Shea Couleé’s iconic status has become even more iconic as she’s graced the runway on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season 7, aka the all-winners season.
During this unprecedented season, Couleé has already experienced walking in front of her personal idol, Naomi Campbell, showcasing her dancing and performance skills, and her comedy. But one of her calling cards is definitely her fashion sense.
Couleé’s artistry comes out the most in her fashion, and as she’s said in the past, her extraordinary looks come from her love for Black women, especially those who raised her.
“For me…I feel like whenever I’m doing a look, I feel like I’m playing a character. So I kind of create these backstories for who this woman is,” she said. “And so when I reflect back on the beauty that I see from Black women, Black culture, I always wanted to feel really true and I always want…people to see the admiration that I have for Black women every time.”
“I do my drag because to me, they are the most inspirational, the most beautiful, and that’s my experience because I was raised by so many incredible, wonderful, beautiful, smart, talented, funny, fashionable, witty Black women,” she added. “So that’s just at the core of who I am.”
One of Couleé’s most fashion-forward pieces, the pleated ensemble during the veiled runway, was inspired by her grandmother.
“That piece was also really special for me because the designer, Robert Wun, his collection was a tribute to his grandmother. And when we were given the prompt, I immediately thought of that collection and I thought of him and I thought of my grandmother. And so we worked together to customize and put together a beautiful piece for that,” she said. “I feel like a lot of the time, it’s really about connecting yourselves with the right people that understand your vision and how to help bring it forward. And it just so happened to be one of those really beautiful, easy moments. You know, it was very easy with Robert.”
The June 17 episode, in which the queens had to come together to create two 2000s-era girl groups, featured Couleé’s group embracing the TRL of it all, including the fashions, with Couleé rocking burgundy and black two-toned hair reminiscent of the hairstyles of the time. For the challenge, Couleé said that she harkened back to her childhood of loving girl groups, including SWV, Blaque, 3LW, TLC, and of course, Destiny’s Child.
“I was doing these [dances] in my basement with my sisters when I was five years old, you know,” she said. “I’ve been doing girl groups since I could like basically walk. So I would always force my sisters to do like Destiny’s child songs with me. And I would always cast myself as Beyonce naturally. But that’s just [what I would do] since I was a kid, so Drag Race, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I’d love a girl group challenge. Like let’s do it.'”
Couleé might have impressed the judges with her performance, but one of the moments from the series that has gone viral online is when Couleé became utterly frustrated with her castmates being chaotic in the werkroom. As her fellow drag queens danced and toyed around, Couleé sat staring into space, trying to tune out the world. Coulee said that she finds the moment funny.
“I feel like all of the memorable, viral moments that I’ve ever had on this show or all moments that I don’t remember until seeing it back. Like, I totally forgot about that,” she said. “And I think too, because you’re seeing me with that stone-cold look on my face because literally I think what I was trying to do was block everything out so hard, just so that I could focus and I [guess] as a result, I kind of just like blocked out the memory of it as well because I really was trying to write that speech while these girls are just literally being so rambunctious,” she added, laughing about how Yvie Oddly’s dancing looked like “one of those billowy figures outside of a car dealership.”
The fact that the queens can be so comfortable with each other showcases their tight-knit sisterhood. Couleé called the friendships she’s created “wonderful.”
“It has been such a gift. Like I could not have imagined having more fun than I did being there with these girls. It was just such an excellent experience,” she said. “And I love that we could really just come together and uplift and celebrate each other because that’s really what sisterhood is about. That’s what drag community is about that, you. That’s what it is like when we’re out in the world because it’s just when you’re part of these communities, you’re not competing against each other.”
“It’s like you have your girls that you live for and your girls that you maybe don’t kick it with like that. But I think like what people miss and don’t really see through the show because it’s a competition is that in our real day-to-day jobs, no one’s getting sent home,” she continued. “You know, we see each other every week at the [club] doing the show. So you become a family, you become a community. And so I’m so glad that the fans get to see that.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars drops Fridays on Paramount+.