'Drag Race' star Shangela makes 'Dancing With the Stars' history; Selma Blair, Cheryl Ladd compete

  • The new cast for "Dancing With the Stars" season 31 has been revealed, as drag performer Shangela makes history.
  • The new cast also includes Cheryl Ladd, Selma Blair, singer Jordin Sparks, "Bachelorette" Gabby Windy.
  • "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice, "Jersey Shore" star Vinny Guadagnino are cast.

Halleloo! Shangela is making "Dancing With the Stars" history.

D.J. "Shangela" Pierce, 40, the singer and performer featured on three seasons of VH1's "RuPaul's Drag Race," will be the first male celebrity contestant to be paired with a male professional dancer when the ballroom dance reality competition kicks off its 31st season Sept. 19, its first to stream live  on Disney+ (8 EDT/5 PDT).

Shangela, a standout from "A Star Is Born" who met pro dancer partner Gleb Savchenko last week while filming the Season 3 finale of HBO's "We're Here" in New Jersey, was thrilled to find out about the groundbreaking pairing.

"It was jaw on the floor," Shangela tells USA Today. "I feel so grateful and have not missed out on how momentous this is. And I want to rise to the occasion, baby."

Shangela, who identifies as male in day-to-day life, wants to make it clear that this casting represents bigger history than "two guys dancing" in the rule-filled ballroom dance world.

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Shangela says of the honor, "I just wanna rise to the occasion, baby."

"This is something totally different because I'm a drag entertainer who will be standing up there," Shangela says. "On the dancing nights, I'm going to be dressed as the doll, honey. That's my fiercest form as an entertainer. When I'm in drag, my pronouns are she/her. So seeing a drag queen with a male dancer is going to be something powerful. This is going to be a great space and an amazing platform to showcase that kind of representation."

The new cast, heavy on reality-TV stars, also includes "CODA" star and deaf actor Daniel Durant, 32, (following in co-star Marlee Matlin's footsteps); "Charlie's Angels" star Cheryl Ladd, 71; "Cruel Intentions" star Selma Blair, 50, who is battling multiple sclerosis; comedian and game-show host Wayne Brady, 50; "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice, 50; "Jersey Shore" star Vinny Guadagnino, 34; "Bachelorette" Gabby Windey, 31; "American Idol" alum Jordin Sparks, 32; and a mother-daughter super-influencer match-up between Heidi and Charli D'Amelio, who stars in a reality show on Disney-owned Hulu. 

Last season, YouTube star JoJo Siwa made "DWTS" history with her same-sex pro partner Jenna Johnson Chmerkovskiy, a power duo that went all the way to the show's finals, where they took second place in the competition. The show has aired on ABC since 2005. 

Many international versions of "Dancing With the Stars" have featured paired male dancers, and fellow "RuPaul's Drag Race" alum Courtney Act danced in drag on Australia's "DWTS" in 2019.

Shangela is part of HBO's new show, "We're Here."

Executive producer Conrad Black, who returns to the show as it moves to Disney+, calls the casting breakthrough "a step for the show" that is also "reflecting the world of entertainment and the modern world."

Most importantly, Shangela is a "fantastically engaging personality. It's a performance show, and no one gets performance quite like Shangela," Black says. "She's going to be pretty fierce as a performer. "

Shangela has been watching "DWTS," since growing up in Paris, Texas, and has been preparing for this moment since "I started dancing with a towel on my head in my grandmother's bathroom."

The prospect of competing in the eye-catching "DWTS" costumes is particularly appealing. 

"As a drag entertainer, this is probably the most exciting thing," Shangela says. "The fact that this legendary costume department makes custom outfits for each person each week is thrilling."

JoJo Siwa and Jenna Johnson made "DWTS" history as the first same-sex couple.

While he lacks ballroom dancing technical specifics, Shangela has natural moves, talent, star power and 1.5 million Instagram followers:

"I've always been in my heart, a dancer. I've traveled the world not just as a dancer, but as an entertainer. So my dancing skills will just have to catch up."

Much of the technical instruction will come from Savchenko. But the instructor is going to learn as well. 

"Coming from the drag world, I'm a performer. I'm going to be teaching him a couple of things," says Shangela, who won't predict a winner, but promises show-stopping performances.

"I've never been ballroom dancing before, and this is going be all very new to me. But let me tell you something: When Shangela shows up, it's going to be a show. I can guarantee that."