A momentous occasion. The season 31 cast of Dancing With the Stars includes a new kind of duo in the show’s history — professional dancer Gleb Savchenko and RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Shangela.
“I was absolutely thrilled. And still am,” the Texas native, 40, told Us Weekly of joining the competition. “I mean, honestly, if y’all could catch the frame even larger, you would see that … my jaw was literally on the floor. I mean, to be on Dancing With the Stars and growing up and just always loving dance. And then now to have this amazing platform to compete and do something, I’m living my best life.”
Shangela’s season 31 appearance marks the first time a drag queen has competed for the mirrorball trophy.
“Another great thing [about joining the cast] is that it’s a visibility,” he told Us. “You know, I’m the first person to ever be able to compete in drag on Dancing With the Stars in the history of the show. So, I hope that we show people that it’s all about the heart and soul of who you are as a person.”
The DJ continued: “It doesn’t matter if it’s two men dancing together, if it’s a man or a drag entertainer. … It’s about the spirit of dance and the fun and the ability to connect and to learn more about other people’s worlds.”
While Shangela is not a “technically trained dancer,” he’s ready to learn from the Russia native, 38, and give it his all.
The Strictly Come Dancing alum and Shangela’s partnership is the second time a same-sex duo danced together on the show. JoJo Siwa and pro Jenna Johnson previously teamed up during season 30 of the ABC reality series. During the September 2021 season premiere, Siwa, 19, shared what the historic pairing meant to her.
“For the first time in Dancing With the Stars history, I am dancing with another female, and I’m really, really proud. I came out in early 2021 and what I love to do is make truly being who you are easier for kids,” the Dance Moms alum said.
The “Boomerang” singer and Johnson, 28, came in second in the competition, placing behind NBA star Iman Shumpert and pro Daniella Karagach. Although Siwa didn’t snag the first place title, she felt proud of what she and her dance partner represented to the viewers at home.
“I feel like for people to watch [the show] and see two girls together is really special because you’re not just seeing a female-male couple. You’re seeing two girls, and it’s normal — it’s not weird and it’s not gross. It’s awesome and accepted and celebrated, and it’s just amazing,” the Nebraska native told PopSugar in November 2021.
Johnson, for her part, initially had reservations about the partnership. “I had so many doubts in my head before the season started. I didn’t know if I was capable of doing this, living up to everybody’s expectations, being confident while doing it,” she told Good Morning America in November 2021.
The choreographer continued: “And now looking back, this has been one of the most fulfilling, scary and life-changing moments I’ve ever had on the show. I’m so grateful I said yes to dancing with a female, and I’m so grateful it was JoJo. She has made this experience absolutely magical.”
The So You Think You Can Dance alum and her husband, Val Chmerkovskiy, who wed in 2019, are expecting their first child together in January. Johnson won’t be competing in season 31 of DWTS but Chmerkovskiy, 36, will return to the stage, dancing with Bachelorette Gabby Windey.
“I know that Val is definitely excited to come back for another season and I think that he’s in the best shape of his life right now. I’m not sure what happened to him [this year], but he is snatched,” the mom-to-be exclusively told Us in June.
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Dancing With the Stars premieres on September 19 at 8 p.m. ET on Disney+.
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