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Shangela On Making ‘Dancing With The Stars’ History: ‘This Is All Very New’

Shangela sashayed and strutted her way into television history last month when she became the first drag entertainer to compete on “Dancing with the Stars.”

The “RuPaul’s Drag Race” veteran kicked off her run on the ABC competition series in September with a sexy salsa set to the Pussycat Dolls’ “When I Grow Up.” For last week’s James Bond-themed episode, she and professional dancer Gleb Savchenko wowed viewers with a dramatic “GoldenEye” rhumba.

Appearing on “The Jennifer Hudson Show” Monday, Shangela ― whose real name is D.J. Pierce ― said her main objective on “Dancing with the Stars” was simply to have a good time. Still, she acknowledged the “magnitude to this moment” in the interview.

“I’m no stranger to being the first queen doing things,” she explained. “I was the first queen to walk the Oscars red carpet in drag, I was the first drag queen to ever attend [Vice President Kamala Harris’] residence.”

Watch Shangela’s appearance on “The Jennifer Hudson Show” below.

As for smashing pop culture barriers, she added, “It’s not about just being the first. You’ve got to walk through, you’ve got to represent authentically and fiercely, and then you’ve got to keep that door open for the girls coming behind you.”

Shangela, a Texas native, made her debut appearance on the second season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in 2010. Her initial run on the series, however, was short-lived as she became the first contestant to be eliminated that season.

She surprised fans by returning to “Drag Race” for the following season, placing fifth. In 2018, she was a finalist on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” and that same year, she appeared in “A Star is Born” with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.

Shangela (left) and Gleb Savchenko on "Dancing with the Stars."
Shangela (left) and Gleb Savchenko on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Nathan Martin/ABC

“Dancing with the Stars” has featured a number of LGBTQ contestants since its 2005 premiere. In 2018, Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon became the show’s first gay winner. Last season, JoJo Siwa set a new precedent when she became the first contestant to be paired with a same-sex partner.

Elsewhere in her chat with Hudson, Shangela credited her time on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” with giving her a competitive edge. Still, she said her “Dancing with the Stars” run had already come with a number of unexpected challenges.

“Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, you’re a dancer,’ but I’ve never been formally trained,” she said. “I’ve never had any training on technique before, I’ve never been in a ballroom setting, so this is all very new.”

“But I’m not afraid,” she continued. “I want to just do my best, represent my community and show up.”