On Monday night, the new season of Dancing with the Stars debuted for the first time on Disney+ and LGBTQ icon, GLAAD legend, and RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Shangela took the stage with partner Gleb Savchenko, marking the first drag queen to compete in the reality dancing competition, which is now in its 31st season.
Shangela is no stranger to performing. In addition to competing on multiple seasons of Drag Race, she was also featured in many TV series (Community), films (A Star Is Born) and serves as co-host of the GLAAD and Emmy winning series We’re Here alongside fellow Drag Race alums Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka. In fact, the trio hosted the GLAAD Media Awards earlier this year and before that, Shangela performed a medley of Beyoncé songs in front the queen herself at the 2019 ceremony. That said, DWTS should be a piece of cake for her, right?
“This is way more nerve wracking,” Shangela admitted GLAAD’s Anthony Allen Ramos at the premiere of DWTS. “Listen, I wanted to be lovely for Beyoncé… that was the moment that I got to honor her through me — it was her music. This is like training in a world that I’m not as familiar.”
Shangela said she was thankful for Savchenko as a partner and said he was amazing and supportive because she felt like her heart was beating so fast before the performance that she thought she was going to pass out.
The duo impressed with their debut performance of the salsa to the Pussycat Dolls’ “When I Grow Up”. Judges Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba, Derek Hough and Bruno Tonioli didn’t give them 10s across the board, but they received a score of 28 – solid enough for them to be safe to compete next week. Tonioli referred to her as “spicy” and “hot”, and complimented Shangela on being “in command”.
“I feel like this moment is way bigger than me,” Shangela said in regards to making history on DWTS. “It is a moment for inclusivity, representation, visibility and I wanted to give everybody — especially the gays… my fellow queens, my sisters – I wanted to give them a moment that I know we could all cheer for and that’s what I feel we did.”
This moment of representation was even further supported by Savchenko, who was once asked in an interview if he would partner with a male and without a second thought he said, “yes, of course.”
“I stand for that support, it’s all about art, love, equality and just the good times,” Savchenko said. “I could not wish for a better partner than Shangela because we’re having such a good time. We have just a natural organic connection.”
Shangela’s participation in DWTS follows the show’s bolstering of LGBTQ representation from last season when Jojo Siwa and Jenna Johnson became the first same sex couple to compete. In addition, Shangela’s competitors have her back and are all for moving the needle when it comes to inclusivity on DWTS.
From Jersey Shore’s Vincent J. Guadagnino to singer Jordin Sparks to Sex and the City alum Jason Lewis, everyone on the show had nothing but love and support for Shangela.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing,” said CODA star Daniel Durant about Shangela being on DWTS. The actor, who is partnered with Britt Stewart, was adopted by his moms and said they are the reason for his success and that he could have had a worse life if it weren’t for them. “When I saw Shangela here, I was like ‘yes!’” Durant said. “Thank you to Hollywood, thank you to Disney for opening the door for more diversity. We need to be here because everyone needs to see this.”
Actor Selma Blair said that her son went up to Shangela and said “Oh my God! You’re amazing!”. The Cruel Intentions icon has nothing but admiration for Shangela. “I love everyone here but what she brings and puts out there is just…YES!” admits Blair. “This is what dancing and learning and being visible is… I love Shangela!”
“I’m gonna quote Lizzo: ‘It’s about damn time!’, “ said pro Louis Van Amstel, who is partnered with Charlie’s Angels legend Cheryl Ladd. “It’s absolutely amazing.”
Pro Peta Murgatroyd, who is Jason Lewis’s partner added: “It’s definitely about time. I think the show needs this. I think the show is evolving. The world is evolving. Everyone needs to just get over their own shit and love everything going on in the world right now. I think she’s proving to everyone that it doesn’t have to be a man and a woman dancing together because that’s the generic thing. I even catch myself sometimes saying things like ‘when the man and woman dances’ and I need to get out of that and say ‘when the two partners dance.’ I think it’s a huge step towards change.”
This is another big moment in Shangela’s flourishing career. Originally from the small town of Paris, Texas, Shangela has worked her way up to icon status ever since stepping into season 2 of the Drag Race “werk room”. Now that she is on a reality competition that has further reach beyond the realms of Drag Race, Shangela is being introduced to a new audience.
“Being a host on the show, We’re Here with Bob and Eureka, we get to go to places that aren’t as familiar with our community and be able to inform them and showcase who we are and stand up in that show,” Shangela tells Ramos. “This is something that feels a lot like that…people say ‘Oh, what’s it like? Two men dancing together”’,Well, you know, I’ve been seeing two men dance together for a very long time… [that’s a] new conversation for a lot of people in America, Canada and Puerto Rico, that have not seen this type of partnership before.”
Savchenko chimes in, “I’ve never done it before and I freaking love it.”
Watch their performance below.