My name is Shea Coulee and I didn’t come to play, I came to slay.
That was what I said when I walked into the RuPaul’s Drag Race ‘werk room’ for the first time – and I meant it.
It was season nine of the infamous competition and after auditioning five times previously, I finally made it onto the show.
You always wonder when watching these shows whether some people have been cast just to be the queen to go home early – but walking into that room, it was clear we were all there because we had earned it.
And oh my god, we really had to earn it. The audition process was intense.
They ask you to perform acting challenges, sending you scripts. You have sewing challenges, taking them through the process and the idea for your outfit. You have to be prepared for runway, with 10-14 looks.
I doubt there is any show out there with an audition process this rigorous. That is why every season is more and more polished than the one before it.
When I finally made it onto the show, RuPaul said he’d been watching me for three years, waiting for me to get to the perfect stage to appear on the show. It really is all about timing.
But back to the werk room. Stepping into it is like stepping into another world and you just think ‘let’s make some really great TV.’ You’re surrounded by your sisters (and in our case, Lady Gaga) who you share a special bond with.
I’m still in touch with pretty much all the queens from my series: Sasha, Farrah, Alexis, Nina, Jaymes Mansfield and Peppermint.
It was winning my first challenge that was the best bit of the show for me, though. Sasha and I were both crowned winners for our performance on ‘Good Morning Bitches’, the challenge where we had to act as presenters on an early morning TV talk show.
Then when I went on to win three more (the first queen of colour to win that many challenges). I felt validated, like all my hard work had paid off.
The worst bit of the series was definitely the Gayest Ball Ever episode, where we had to create three looks (rainbow she better do, sexy unicorn and Village People eleganza extravaganza), celebrating queer culture. There was also a rhythmic gymnastics aspect.
I haven’t actually managed to watch my series back – it’s really hard to do. Watching yourself is a really confronting and strange experience. You think ‘do I really sound like that?’ ‘Do I really make that face?’. The only bits I can manage to watch through is where I’m acting.
It’s one of the lessons Drag Race has taught me – and one I would pass on to the Drag Race UK queens.
Just like in my season, I think it’s too early to tell who is going to be strong competition and I don’t want to place premature bets.
But I have met a handful of the queens before and I know they are going to deliver. I’ve toured with Cheryl Hole – she is a riot, kind and fun. Blue Hydrangea I met at Dublin Pride and Gothy Kendoll at New York Drag Con. With both of them I was taken aback by their beauty.
My advice to all the UK queens is to have a lot of fun, don’t take yourself too seriously and be there for each other. Most importantly: don’t read the comments.
As my mom always says: ‘You can be the sweetest, juiciest peach but you’ll always meet somebody who doesn’t like peaches.’
Trolls want to be seen. They have an ego and search for validation – when you engage you give them that validation.
But in terms of challenges – the most notorious being Snatch Game – my advice is to just give into the character. Don’t overthink it as it will only slow you down.
In my season I did Naomi Campbell. I was at my first Drag Con on a panel when an audience member told me she had replied on Twitter.
I literally burst into tears and forgot everything going on around me. Her comments meant everything to me. She is a goddess in my opinion and has been an inspiration since I was four. In my mind she can do no wrong.
Drag has the power to change lives. I applied for the show because I wanted to share my art on a bigger platform, and it did that for me.
But in a wider sense, people are looking for an outlet and drag does nothing but encourage self expression and identity.
Politically – especially in the US – people just want to be seen and heard and nothing is louder than drag. It allows us to be bold.
As for whether I would go on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, I guess we’ll just have to see.
I’ve been rumoured to be on season five – just as I was on season four – and all I have to say is that rumours are rumours for a reason.
You can follow Shea on Instagram and Twitter, and find their website here.
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