While most of my stories are of places distant from Paris, a recent outing closer to home to Dallas provided an experience worth telling.
One of the greatest ambassadors that Paris, Texas has is DJ Pierce, a graduate of Paris High School, who never fails to mention his hometown in his shows and interactions with stars. Unless you have followed his career, the salute to Paris may seem insignificant. But check out his 1.6 million followers on Instagram to understand the breadth of his influence.
At his Fully Lit show in Dallas recently, sponsored by AT&T, the devotion of the sold-out crowd illustrated the reach of this rising star whose stage name is Shangela.
The crowd poured into the Majestic Theater in downtown Dallas, some decked out in rhinestones and stilettos but most in casual comfortable clothes- sons with mothers, husband and wives, husbands with husbands, wives with wives, groups of friends, singles. The majority were in the age range of 30s to 50s. I stopped some for pictures and short interviews.
“How did you first discover Shangela?” Those with the longest connections remembered him from the Rose Room, the iconic Dallas drag queen venue where Shangela first did back up dancing. The drag queen host of the Rose Room, Kelexis Davenport, was there to support her protégé. Thanks to three seasons on RuPaul’s Drag Race, the well liked Drag Queen Contest, many of the crowd had first connected with Shangela there. More recent converts came from the HBO show, “We’re Here”, a series of touching stories played out in small towns or communities that were not LGBTQ+ friendly. A woman dressed in thigh high gold sparkly boots noted that she never cried but wept at every single episode of “We’re Here.”
But it was Shangela’s appearance on “Dancing With the Stars” that had awed everyone in attendance in Dallas. A fan from Gilmer, Texas said he was there to see the famous “death drop” highlighted on the last episode of “Dancing With the Stars” where Shangela suddenly dropped to the floor with one leg extended straight out and the other leg bent behind her, her back flattened with the rest of her body. The next morning she was interviewed on ABC Morning News for her performance and in particular, that move.
The Dallas show featured dancing, storytelling, a short contest for the next drag queen in the audience, and shout outs to those in attendance. She asked all Paris people to stand, and the crowd went crazy. Actually, the crowd responded heartily to everything. They clapped, laughed at her stories, cheered her escapades to introduce herself to stars such as Beyonce and Lady Gaga, and shouted out appropriate answers to her questions. I recognized my ignorance of many trendy songs and shows but loved the crowd’s enthusiasm. I was struck by her ability to relate to the crowd, talking of her early embrace of shopping at Ross’s, and then with her newfound wealth laughing at flying first class where she entertained herself by endlessly moving her seat up and down.
DJ has been a good friend of our daughter’s since elementary school. Her high school group of friends traveled from all parts of Texas and Oklahoma to reunite with their classmate and support his rise to stardome. The success of Shangela was years in the building with DJ appearing in movies, TV shows and commercials before Shangela hit it big. His ambitious journey upward was and is fueled by his humor, confidence, charm, and a genuine graciousness – an acceptance of all and fear of none. Old friends have enjoyed his quick wit for years and now it has gained him many followers.
Shangela has become a notable ambassador for the Drag Queen community – the first to walk the red carpet at the Oscars (she played a drag queen in A Star Was Born), the first to perform on Dancing With the Stars, and the first to attend a White House bill signing. She’s had dinner with Vice-President Kamala Harris and was recently placed on the advisory board of Southern Methodist University where DJ graduated with honors.
Although dressing in drag has been enjoyed for thousands of years, it was often on the fringe of acceptance. But the American Drag Queen community has become more mainstream as the entertainment part of that world has been discovered and appreciated. Shangela looks nothing like DJ but underneath the phenomenal make-up creation is the same warm and friendly personality that has charmed us and now the world. And it was evident in Dallas. Everyone loved her.