The drag scene in Chicago continues to grow each year and Hollywood has taken notice.
RuPaul's Drag Race has cast several of our dolls in past seasons, starting from the very first with Jade Sotomayor. Over the years the Windy City has been represented with fierce competitors like DiDa Ritz, Monica Beverly Hillz and Phi Phi O'Hara. Pageant queen Naysha Lopez returned for a second chance after being voted off and Kim Chi almost won last season. This made Chicago even thirstier for a win, so we can almost taste it with the latest contestant Shea Coulee.
Windy City Times: Start off with where you are originally from.
Shea Coulee: I was born in Warsaw, Indiana. I grew up in a southwest suburb of Chicago called Plainfield. I moved into the city in 2007. I went to Columbia College for costume design.
WCT: That was a good move! How long have you been performing in drag?
SC: It will be six years in July.
WCT: What inspired you to start?
SC: I am a RuPaul's Drag Race baby. Watching the show inspired me to do drag, specifically season three with Raja. I had injured my foot so had to be off of it for a few days, so I binge watched the show. I loved it so much. When it got to the Hair Ball, when they had to make outfits out of hair, I was inspired by the creativity that went into that challenge. It made me want to do drag. It looked like fun. The rest is history!
WCT: Explain your drag name.
SC: Shea is my middle name. It is Swahili, meaning "beautiful boy." That was given to me by my late father. I wanted to have something that felt personal.
I picked Coulee because I wanted it to sound like a French supermodel. There is an African riddle that uses the name about building unity.
WCT: You speak French?
SC: Juste un petit peu [just a little bit].
WCT: What was your journey to season nine of RuPaul's Drag Race?
SC: I have auditioned every year since I started doing drag. After five years trying, I finally made it.
WCT: What sets you apart from the rest of the current contestants?
SC: My individual brand. People are usually put in different boxes in the drag world. I am a very well-rounded queen, whether it is performance, makeup, sewing, acting or singing. Those are all areas that I have experience in. I have been doing theater since I was nine years old. I went in with a heavy skill set that allowed me to do well in the challenges given.
WCT: Do you feel taking a while to get cast worked out in your favor?
SC: Absolutely. I am a firm believer that things happen when they are supposed to.
I got to meet Lady Gaga on the first episode so hell yeah! It was such a dream come true. She was so nice and down to earth. I was blown away that I could have a casual conversation with her. It was surprising how small she was. I wanted to pick her up and put her in my pocket, but security would have stopped me!
WCT: Did any past Chicago contestants give you advice about the show?
SC: I started doing drag with Kim Chi. We are like sisters. We used to live across the hall from each other. We would have craft kikis every day where we would work on things. She called me up and gave me a wealth of knowledge. It was much appreciated.
She texts me all the time to give me advice on how to handle things.
WCT: You life will be a roller-coaster this year.
SC: Thankfully I love roller-coasters!
WCT: Was there anything that surprised you, from doing the show?
SC: I was surprised how fast I could work when put to the test. When it comes to shows like that, there is so much production that goes into it. You don't have the luxury to twirl around and think about what you want to create. You have to trust your instincts and go!
It taught me a lot to just dive into something, commit, and do it as fast and efficiently as possible.
WCT: What is the first thing RuPaul said to you?
SC: She said she liked my outfit, and orange is her favorite color. I was wearing an orange coat. It is my favorite color, too.
WCT: With your first entrance into the workroom, was that a club kid-inspired look?
SC: That look was featured in my short film, Lipstick City, located at my website, SheaCoulee.com . I try to be smart and cross-brand myself.
WCT: I spotted lots of Chicago people and places in Lipstick City.
SC: It was a great opportunity to work with the Chicago queer community. I was able to create a fun, fanciful short that was derived from what happens here in Chicago nightlife.
WCT: I know you have been involved with Neverland dance parties. Any more plans for Chicago events?
SC: I am working on some projects right now that I can't talk about. They will be coming out in the next few monthsall things in due time.
WCT: Was Untucked filmed this season for YouTube?
SC: Yes, they did.
WCT: I saw your makeup tutorial with James St. James on YouTube.
SC: I did an episode of Transformations with James St. James. He is legendary and it was so great getting a chance to meet him.
WCT: What is the latest song you like to perform?
SC: "Distraction," by Kehlani. It has a '90s R&B vibe to it. It is about having a cute relationship with someone with no strings attached.
WCT: What would you like to do with the money if you win RuPaul's Drag Race?
SC: I lost my dad to cancer a month and a half ago. When having a sick relative, there are a lot of medical bills, so I would use that money to help take care of my mom. I want to take stress of of her because it was a long, tough journey that she dealt with. I know a hundred thousand dollars would help her out a lot.
WCT: Chicago is rooting for you to bring home the crown.
SC: I am really excited to represent my hometown!
Start your engines as season nine begins on Friday, March 24, on VH1.