What happens when you give up your six-figure salary, put on some lashes, and hit the scene? You become a fan fave contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race and release a hit single. Well, that’s if your name is Miss Shuga Cain.
A true California girl, she made her way to New York with a Master of Music degree, opera and musical theatre credits, and a whole lot of spunk. But, she was working as a corporate girl, making good money, and was highly successful. Not expressing her performance side was, in her words, “soul-crushing”, and her foray into drag lead to more and more side gigs and she came to a crossroads. She made the decision and left the business world and a regular paycheck behind and auditioned for Drag Race. Her first audition tape was a mess, but her audition tape for Season 11 made the cut and before she knew it, she was stealing the show as Charo in Drag Race’s Snatch Game. Though the oldest queen of Season 11, she was the newest to the drag world but used her self confidence and years of performance training to earn her place and emerge as one of the highlight personalities from the show. Fans came to Shuga’s defense when she got cut after inexplicably being placed in the bottom two.
Quarantine has been a quiet time for drag queens with most of the clubs being closed and Pride tours canceled. Shuga put her time to good use and released her debut single, Sweet Love, a definite bop that mixes hella sweet ‘90s beats with modern funk. Her video, filmed with COVID protocol safety measures, captures everything we love about Miss Cain – her humor, her curves, her love for Tarot, and her Latin heat – with some hot boys thrown in for good measure.
We sat down with Shuga Cain to find out how we could find some Sweet Love for ourselves:
Ok, you kind of have a Cinderella story with drag, that probably makes a lot of queens jealous. You give up a six-figure salary and decide, ok, let’s do drag…then you establish yourself as a fixture in the drag community! How does that even happen?
It’s 42 years worth of blood sweat and tears. LMAO! I was a theater kid, have a Master’s in Voice, and have always been a performer. I’d say it all finally started coming together. I’m so grateful that I decided to finally take that leap and really give in to being an artist. I just didn’t know that drag would be the art form, but I’d say it’s all very similar as it uses all of the same skills.
What advice do you have for someone pursuing their dreams, that is currently going through a difficult time?
It’s a process, it takes time and full-on dedication. The pandemic doesn’t help, but this will all pass, so DON’T GIVE UP!!
You come from a very athletic background… your speedo pics from your triathlons get a lot of attention! Triathlons are very rugged and masculine, drag not so much…there’s this play between feminism and masculine in the gay culture…it seems that line is getting less and less definitive…did you feel the need to act more butch in sports and more fem in drag?
I love the play between fem and masc, but thankfully I didn’t feel the need to be one or the other. That being said I’m sure unbeknownst to me there was such a shift here and there, but I was lucky enough to join an amazing group of LGBTQUIA+ athletes called Front Runners New York. Some of the most incredible people, athletes, and friends. So I was in a safe place to be myself and experience athleticism unlike I never had before. I love it and miss it. Damn, I need to get back in shape! LOL!
Many local queens have a hard time breaking into the drag circuit, getting booked, etc – what was your path of success in hitting the drag scene hard?
I said yes to everything in the beginning. I went to all the shows in face, got to know the community, and when given the chance to perform, I was MAD EXTRA! I was always doing the most! Haha!
Ok, let’s talk Drag Race: what was your audition tape like?
Which one?! Hahaha! Well the one that got me on, felt RIGHT! I really did it! I shot all my interviews myself, had a few friends help shoot my lipsyncs and acting challenges, and then I edited the whole thing. It was all me up in there and that was important. I had fun, told my story, and just did me!
First day on set for Drag Race, set the scene:
It was surreal! I got up REALLY fucking early, got up in the drags, got to set, and then sat in a holding room for hours!! I fell asleep on the floor, next thing I knew I was being ushered on set, it was a whirlwind of go here, do this, do these quick interview spots and then I was in the WERK room after that you didn’t have time to think, we were on that train!
You were the oldest member of the cast, which you are proud of and thought it was an advantage…I have to tell, being the oldest queen but the newest drag queen, would have made me freeze…the younger gays can be mean (its funny we are saying 40 is so old in the industry)…how was being older an advantage? Did you encounter any ageism on set?
