Wed. Oct 21st, 2020

Interview: Drag Race All Stars 5 winner Shea Couleé – “I want to serve as inspiration to people who identify with me or see a piece of me within themselves”

Shea Couleé is a winner, baby.

After being haunted by Sasha Velour’s falling rose petals during the Season 9 finale, Shea reemerged during All Stars 5 as a determined, revolutionary queen. 

From an instantly iconic runway look during the “Love The Skin You’re In” challenge to a hilarious performance as Flavor Flav during Snatch Game, Shea was a frontrunner the entire way. Her win seemed almost as inevitable as it did destined.

Shea, who has long been a fierce advocate for social justice, has been incredibly active in using her platform to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and, more specifically, issues impacting the queer Black community. 

Daniel Trainor and Sam Stone talked to Shea about those messages, how her strategy shifted once she arrived in the work room this season and a new acting project that’s currently in the works.

Shea Couleé: Hi Sam! Hi Daniel!

Daniel Trainor: Hi Shea Couleé! How are you?

SC: I’m doing well, thanks. How are you guys?

DT: We’re great. It’s an honor to chat, so thanks for taking some time. What was your mindset walking back into that work room again and how was it different from your first appearance on the show?

SC: I went in with the mindset that it was All Stars and I really had to bring it. I am not here to make any friends. I’m going to come snatch the crown. Then, on the first episode, it’s revealed that it’s going to be voting and I was like ‘actually…it might be important to make some friends in this competition!’ It really shifted my strategy because, honestly, I love to make connections with people and I love to have fun. Once I found out that a major part of the competition would also be winning over your sisters, not just the judges, my goal became to be as good as possible, not just in the challenges but as a person and a competitor. Because if I’m kind and loving, it would be very hard to try and vote me off. 

Sam Stone: I imagine sometimes it’s hard to be kind and friendly. 

SC: Mmm-hmm.

SS: The Alexis, India, Mayhem drama of it all! What do you think actually happened and have you resolved things with those three?

Shea: I have been watching Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries and it has taught me how to be content with not knowing what happened. It’s really helped me! I just don’t know. I don’t know! As far as my relationships with the girls, there’s nothing that can un-bond drag queens after the experience of Drag Race. I have nothing but love and respect for them. I talk to Alexis [Mateo] all the time. I really do just love those girls. What happened in the thick of competition doesn’t change or define our relationship outside of that. We’re human and we’re sisters. 

DT: It also wouldn’t be Drag Race without a little bit of drama. 

Shea: Right! It’s honestly quite flattering. 

DT: Throughout the season, your victory almost felt inevitable. I’m curious if it felt that way to you?

Shea: Oh my gosh. It’s funny because I project a lot of confidence. Sometimes any little critique or comment from the judges can weigh heavily on you and you almost assign that value on you as an artist. It can be tough to separate that sometimes. In the competition, though I did well, I didn’t do as well as Miz Cracker. So in the back of my mind, there were moments where I thought what I was giving them wasn’t living up to expectations. 

I think of my mother. I think of my aunt. I think of all of the Black women out there that do so many thankless tasks to raise these children and create these amazing senses of culture. I would not be where I am today without these beautifully strong, powerful,vulnerable, glamorous Black women that have existed.

SS: In light of your victory, can we finally put those rose petals in the rearview mirror?

Shea: I would love that! I would absolutely love that. I feel like those rose petals, holy shit, they were like mirrors. I couldn’t get away from it. I’m really hopeful now that my legacy will be about my successes and my own journey on Drag Race.

DT: You have been so active and vocal with your advocacy recently. Has it been a delicate balance juggling the biggest moment of your career during such a time of civil unrest and uprising?

Shea: Yes and no. I’ve always been someone who has been outspoken and vocal about injustices that I see perpetuated against the Black community and the Black queer community. As these things started to happen with George Floyd and the protests and the demonstrations, I felt in my heart that this was perfect. God’s timing. My voice is one that is needed and needs to be highlighted because it’s very important to share and elevate Black stories. My Black ass says a lot of shit. I have a lot to say. I want to serve as inspiration to people who identify with me or see a piece of me within themselves. Drag Race provided me with so much help when I was younger and I felt like I was lost. It feels really full circle now to be on All Stars 5 during this climate, sharing my story with the world and empowering myself with other queer Black people at the same time. 

SS: One of the most authentic and inspirational moments of the season is when you described your drag as “a love letter to Black women.” I would love to hear you expand on that even more. 

Shea: I think of my mother. I think of my aunt. I think of all of the Black women out there that do so many thankless tasks to raise these children and create these amazing senses of culture. I would not be where I am today without these beautifully strong, powerful, vulnerable, glamorous Black women that have existed. When Black women look at me, I want them to see somebody who says ‘I value you and I think that you are, in my eyes, the most beautiful, enchanted, powerful, God-like figure that I can imagine walking this Earth.’ It means so much to me to reflect that back in my drag.

DT: I think you do a remarkable job of that. I noticed that you tweeted about working on a new pilot. What can you tell us about this new foray into acting?

Shea: Prior to drag, acting was really my first love. There were just never really any roles out there that I fit. I’m just not your typical human. This series follows three queer Black roommates in their mid-20s, trying to navigate this world during a pandemic. 

DT: Topical.

Shea: Yes! You get to see many vulnerable sides and real moments. It’s a series about community and Black love. I’m so in love with my character! He’s definitely somebody I think you’ll love to hate. I just have had so much fun. I really hope we can deliver it to people’s living rooms soon. 

DT: I hope so! Shea, congratulations on everything and we look forward to all that’s to come. The future seems very bright for Shea Couleé. 

Shea: Thank you so much, I really appreciate that. 

Interview: Drag Race All Stars 5 queen Jujubee on being a Boston girl, her cats and that legendary Snatch Game

Interview: Drag Race All Stars 5 queen Miz Cracker talks conquering her demons and looking to the future

Interview: ‘Drag Race All Stars 5’ queen Blair St. Clair on representing the Midwest and how Reba McEntire helped shape her childhood

Interview: ‘Drag Race All Stars 5’ queen Alexis Mateo reveals tea about India Ferrah and love for Walter Mercado

Interview: ‘Drag Race All Stars 5’ queen India Ferrah on starting drag at age 12 and what really happened with Alexis Mateo

Interview: ‘Drag Race All Stars 5’ queen Mayhem Miller is ready to get back to her true self

Interview: ‘Drag Race All Stars 5’ queen Mariah Paris Balenciaga on her early exit and why she doesn’t need closure

Interview: ‘Drag Race All Stars 5’ queen Ongina talks highlighting Filipino culture and that beef with Miz Cracker

Daniel Trainor is writer, podcaster, son and friend from Los Angeles, California. Originally from Michigan, his love for all things pop culture started early, once using pancakes to bribe his way onto the Oscars red carpet bleachers with his mother. In addition to writing for AwardsWatch, he is an huge sports fan and hosts the LGBTQ sports podcast “Same Team.” One day, he hopes Jane Krakowski will win an Emmy.

Sam Stone is a writer and actor based in Brooklyn, New York. He writes humor, culture, and travel among other things, and spends his free time reading about all those things. You can find him on twitter @sam_the_stone or on Instagram @samstone000.

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