's Drag Race.
Shangela: I'm a small-town queen from Paris, Texas, but I moved to L.A. with big dreams about seven years ago. I'm going to have a weekly viewing party at Micky's West Hollywood every Thursday night. We're going to take a drink every time I say “halleloo,” which means you might want to get an Uber home. Let's get into it, all tea, all shade.
Trixie: My favorite place in L.A. to do drag, hands down, is Queen Kong, the Boulet Brothers' party every Friday at Precinct [downtown]. It's the best drag show, it's the most fun environment, the best audience. I also love to go to Hamburger Mary's and see the Dreamgirls Revue. Also, I [encourage] everyone to enjoy the unofficial companion show to All Stars 3, The Trixie and Katya Show, [which] is on every week the night before [on Viceland]. And the best way to support the mentally ill is to watch their TV show!
RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars season three premieres Thursday, Jan. 25, on VH1 at 8 p.m.