Covered in a glittering black shroud the Debutantess crossed the stage, a single spotlight following her every move. As she removed her hood, the crowd screamed, growing louder when she tore away her robe revealing a small gold ensemble and curly blonde hair.
Beyonce’s “Runnin’” began to play as she lip-synced the lyrics. She danced through the crowd and strutted on stage to a medley of Beyonce songs reminiscent of her 2013 Super Bowl performance. The crowd was hyped up as they sang along and waved their phone flashlights. When the last song ended, she looked stunned as the crowd gave her a standing ovation lasting almost two minutes.
Drag performer Shangela Laquifa Wadley, AKA the Debutantess of the Deep South (birth name, Darius J. Pierce), entertained an audience of 180 students Wednesday night in Dailey Theatre.
The event was co-hosted by the Campus Activities Board and the Gay Straight Alliance. Students came early and waited in a long line to enter, some were turned away as the theater reached capacity.
“We’re very excited that this event will bring awareness to the LGBT community,” said CAB concert chairwoman Mandy Chavez. “This is a unique event that we haven’t had in over five years.”
Shangela entered the stage wearing a sparkling black robe. She ripped it off exposing a blue beaded one-piece suit as she vogued to her 2012 hit “Werqin’ Girl” and twerked to RuPaul’s “Peanut Butter.” After introducing herself, she spoke to the audience about her home in Paris, Texas, her life as a drag queen, and being the first in her family to attend college.
Shangela revealed that prior to her first appearance on the drag competition “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” she had been practicing the art for only a few weeks.
“It is never about how long you’ve been doing something,” she said. “If you’ve come to learn, if you’ve come to grow and are open to learning new things you will always excel and succeed.”
Shangela also praised ULV’s addition of gender neutral bathrooms.
“I think that any measure that an institution can do to support and make students more comfortable, more at home, more included, more considered—is very important,” she said. “I think this is a great thing… I respect it and support it.”
Next, Shangela went around the room asking students their names and majors. After meeting junior kinesiology major Alexander Patterson, she commented on his biceps: “You may come to the university looking for an education and find yourself a husband. Am I right ladies?”
As the crowd cheered, junior anthropology major Tracy Diaz waved her hand and gained Shangela’s attention. When Shangela asked her name, she replied, “Alex’s girlfriend.”
Shangela ran to the other side of the aisle and sat down laughing at the situation which became the running joke of the night along with the microphone that continued to cut out. Shangela later asked Patterson to help her off stage, fix her heel, and danced in front of him at different times during the performance.
Shangela performed her song “Uptown Fish,” a parody of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” The crowd got involved and sang back when she said, “La Verne say Halleloo,” a word she made popular during her time on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
“Halleloo is a positive word about excitement and how I live my life and I hope to inspire people with,” Shangela said.
After “Uptown Fish,” she mentioned that the song was to be her last.
Junior journalism major Tyler Evains screamed from the crowd, “You can’t leave without dancing for us again!”
Shangela invited Evains to the stage to introduce herself. She then called four other students to the stage to perform a “walk off” as she went backstage to change. The students strutted across the stage competing for the audience’s reaction.
The night ended with Shangela taking photos with students and signing autographs. Outside the theater rainbow cupcakes and cookies were provided.
Junior speech communications major Alec Jessip said he was surprised by how many students showed up and he appreciated Shangela’s words about acceptance.
“I enjoyed how she talked about equality and how it’s important for all of us to be there for one another,” Jessip said.
Shangela is known for competing in seasons two and three of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and her appearance in shows, movies, and music videos such as “Glee,” “Dance Moms,” “Bones,” “Two Broke Girls,” “Toddlers in Tiaras,” “Hurricane Bianca,” and Miley Cyrus’ 2015 Video Music Awards performance.
Shangela is a world-wide entertainer, having performed in South Africa, Brazil, and many other countries. Most recently, she performed in Bangkok and around Thailand for New Years Eve.
Shangela is currently planning a European tour and working on a record for the Guinness Book of World Records for first drag performer to perform on all seven continents.
So far she has had shows on six continents and hopes to attend National Geographic’s tour from Argentina to Antartica.
“I’d love to take that tour, get off the boat, and give a good ol’ ‘Happy Feet’ performance for Antartica” she said.
(Photo by Nadira Fatah)
This story was originally published by The Campus Times.