If there is an All Star that is still relishing her initial win, it would be All Stars 5 winner Shea Couleé.
Returning so quickly to the RuPaul's Drag Race werkroom might have rattled other competitors, but this Chicago stunner was more than equipped to head back into the competition, this time against all former winners. With her eye for fashion and absolutely show-stopping runways, Shea immediately made her presence-and ambition to snag the title known. As the competition veered towards its final laps, I spoke with Shea to chat about what brought her back to the competition, what it was like meeting one of her own icons on the Drag Race main stage, and how it feels to be one cultural trendsetter for black queer culture today.
Michael Cook: What does it feel like to return to RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 7 for another run at a crown that all of you have won? Especially for you, you won All Stars 5, so that experience was still very fresh.
Shea Couleé: Absolutely, I am actually the most recent, because I was still within my reign, I was actually the current reigning when we went in. It was actually like I never left.
MC: The season kicked off with all of you getting to actually give you best runway walk in front of the queen of the catwalk, Naomi Campbell. You in particular, were very emotional about the experience as a whole. Tell me about that experience.
SC: I had this moment when I left the set where I was like "do I just go home now"? If it possibly could get better than that, I literally don't know if my heart could take it. I literally almost choked on my own tongue when I saw her. It was honestly such a dream come true and I am so deeply grateful and thankful that I had that opportunity to have such an affirming moment with one of the most iconic supermodels ever who is one of my idols.
MC: What was unique about your interaction with Naomi Campbell is that you got to have the interaction and moment with your idol the way that many of us would love to with whoever we happen to idolize.
SC: Oh yes, it really was an absolute dream come true.
MC: You know that with All-Stars, there is going to inevitably be a twist. What did you think when it was revealed that it was going to be the Legendary Legends stars accrual and the ability to block your opponents?
SC: For me, knowing that it was going to be a points system, I was like "That is cool, I got good grades in school. I got stars in fourth grade all the time, Miss Franklin loved me; I had no problem snatching up her Legendary Legends stars”! For me, it was about performing at your absolute best. When we were introduced to the concept of the block, I realized that you had to do your best but also, make sure that a bitch doesn't block you. My strategy was to do what I always do, which is to be kind, loving and supportive. If a girl shows you that she has your back even when you're competing against each other, how can you block a bitch?...Jinkx(laughs)!
MC: You definitely have had the girls shook literally almost every time you hit that runway. What does it feel like to know that you are truly a contender not just in the viewers' eyes, but in your competitors' eyes as well?
SC: There is something that feels really surreal about it. I feel like Drag Race is this really interesting bubble. For me in so many of my experiences outside in the world, just being a queer, black, femme person society has made me feel small. I feel like being a part of this global phenomenon has truly uplifted me as a person and as an artist to a level where people that I look up to can look at me with fear in their eyes? That is the coolest thing (laughs)! It is the coolest thing, they don't know that I am fangirling and gag over them, but if they are gonna be scared of me, by all means please do!
MC: As a queer black person in America today, you are one of the people who has truly changed what true queer black representation means in America today. Do you see the impact you have had from your own perspective?
SC: It is almost overwhelming. I just always revert back to that little kid that had all these dreams, but was so afraid to be themselves because the society that they were growing up in was not catered to provide the safety and the comfort to really be authentically themselves without having to fight for it. Now that I am at the top of the mountain after taking this long journey, being able to look out over the journey and where I have come from, is so beautiful and humbling. There are so many people who have such big dreams but are too afraid to go out there and do them. I am so grateful to that little kid who was so bold enough to dream so deep that I had no other choice but to go honor them and go after my dreams. To be here right now, is just so amazing.
MC: On the show, we see the generational shift between all of you during your interactions, specifically when Raja mentioned that she graduated high school in the 90s and many of you were stunned. Now, you slowly becoming one of the touchstones for younger people to look to for their own inspiration.
SC: Raja was that for me. I watched Raja and she would be on America’s Next Top Model, I watched Season 3, that was the first season I had watched. To come into someone who has been an inspiration to you ... I say this to Raja all the time, "You say that you find me inspiring, but I also want you to look at how you being yourself and putting yourself out there gave me the courage to go and do this too. What you are looking at is a reflection of your own contributions to the world."
MC: What does the rest of the summer have planned for you?
SC: I did a twenty-minute live set of all original music and three brand new songs at Chicago Pride. For me, I have not performed because of COVID at Chicago Pride since winning All Stars 5. For me, this is Shea Couleé's homecoming. We had dancers, we had a live band, we went in!
MC: What is making Shea Couleé proud right now?
SC: I'm really proud of how I continue to surprise myself. We all have those moments where we have those negative voices. The more that you lean into really trying to do what is best for yourself, I have really gone out there and put myself out there to do some things that I have always dreamt of doing but then doubted that I could do it. I am just so incredibly proud of what I have accomplished. There are some really cool things down the pipeline that I can't talk about, but you will remember this conversation. You are going to come back to this moment and say "Wow that bitch was not lying to me"!
Follow Shea Couleé on Instagram @shecoulee.
Read about the other contestants on the homepage.