‘Halleloo’ for D.J. Pierce! Getting to Know the Man Behind Drag Sensation Shangela

D.J. Pierce (a.k.a. Shangela Laquifa Wadley)
(Unless otherwise noted, all photos credit Clinton Gaughran/AfterElton)

You might remember the glorious Shangela Laquifa Wadley stomping it out on RuPaul’s Drag Race Seasons Two and Three. And while she might not have taken home the prize in either season, she could well turn out to be the show’s biggest star.

The actor behind this amazing drag creation, D.J. Pierce, has been busy filming TV pilots and guest spots, honing his stand-up act and launching a music career. He will also make an appearance this Wednesday on TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, returning to his hometown of Paris, Texas to act as pageant coach for his goddaughter.

We were happy to grab D.J. for a photo shoot last week, as well as an extended interview where we talked acting gigs, vision boards, his relationship with fellow Drag Race contestants Raja and Manila Luzon, his love life, what his churchgoing grandma now thinks of his Shangela alter ego, plus a whole lot more.

AfterElton: Hey D.J.! Thanks for talking to us. Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us a little bit about growing up in Paris, Texas.
D.J. Pierce[a.k.a. Shangela]:
Well, I’m an only child, and I was raised primarily by my grandparents, because my Mom was in the military, so she traveled around a lot. And Paris, I call it the second largest city of Paris in the world. We have an Eiffel tower in our town with a big red cowboy hat on the top of it.

It was very interesting growing up. You know, I wasn’t always Shangela. I just actually celebrated my third year as the character Shangela this month.

But in Paris I was always out there, very gay and fabulous. I was the first male cheerleader at my high school since 1964 and always stood out and wanted to be a leader and didn’t let anything hold me back. So Paris, although it’s gotten some bad rap over time – it also was a great place for me. So I’m happy to be doing this episode of Toddlers & Tiaras actually in Paris, Texas.

AE: You did an Orbitz ad recently with Manila Luzon and Carmen Carrerra, and Paris, Texas actually features in that ad. I was wondering if that was just a coincidence, or if you had any input in the script.
You know, that was the universe at work, or divine intervention – I did not have anything to do with that script and actually, I originally wasn’t even slated to be in that commercial.

Let me tell you a little something about me. When I want something I’m gonna go after it 100 percent. I haven’t gotten to where I am today by sitting back and waiting. I believe in being prepared, putting in the effort and going after it. And of course there’s a lot of luck in there as well.

But I saw the script for that commercial, and they were shooting it in New York, and it was on kind of a shoestring budget so they were just casting out of New York from the Drag Race girls there. But I called them up, and I said, ‘Look, you can’t have a Paris, Texas commercial without the queen of Paris, Texas! You now have the opportunity to make me the number one hometown hero. So I will fly myself to New York if you can hook a ho up!’

And they were like, ‘Oh my God, it didn’t even dawn on us. Of course, this is the perfect match.’

And then of course I didn’t have to buy my own ticket out there after all. So it worked out fantastically. And that’s what you gotta do. When you want something in this world honey, you gotta go for it.

AE: What was it like going home? Were you like the hometown hero?
Well, I was waiting for my ticker tape parade, but I didn’t get it! [Laughs]

No, it was quick – only because I’ve been touring, going around state to state performing at bars everywhere. But it just fell on a week that I happened to be available and they called me and said ‘Can you come do this with you goddaughter? She’s phenomenal, and we want you to be our first drag queen on Toddlers and Tiaras.’

And I thought that was huge, because I was the first drag queen on Dance Moms for Lifetime just a couple months ago.

AE: Your goddaughter, is she like a major pageant girl? Has she been doing that for awhile?
Honey she is the number one pageant girl. I told little Miss Eden and Mackenzie [of Toddlers & Tiaras fame] they better watch out because here comes Miss Hailey!

She is nine years old. She’s a gem. Not only is she really beautiful, but she’s also really smart and funny. And she’s already five feet tall! She wants to be a model, and she knows America’s Next Top Model better than I do. And I’m the Top Model queen! Trust me, I have it DVR’d all over! I can tell you about seasons from Zimbabwe!

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