When celebrities hang out with Bustle editors, we want to give them the chance to leave their mark. Literally. So we hand them a pen, a piece of paper, a few questions, and ask them to get creative. The rest is up to them. This time, A Star Is Born star Shangela is leaving his mark in the Bustle Booth.
D.J. "Shangela" Pierce fits right in at the Bustle office when he arrives — not because any of our work looks can compare with his leather minidress, but because he also can't stop singing "Shallow." But unlike the rest of us who are obsessed with the lead single from A Star Is Born, Shangela actually had a hand in creating the film, which is already shaping up to be a modern classic. The RuPaul's Drag Race veteran appears as the emcee and owner of the drag bar where Lady Gaga's Ally performs early on in the story, and appreciates the way that the movie incorporates and validates the art form.
"I think it sends a very strong message about inclusivity, about diversity, but also about just equality for us all," Shangela says. "And just accepting people for exactly who they are and not trying to figure it out or understand it but just being."
Bradley Cooper's character Jackson Maine isn't interested in anything that isn't real or doesn't come from the heart, and it's clear that he has a genuine, affecting experience when he wanders into that drag bar. "It’s part of what the LGBTQ community is all about, which is living in your truth, owning up to who you are, and loving every part of that," Shangela assesses. "And when Jackson comes into that scene, that’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s just living in his truth which is, 'I’m here, I’m in a moment of reality, this is what it is.'"
In different hands, that wouldn't have been the case. And, as Shangela sees it, the depiction of drag in mainstream media has evolved a lot in recent years. "If this scene was in another movie, maybe a couple of years ago, it would be like a punchline, like, 'Ha-ha, I walked into a bar, I saw these girls — that must be a dude!' kind of thing," he says. "I hope that more writers and more studios support just showcasing these amazing stories that we have in all different types of communities from all different walks of life."
Shangela was only on set for a couple of days for A Star Is Born, but he tells me that he "didn't want to leave!" For one, he enjoyed the free range that Cooper gave him and the rest of the actors in that scene to "go as far" as they wanted. ("I remember when he first called cut, I was like, 'Ooh, cut, what we’d do?' And he came over and said, 'That was great, keep going,'" he says.) And then there was the Gaga factor.
"Oh, well, you have to understand for Gaga, I am a fan first. Then, you know, a costar second," he says. "So to be able to watch her that up close and personal in her element, not only during her scenes as an actress but also the scenes where she’s performing... It was like free tickets to front row of a Gaga concert."
And the admiration is mutual. Shangela and his idol/co-star shared a couple of moments during last week's London premiere that still had him buzzing when we sat down together.
"When she passed me, she was in her beautiful Alexander McQueen gorgeous Shakespearean goddessness, and she looked at me and she goes, 'Work it, girl.' And I was like, 'Thank you! Fully affirmed, thank you so much.'" Shangela also says that Lady Gaga went out of her way to meet his mother at the afterparty, give her a hug, and tell her that she must be so proud. "Now my mama won’t stop telling everyone that Gaga loves me," he laughs.
As mom-brags go, that's a pretty good one.