The Only Star More Fierce Than Shea Couleé? Her Pomeranian, Baby
The Drag Race All Star on astrology, mental health, and the importance of pets to people in the LGBTQ+ community:
“Baby has no idea about my public persona. She literally just loves me exactly for who I am.”
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Jaws dropped during the premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7 as Shea Couleé “brought royalty-worthy couture” (to quote Vogue of her Valentino gown) down the Drag Race runway for the first time. She also stole the show when Naomi Campbell remarked of her walk, “It was perfection to me” (like, nbd).
Still, even the most flawless, feel-good diva needs unconditional love. For Couleé, previously the All Star 5 winner, that bundle of joy is Baby, her three-year old Pomeranian. “A lot of my confidence serves as a way to heal the big insecurities that I deal with. There are some days where I feel so overwhelmed,” the otherwise kind, mild-mannered Couleé says of maintaining her outsize alter ego. “It’s just so nice, because Baby has no idea about my public persona. She literally just loves me exactly for who I am.”
These days, in addition to her Drag Race appearance, Couleé can be found promoting her skincare collaborations with The Quiet Girl Shoppe and working on her upcoming album, which she calls “a really amazing mix of ’80s and ’90s deep house.” You can also see her at this year’s Pride in the Park Chicago. In advance of that performance, we spoke with Couleé about how getting a dog, especially if you’re a part of the LGBTQ+ community, can be the best life hack ever.
Let’s talk a little about Baby, your Pomeranian.
Yes! The light of my life.
Would you say you share any personality traits?
There’s definitely a lot of crossover. Like, she’s super social with humans. I wish she was more social with other dogs, but she loves her space. She is also full of personality and energy, but is very strong-willed. And she’s always so happy and in a good mood. She’s just a living breathing teddy bear with the cutest little raspy bark.
Would you ever like to take Baby on the runway with you?
My God! I would love to take Baby on the runway with me! I would love to, especially after we shot Baby for The Wildest. She was serving — full, dead-on. It is so clear that she’s such a star and was so meant to be on camera. Like, she knew how to hit her marks. She knew how to pose and get smiles, and also get some of these stoic poses. She gave range, and I was so impressed. Baby is very food-motivated, but she really did not need the motivation to turn out these photos.
When you take her out, is she chill or will she run away and explore things?
It really depends on the environment. When we come out here to LA, the Airbnb has a lot of indoor and outdoor space. She was so intrigued by the outside and the plants and all of that, so she wandered away a lot more. But at home in Chicago, she’s a little bit more closely tucked under me.
You’ve mentioned that she’s a Libra. You’re an Aquarius. What’s that chemistry like?
It’s very good chemistry! My other drag daughter, Bambi, she’s also a Libra. My sister Michelle, she’s a Libra. They are, like, the scales. There is a lot of balance. With Libras, you have to maintain that balance. You have to provide them with the nurturing space that they need.
How did you come to adopt Baby?
We [Shea and her partner Dan] were actually about to adopt another dog. We called them and asked if the dog was still available. They said yes. When we got there, like 30 minutes later, the dog was gone. They’re like, “We don’t hold dogs for people.” Dan looked so fed up. I looked back as we’re walking out and saw this cute little poofy brown butt. I knew at the moment: That’s my dog. It was like she just manifested herself right there.
How has she enriched your life?
I love waking up every morning and seeing her at the front of the bed. When she notices me wake up, she gets so excited and will crawl on my chest and give me little kisses. I can’t imagine not having that every single morning! I feel like especially for queer people and people in the LGBTQ community that may not subscribe to the nuclear family structure — she is like my child. I now have this vessel to pour all this love and affection into, and she gives it right back.
When we see you publicly, we think: super-confident, gorgeous, feel-good. Do you have darker moments or moments of anxiety where she factors into making you feel better?
Oh, absolutely. One thing that I struggle with a lot is imposter syndrome. I struggle with that so much because of my public persona. But there are so many facets to who I am as a human being. Either it’s the workload or thinking about the expectations that I feel that I have to live up to. It’s nice to look at her and have her look back at me with those beautiful, big, brown eyes with so much love in them, and just, you know, simplify things.
I can’t imagine the pressure you’re under to look beautiful all the time.
Sometimes I wake up, and I’m like, “Girl, who beat me up and stole my lunch?” [Laughs] But it doesn’t matter to her.
Does she know how cute she is?
She definitely knows that. I see people’s reactions to her. And I see other dogs’ reactions to her, and she always acts like she doesn’t even notice.
She's probably looking at the other dogs and thinking, “Don't come near me. You're gonna ruin my hair.”
Our first interaction with a dog was with this Frenchie. He was also kind of a puppy and got a little too excited. She’s so cute, and he was slobbering all over her face. And she was so upset. I feel like she’s just triggered every time she sees other dogs. She’s like, “They’re gonna come over here and slob on my beautiful fur!”
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Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.