Hallelujah! Shangela is making “Dancing With the Stars” history.
DJ “Shangela” Pierce, 40, the singer and performer featured on three seasons of VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” will be the first male celebrity contestant to be paired with a male professional dancer when the ballroom dance reality competition kicks off its 31st season. Sept. 19, its first to stream live on Disney+ (8 EDT/5 PDT).
The “A Star Is Born” stand-out, who met pro dancer partner Gleb Savchenko last week while filming the Season 3 finale of HBO’s “We’re Here” in New Jersey, was thrilled to find out about the groundbreaking pairing.
“It was jaw on the floor,” Shangela tells. “I feel so grateful and have not missed out on how momentous this is. And I want to rise to the occasion, baby.”
Shangela, who identifies as male in day-to-day life, wants to make it clear that this casting represents bigger history than “two guys dancing” in the rule-filled ballroom dance world.
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“This is something totally different because I’m a drag entertainer who will be standing up there,” says Shangela. “On the dancing nights, I’m going to be dressed as the doll, honey. That’s my fiercest form as an entertainer. When I’m in drag, my pronouns are she/her. So seeing a drag queen with a male dancer is going to be something powerful. This is going to be a great space and an amazing platform to showcase that kind of representation.”
The new cast, heavy on reality-TV stars, also includes “CODA” star and deaf actor Daniel Durant, 32, (following in co-star Marlee Matlin’s footsteps); “Charlie’s Angels” star Cheryl Ladd, 71; “Cruel Intentions” star Selma Blair, 50; comedian and game-show host Wayne Brady, 50; “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Teresa Giudice, 50; “Jersey Shore” star Vinny Guadagnino, 34; “Bachelorette” Gabby Windy, 31; “American Idol” alum Jordin Sparks, 32; and a mother-daughter super-influencer match-up between Heidi and Charli D’Amelio, who stars in a reality show on Disney-owned Hulu.
Last season, YouTube star JoJo Siwa made “DWTS” history with her same-sex pro partner Jenna Johnson Chmerkovskiy, a power duo that went all the way to the show’s finals where they took second place in the competition, which has aired on ABC since Its debut in 2005.
Many international versions of “Dancing With the Stars” have featured paired male dancers, and fellow “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Courtney Act danced in drag on Australia’s “DWTS” in 2019.
Executive producer Conrad Black, who returns to the ballroom show as it moves to the streaming platform, calls the casting breakthrough “a step for the show” that is also “reflecting the world of entertainment and the modern world.”
Most importantly, Shangela is a “fantastically engaging personality. It’s a performance show, and no one gets to perform quite like Shangela,” says Black. “She’s going to be pretty fierce as a performer.”
Shangela has been watching “DWTS,” since growing up in Paris, Texas, and has been preparing for this moment ever since “I started dancing with a towel on my head in my grandmother’s bathroom.”
The prospect of competing in the eye-catching “DWTS” costumes is particularly appealing.
“As a drag entertainer, this is probably the most exciting thing,” says Shangela. “The fact that this legendary costume department makes custom outfits for each person each week is thrilling.”
While he lacks ballroom dancing technical specifics, Shangela has natural moves, talent, star power and 1.5 million Instagram followers.
“I’ve always been in my heart, a dancer. I’ve traveled the world not just as a dancer, but as an entertainer. So my dancing skills will just have to catch up.”
Much of this technical instruction will come from Savchenko. But even the instructor is going to learn as well.
“Coming from the drag world, I’m a performer. I’m going to be teaching him a couple of things,” says Shangela, who won’t predict a winner, but promises show-stopping performances.
“I’ve never been ballroom dancing before, and this is going to be all very new to me,” says Shangela. “But let me tell you something: When Shangela shows up, it’s going to be a show. I can guarantee that.”