I think at 40, you know the games, you know the BS, and you should be more confident in your abilities. You been around the block! LOL! No, I did not encounter any ageism, I mean the girls love to throw shade, but that was all in fun!
What are some of the realities of Drag Race that the audience never gets to see?
Ha! That’s one of the perks of getting on, you get to know! ::wink::
Let’s talk your elimination…many people say it was just a producer’s fabricated move to add to the reality TV show aspect of the competition…something you have been very vocal about.
It ain’t no lie that I was pretty upset at the time of my elimination, but I definitely didn’t go as far as to say it was a fabricated move by the producers. I was vocal about how I didn’t understand the reasoning and how I felt I should have stayed longer, but at the end of the day I know now what I will do differently should I get a spot on AllStars.
What did you learn most about yourself professionally and personally from doing Drag Race?
You have to do this out of love of the art and out of love for yourself! There’s no right or wrong way to do drag, you do what you do, when you do it and when you’re ready! I’ve learned to take it easy on myself and enjoy the process! This is ART after all!
What inspired you to finally release a single?
What a perfect segue. I was finally ready to do one! Music is my background and the whole impetus for my drag career. It was just time!
What does Sweet Love mean?
Sweet Love embodies those perfectly beautiful moments in life when you’re feeling free, joyful, and full of love! They happen unexpectedly and sometimes are fleeting! For me growing up, they were on the dance floor, with friends or by myself, sometimes with complete strangers, but the feeling was the same. I wanted to capture that feeling!
What was your creative process for Sweet Love?
It all started with that feeling I wanted to convey, freedom, joy, love! And for me, I feel it in the 90s vocal House! I met with these two incredible producers Paulo Ramirez and Darren Burgos, who sent me a track with some ideas. I went to the studio and we stripped that track down to a beat and a baseline. I then took that home and just played with different melodic lines, lyrics and came up with a solid verse and chorus. I then went back to the guys and we fleshed out the rest of the song and recorded some scratch vocals for a demo. Then COVID happened and we finessed the track over zoom and texts during Quarantine. We ended up using the scratch vocals because I was too scared to go back into the studio during a pandemic. Most of the work was mastering and picking the right instruments. Gurl, we have SO many versions! Haha! But this kept me sane during the whole pandemic. I’m super grateful for Paulo and Darren.
What was it like filming the video during COVID?
STRESSFUL! I’m a worrywart and such a MOM! I was mostly concerned with everyone’s safety! Thank god for Honey Davenport, she’s so chill, she kept me sane and level headed! She’s such an incredible sister and I’m so grateful to her for pulling the team together! We filmed in the Bronx, on the HOTTEST night of the summer, we were all dying from the heat! I loved that I was surrounded by my friends! The real Tea, though, is this video would not have come together without my amazing friends and directors Julia Roca Chow and the insanely talented Preston Burford! They poured countless hours of work into the edit of this video! I mean, I can’t put into words how grateful I am! Those two are THE BEST TEAM!
Everyone loves Sweet Love! When’s the next single coming out???
It’s coming! I’m writing! I can’t give a date, maybe before the end of the year, maybe in the New Year! I’m working on a few things, but this shit is expensive and none of us are working! The Rona is booked and blessed and stole all our gigs, girl!
What does the future for Shuga Cain have on the horizon?
Well, I’ve started a series entitled Baking Queen, where I bake and share fun recipes! It’s available via Patreon which is subscription-based and allows me the opportunity to put out more music and more content. I’ve got some fun projects that are coming out that I’m stoked about, but it’s just a lot more of me doing what I love. I’ve gone back to the basics. If I’ve learned anything about this pandemic, it’s what makes me happy, makes me thrive, and fills my life with joy. So I want all of THAT in my life and THAT to shine through in my art.
You can watch Sweet Love here
Follow Shuga Cain on Instagram: @MissShugaCain
Last modified: October 27, 2020