QLife caught up with Shea Couleé before the season started for an interview about her experience with the show,
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QLife: Hi Shea! Thanks for taking some time to chat with us. So tell us a little about what the past few months have been like. What have you been up to?
Shea: Oh, you know, just getting ready for this television show. I'm not sure if you've heard of it. It’s been a really fun couple of months being silent about disappearing to a television production. Now that it’s out in the open I'm excited that I can share this experience with all the fans of the show.
QLife: How did you get started doing drag, and what made you want to audition for Drag Race?
Shea: Drag Race is what inspired me to do drag. I started about six years ago after I watched season three and I just so in love with Raja and her take on drag. I was inspired by her. Her personal made drag accessible to me as a lover of fashion. I could be a fashion queen. It just spiraled out of control from there.
QLife: What’s been your biggest learning experience doing the show?
Shea: One thing that I learned the most from being able to participate on this show is to trust my instincts, but also to be willing and open to critique. You realize the judges on the panel are not your best friends. They're not your community members. These are people that are looking at you very objectively. Having the opportunity to see yourself the way others see you is impactful. It teaches you a lot about being a performer and a personality and how to be professional and gracious.
QLife: Where did you grow up.
Shea: I grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago in a little town called Plainfield. I moved to the city in 2007 because I started studying a Columbia College for my bachelor’s degree in Costume Design.
QLife: What’s next for you after Drag Race?
Shea: I'm obsessed with Hollywood and glamor. I love art. I love fashion. I love film. Drag is a great medium that you can apply in all of those things. I wrote, directed, and produced a short film featuring a lot of the Chicago queer community. You can view it on my website at sheacoulee.com. Working in television production during the show inspired me and I'm looking forward to doing a lot more fun, visually interesting projects in the future.
QLife: How do you get involved in your community as a performer?
Shea: Giving back and supporting the community is important. I've worked with a lot of nonprofits in Chicago, one specifically the Center on Halstead, where I did a promotional campaign where we break down the stigmas that go with HIV status. I took a class in college about the biology of the virus, and I wanted to get involved in the community and be able to help. We reached out to youth on the south side of Chicago that don't have as many opportunities to get counseling, testing, and the resources necessary.
QLife: Who are some of your musical inspiration and who do you listen to before a performance when you're doing your makeup?
Shea: If I'm going to the gym recently I've been jamming out to RuPaul’s “Remember Me.” I'm excited about her new album. I love Alaska Thunderfuck’s “Pound Cake”—that’s an awesome one to work out to. If I'm getting ready for a gig and I'm feeling myself, I’m listening to Beyonce. I love disco, Donna Summers, Diana Ross. Grace Jones, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder…
QLife: Is your promotional outfit for the show is a tribute to Grace Jones?
Shea: I wanted to represent my heritage and culture. The silhouette of the head piece is very evocative of Grace Jones. I wanted to forego hair for the shoot and go for something that felt authentically me. I wanted to stand out like all drag queens do. We’re trying to be one step ahead of the other bitch [laughs]. It’s what makes it fun.
QLife: Do you make your own outfits?
Shea: I make about 90% of them. As thinks have picked up, I’ve been outsourcing them to friends. Because I went to school for costume design, a lot of my friends can sew. We’ve worked together on projects, so we know how each other works and who has what strengths, so it’s like a community project between us.
QLife: Do you have a drag mother, or did you start on your own and get adopted later on?
Shea: I started on my own. It took awhile to get my footing. A lot of drag is about picking up from other drag queens. Once I started to get booked and work around other girls, my drag skilled began to accelerate. It helped to have a background in theater, performance, and costume design. I had an excellent foundation to build upon.
QLife: Do you do you have any drag daughters or are you looking to adopt any?
Shea: I do have one drag daughter that I gave my name to. She’s beautiful. She plays the violin. She’s a brilliant musician and a bad ass bitch with a slick mouth.
QLife: What’s your biggest fear?
Shea: My biggest fear would probably be not making RuPaul proud. Through this whole competition, I’ve gone over and over in my head what an absolute blessing this whole fucking experience has been. It's changed my life in such an amazing way. All of a sudden you realize that you have these amazing responsibilities. When the cast was announced I had just lost both my dad and my sister to cancer, and it was really tough for me, but these fans and everybody at World of Wonder has been such an amazing support system. It’s made me so much better, and I guess my biggest fear would be letting any of them down.