RuPaul's Drag Race Star Shangela Launches Charity Drive to Help Out of Work Performers

"The cash flow of an entire workforce of drag entertainers has literally halted," Shangela tells PEOPLE of her non-profit effort Feed the Queens. "Performers survive on tips from eager crowds. The situation is dire for many"

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Drag kings and queens have long been powerful change agents within the LGBTQ community. Starting at the Stonewall riots in 1969 — where drag performer and iconic transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson is reported to have participated in the uprising, as was legendary drag king and activist Stormé DeLarverie — the community’s entertainers have led the way for equality.

“One person’s commitment, one person’s involvement can manifest such beautiful change,” says drag performer (and star of RuPaul’s Drag Race and We’re Here) Shangela Laquifa Wadley.

Lately, Shangela — born Darius Pierce and currently quarantining with his grandmother in Paris, Texas — has been thinking about her fellow drag performers across the country who have not been working for three months due to COVID-19. The performer known for her awe-inspiring “death drops” on stage and trademark “halleloo!” catchphrase was having a conversation with a friend in my home state of Texas a few weeks ago who told her, “Next month I'm going to have to choose between paying my rent or buying groceries.” As she began speaking to other performers in other cities across the United States, a common refrain emerged: “We’re hungry.”

“We all see the closed bars without patrons,” says Shangela. “But they are also without performers.” This weekend, Shangela is launching an audacious effort: Feed the Queens. The name might sound catchy — and it is, Shangela did major in corporate communications at Southern Methodist University — but the urgency is very real.


Shangela devised a simple — and she hopes doable — plan: raise $100,000. “I thought if we could help out 1,000 queens across America, to give each a $100 gift card for groceries. We could really make a big step towards fighting hunger in the drag community,” Shangela says.

To help facilitate the effort, with logistics, backend facilitation, and to make donations tax-deductible, Shangela partnered with The Actors Fund. “I was thankful to find a fiscal partner, which is an organization that's been committed to helping people in the entertainment industry,” Shangela says.

The Fund will also field the applications (submitted to, which require proof of prior employment as a drag entertainer. She has also assembled an advisory board for the charity (which includes the creators of We’re Here) and just enlisted her friends to help, including Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara, and YouTube star Frankie Grande, brother of pop star Ariana. “No artist should go hungry because the world took away their stage,” Frankie says.

David Engelman of non-profit organization The Actors Fund says since the pandemic started the organization has distributed financial assistance to more than 10,000 performers nationally, “more than seven times the annual average.” Engelman agrees that the situation is dire for many performers and “we must galvanize support in the fight against food insecurity among drag queens, drag kings and trans drag performers within the nightlife and performing arts communities.”

Engelman adds that many who work in nightlife have been financially hit twice: “Many who work in performing arts and entertainment maintain sideline jobs in restaurants, retail and personal services industries like personal training, massage, yoga, or Uber—all industries which have been largely shut down nationally.”


Feed the Queens is a charity, but Shangela knows her community will come out on the other side. “Drag queens are truly some of the most resourceful people in the world,” she says. “But we have to remember that our community is a marginalized community indeed, with a large population of marginalized people. We are accustomed to not always being able to have access to resources. Not only because we're drag queens, but think about the different layers in our drag community. We have a lot of queens of color, myself included, from various racial backgrounds. We have people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. We have trans performers. And you know that statistically, resources aren't always allocated to those groups in ways that they are to some others.”

Therefore, the Actors Fund and Shangela are strongly encouraging communities of color to apply.

At the moment, Shangela and other major drag stars are planning an online benefit. She is determined to raise $100,000 to give away. That number has meaning for her, she notes. “I went to RuPaul's Drag Race 19,000 times and I never won a $100,000,” she laughs. (She actually competed three times and indeed never won.)

“But now I want everyone to join me in hopefully getting that feeling, but for queens in need,” Shangela says.

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