On May 12th, 2023, polished and pyrotechnic multidisciplinary artist Shea Couleé invited a crowd of eccentric and adorning guests to her first ever solo international stage tour, The Lipstick Ball, in Los Angeles. She is fresh off her European tour with nearly all sold out shows. Expressing herself through music, dance, and fashion, this champion of the queer, creative underground world gave a show stopping performance accompanied by fellow drag superstars Kylie Sonique Love, Priyanka, Tayce, Denali, and special pop up performances by Kenize Couleé and Khloe Couleé of Maison Couleé.
The Lipstick Ball is an immersive experience designed by Shea Couleé to embody and encapsulate the underground, DIY world of Chicago drag using her debut dance album 8 as the musical backdrop. Shea’s performances feature her acclaimed singles “YOUR NAME,” “LET GO,” and “MATERIAL,” and incorporate captivating, intricate, and inventive choreography. Shea finds comfort and community in the non competitive environment of Chicago drag compared to cities like Los Angeles and New York. “I feel grounded here,” Shea reveals. “The Lipstick Ball serves as a love letter to Chicago, my home.”
Similarly to the musicians who have influenced her such as Whitney Huston, Mariah Carey, and Beyoncé, Shea pays attention to detail and takes great care in delivering her product, the performance, to her audience. She uses costuming and fashion as a tool to enhance her performances, focusing on movement, motion, and wearability. Shea explains that her and designer Jeffery Kelly worked together to create pieces for The Lipstick Ball that felt “simple, yet colorful and joyous,” and were constructed with utilitarian intention. Inspired by economical and sustainable fashion, she also pulled pieces from her former Ru Paul’s Drag Race performances where she was a two-time finalist and winner of the 5th season of Drag Race All Stars.
In addition to her electric artistry, Shea is also a champion of activism within the queer community. She sees the drag community in particular as, “a great model of inclusivity and intersectionality,” and explains how drag can have a vast array of meanings pertaining to different people’s self expression, no matter how they identify. “Drag is about finding your inner superhero,” Shea articulates. “When you step into your drag persona, there are limitless possibilities for what you can achieve.”
Be on the lookout for new music from Ms. Couleé as well as future Lipstick Ball performances across the US. Shea will also star in Marvel's upcoming TV series Ironheart, making her one of the first non-binary actors in the MCU and the first drag queen to enter the MCU; a small step, in stiletto heels, to create a more equitable future for queer representation.
Photographed by Lindsey Best.