A GoPride Interview


The drag all-star on surviving RuPaul's Drag Race

Wed. January 23, 2013  by Jerry Nunn

Drag has become very alternative looking. It was different when I started.
Now entering its fifth season on Logo, RuPaul's Drag Race is outrunning the competition in a fierce way. The show has seen two spin-off, RuPaul's Drag U and most recently an All-Star version where show favorites battle it out for the ultimate crown.

Shannel, one of the queens from season one, made it to the top three of the All-Stars teaming with Chad Michaels to create the mash-up of Shad.

Shannel is a makeup artist and showgirl who now performs around the world. Not only was the artist formerly known as Bryan Watkins a drag professor on Drag U, but Shannel was one of the few appear all three seasons of the show.

Jerry Nunn caught up with the showgirl backstage while at local haunt Roscoe's Tavern as part of the All-Stars Absolut Vodka tour.

JN: (Jerry Nunn) Hellooo, Shannel. How long have you been in the biz?

Shannel: Eighteen years and I'm only 21 so go fuckin' figure!

JN: Where are you originally from?

Shannel: Orange County, California.

JN: When did you move to Las Vegas, Nevada?

Shannel: When I was 21. I was there for nine years. From there I moved to Seattle for one year then back to California.

JN: Do you go back and forth?

Shannel: I live in Long Beach now. I do all the Dream Girl shows out there. I have my own show at a nightclub out there as well. I just travel everywhere.

JN: You have been on Drag U for several seasons?

Shannel: All of them, all three seasons.

JN: How did you wind up being on All-Stars?

Shannel: They contacted me and told they wanted me to be a part of it. I said, "Tell me when and where and let's do it!" This was an instant decision and I thought it was awesome.

JN: You and Chad Michaels were the dream team.

Shannel: It was fun. You know Chad and I have been friends for like 15 years. We had a falling out for about five years where we didn't talk but we are extremely close now. We work together every week so when I saw him on the show and found out we had to do pairs it felt written in the stars. We thought if we don't pick each other then we might never talk again.

JN: How do you feel everything went overall?

Shannel: I'm so happy. I wouldn't want to change anything. You go there with the mindset of doing the best you can do. I did. With the limited amount of time we had to prepare everything I think that Chad and I did exceptionally well. We had three wins in a row, the first in Drag Race history. I think we really persevered.

JN: What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Shannel: I think it's really important is to stay true to who you are. It is important to listen to everybody around you and really be observant, to look, see, and realize. At the end of the day you have to be able to look in the mirror and be happy with who you are and what you do. I think staying instinctive to who you are and persevering to be the best you can be constantly are the most important things.

JN: How much money do you put back into doing drag?

Shannel: I probably spend 20,000 to 30,000 a year in drag. It's expensive but it pays itself off. Sometimes once you have won something one time then it's paid for after that.

JN: What are your next projects that you are working on?

Shannel: You know I never know. I wait for the phone to ring and see what happens. I was contacted this week to be a part of La Toya Jackson's new reality show so I might be a part of that.

JN: She's sweet. Have you met her before?

Shannel: No I haven't.

JN: Have you been to Chicago before tonight?

Shannel: Many times. It has been about four years ago. I have done Hydrate, and Spin a few times. There was a Latin club that I did with Jade a few times.

JN: For Wild Thursdays! How do people keep up with you?

Shannel: On my fan page on Facebook under Shannel. There is also my boy page, which is Bryan Watkins. They can also tweet me @ShannelW.

JN: Would you ever want to retire?

Shannel: You know I get asked that often. I figure as long as everything is held upright still why not keep going? I love to entertain. I love to be on the microphone, cut up, and be stupid with the crowd. It's all I know. I was a makeup artist for CHANEL, Christian Dior and Kevyn Auccoin for about ten years. I enjoyed it but it was a thankless job because I realized that the things I could do on other women they couldn't take home and do, where is with drag I only have to account for myself.

JN: What do you think when you see a new drag queen?

Shannel: Drag has taken such a turn these days. Drag has become very alternative looking. It was different when I started. Now with Lady Gaga and all of these inspirations they all want to be over the top but they don't want to wear a lot of makeup. A lot of queens think that the lighter the makeup you wear the more realistic you are when in reality sometimes the more makeup you wear the more realistic you can become.

Check out the new drag queens for yourself as a whole new race kicks off Monday, January 28 on Logo. Visit www.logotv.com for a preview and listing information.

Interviewed by Jerry Nunn. Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.