Is Shangela the Most Improved Contestant in ‘Drag Race’ History?

Adam Salandra
TV Competitive Reality
TV Competitive Reality

The queens who are a part of an All Stars season of RuPaul’s Drag Race often enter the workroom for a chance at redemption after stumbling on their original season, but that doesn’t mean they always get it.

Season 2‘s Tatiana returned to the spotlight for All Stars 2 and gained a legion of new fans that either didn’t see her or didn’t like her the first time around. Phi Phi O’Hara, on the other hand, walked into All Stars 2 with the hope of changing her villainous reputation from Season 4, but a feud with Alyssa Edwards only made her bad-girl rep worse.

But when it comes to returning to the competition with absolute proof that she’s elevated in all areas, no contestant has ever had a glow up like Shangela Laquifa Wadley. The queen went from being the first contestant sent home on Season 2 to being a frontrunner for the crown in All Stars 3. Let’s take a look back at her journey to see how she became the most improved queen in the history of the franchise.

The Early Days

Shangela burst into the workroom on Season 2 full of energy but light on experience. The queen from Paris, Texas had been doing drag for less than a year and her inexperience ultimately got her sent home in Episode 1.

But RuPaul clearly saw something in the fiery contestant and invited her back to compete in Season 3, in which she famously popped out of a box to surprise the rest of the cast with her return.

Her second chance gave viewers an opportunity to see that she was a skilled entertainer, but her look still left a bit to be desired. And while she made it all the way to 6th place the second time around, the legacy she left behind was more about the box and her epic “Sugar Daddy” fight with Mimi Imfurst rather than what she brought to the runway.

The Road to All Stars

People were quick to write Shangela off at the start of All Stars 3, assuming she was nothing more than “Halleloo” catchphrases and jumping out of boxes to surprise people who didn’t want to see her in the first place. I, on the other hand, picked Shangela as my dark-horse contestant to take the crown (something I’ve been patiently waiting to not-so-humble brag about all season long).

But that’s because any Shangela fan knows just how hard this queen has worked since being kicked off the show in 2011. In addition to releasing high-quality music videos and guest starring on TV shows, including Two Broke GirlsGlee, and The X Files, the Texas native also started her own management company.  Say What Entertainment has managed the careers of some of Drag Race‘s biggest stars, including Alyssa EdwardsLaganja Estranja, and Raven.

In 2016, Shangela joined pop icons like Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez when she landed her own show on the Vegas Strip. The queen hosted and performed in 53X, a sexy dance show created by the producers responsible for Chippendales.

And while she worked non-stop making the most out of her post-Drag Race career, she was also perfecting her skills as a drag queen. She even took two months of sewing classes (although the Art Pop Ball proved that she would have perhaps benefited from just a few more classes). Now all she had to do was find a platform to reveal all her new talents.

The Daenerys Targaryen of Drag

It appeared that the contestants of All Stars 3 were also ready to write Shangela off at the start of the season, but she quickly showed them that she was a force to be reckoned with.

Her performance as Mariah Carey in the VH1 Divas parody and as Jenifer Lewis in Snatch Game landed her two wins out of the five main challenges that we’ve seen so far this season. That’s a huge victory, especially when you consider that frontrunners like Trixie Mattel have struggled to secure a place in the top.

But perhaps most importantly, Shangela totally redeemed herself aesthetically compared to how she looked during her first two times in the race. Improved makeup skills and an enhanced wardrobe provided the queen with an opportunity to prove she had way more to serve than just a big personality.

In the challenge that asked the contestants to redo one of their biggest fails from their previous season (a moment in which Shangela herself pointed out that she had plenty to choose from), she came out in a literal bubble for a Christmas-costume redo that wowed the judges and helped win her the challenge. No one could deny it any longer — this wasn’t Season 2 Shangela. The new and improved queen came to slay and hasn’t looked back.

Drag Race All Stars 3 Shangela in a bubble

Will Shangela win the All Stars crown? Only time will tell. But she definitely won the title of Most Improved. And if we learned anything about her over the years, it’s that this is not the last we’ve seen of Shangela Laquifa Wadley.

Adam Salandra
Adam Salandra is an Entertainment Editor for FANDOM. When he's not covering the latest in pop culture, you can find him playing with his French Bulldog pup or hovering over the table of food at any social gathering.
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