Ariana Grande's newest album, Thank U Next, is her fiercest release yet. And while it's already given fans plenty of hits — "Thank U, Next" comes to mind — there are plenty of new tracks that are quickly becoming fan favorites, particularly the track "NASA." The song has a lot of people talking, due in part to the spoken-word intro at the start of the song. And it turns out, Grande recruited a very special guest specifically for the track, as the "NASA" intro is spoken by RuPaul's Drag Race star D.J. "Shangela" Pierce, who confirmed his appearance on the track on Twitter after the album's release.
"This is one small step for woman, one giant leap for woman-kind," Pierce says at the top of the track, a play on Neil Armstrong's famous words spoken after stepping foot on the moon for the very first time in 1969. Bustle has confirmed that it is, indeed, the drag superstar speaking on "NASA," which he alluded to on Twitter on Feb. 8. "As an @ArianaGrande Stan, it’s mind-blowing to be a part of this new album," Pierce wrote on social media.
He continued, "Gagged. Geeked. GONE. Get it now. And go in on track 3 #NASA!!! I can’t wait to share how it came about. Love u Ari! (And luv u @FrankieJGrande too!)." Pierce's appearance on the song is just one of the major career highlights that he's enjoyed this year; the drag queen also appeared alongside Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born.
The performer told E! News that his friendship with Grande's older brother, Frankie, helped him land the appearance on the singer's new album. According to an interview, the pair were having lunch when Grande invited Frankie to come to the studio, and invited Pierce along. "So we go into the studio and she's like, 'I want to play some songs from new album.' And I'm like, 'Yaas! Halleloo! Go in!' and the songs were amazing because she's Ariana Grande," Pierce told the outlet. "And one of the songs, she was like, 'I'm still working on the intro for it, don't listen to that part, just listen to the song.'"
After Grande played him "NASA" for the first time, Pierce revealed that he was already planning out how he would perform the song onstage as Shangela. "I was like, 'Oh girl, I live! I love it, and it's amazing! I'm already thinking of how I'm going to perform it for my drag number, when I do my version,'" he explained.
"I said, 'I'm just going to put a fun intro on it for drag, and I'm going to be in a spacesuit with like space-t*tties and I'm going to come out in a moon man suit," Pierce said, "and I'm going to lift the mask and say, 'This is one small step for woman, one giant leap for womankind.' And she was like, 'Oh my God! I love that!'"
Pierce then recounted that Grande had him repeat the sentence so she could record it on her cell phone, and a "month or so later," the singer reached out to ask how the performer wanted to be credited on Thank U, Next. "Listen, I'm a fan, no, I'm a stan of Ariana Grande. I am so just honored that she would be open to my contribution," Pierce gushed about working with the singer.
"It's so cool. She's one of the coolest people ever, she's so down to earth, and real," he continued. "She wants to be authentic, every song that she writes or is a part of is from her heart and that's what I got being in the studio with her."
Based on the reaction to Grande's new album, it's clear that Pierce isn't the only person who is obsessed with the singer's new music — and based on his contributions to the hit album, it's clear that Pierce's star is on the rise. We can't wait to see Shangela perform her version of "NASA" sometime very soon.