Shea Couleé

Jaren Kyei Merrell (born February 8, 1989),[2][3][1] known professionally as Shea Couleé, is an American drag queen and musician most recognized as a fixture of the Chicago nightlife scene and as a contestant on season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race[4][5] and season five of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars.[6]

Shea Couleé
Shea Couleé at RuPaul's Dragcon 2017 by dvsross.jpg
Shea Couleé at RuPaul's DragCon in 2017
Jaren Merrell

(1989-02-08) February 8, 1989 (age 31)[1]
EducationColumbia College Chicago (BFA)
Years active2012–present
Known forRuPaul's Drag Race (season 9)
Musical career
LabelsShea Couleé LLC
Associated acts

Early life and educationEdit

Merrell was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Plainfield. The youngest of five children, their mother was a minister.[7][8] They graduated with a degree in costume design from Columbia College Chicago in 2011.[9] In their sophomore year, they were cast in Ten Square.[10] During their senior year at Columbia, they were the lead designer on Shakespeare's The Winter’s Tale.[11] Coulee has performed in theater since they were nine years old.[12]


Shea Couleé in 2018

At one point, they were asked to perform as a dancer in a burlesque show "Jeezy’s Juke Joint". After an email mishap, they ended up performing a solo act for the show, their first time in Drag.[13]

They have performed at various venues in Chicago, including Roscoe's, Berlin, Double Door, and Hydrate.[14][15] In Chicago, they also worked as a resident host at Smart Bar,[16] and was a Co-Host for the Tony Soto Show.[10][17] At one point, Couleé competed in Miss Roscoe's Pageant.[16] Before doing Drag full-time, Couleé also worked part-time as a sales associate and customer service representative for an adult store "Tulip".[18]

In 2016, Couleé was photographed for Glossed and Found magazine.[19]

In April, Couleé was featured in Peppermint's Too Funky music video.[20] In May 2017, Couleé performed as part of the Werq the World 2017 tour. The tour, hosted by Bianca Del Rio and Michelle Visage, also featured drag queens Alaska Thunderfuck, Alyssa Edwards, Detox, Latrice Royale, and Violet Chachki.[21]

Shea Couleé co-produced, directed, and starred in their own film Lipstick City in July 2017.[22]

In April 2018, Couleé premiered Call Me Couleé, a web series documenting Couleé's life post Drag Race.[23] The series lasted six episodes, and concluded on October 18, 2018.[24] In September 2018, Shea Couleé performed as a background dancer for Christina Aguilera for Opening Ceremony's Spring 2019 collection, alongside other Drag Race alumni.[25] They were photographed with Farrah Moan for Manny MUA's Lunar Beauty palette.[26] In June 2018, Couleé and other RuPaul's Drag Race alum Asia O'Hara and Monét X Change performed in The Vixen's widely popular Black Girl Magic, a drag show created to showcase the talent of black drag queens.[27]

In November, Coulee was featured as a part of Lush's "Merry DRAGMas" Campaign, alongside Detox and Kim Chi. [28][29]

In March 2019, they appeared in the music video for Iggy Azalea's "Sally Walker".[30] The same month, they joined the Drag World UK lineup, which began touring in June.[31][32] In May, they were photographed with Farrah Moan and Violet Chachki for Huda Beauty’s new Setting Spray.[33]

Couleé was one of the Inspirations for Sina Grace's character of Shade, Marvel's first Drag Queen superhero.[34][35]

Couleé has embarked on several world tours following their success on Drag Race including headlining the "War on the Catwalk"[36] and "A Drag Queen Christmas",[37] among others. Coulee was added to the Drag Race "Haters Roast: The Shady Tour" comedy tour with other Drag Race alumnae in 2019.[38]

They also headlined a one-woman show in 2019, entitled "Coulee With A 'C'". An autobiographical show, it combined song, story, and comedy, revolving around their upbringing and how they got into drag [39].

Couleé's makeup and look transformations have been featured in publications such as Cosmopolitan.[40] In October, Coulee published their first article for Metro.[41] In January 2020, Couleé attended the first ever RuPaul's DragCon UK.[42]

In March 5th and 6th, Couleé will be performing alongside fellow drag race alum Bebe Zahara Benet, Bob The Drag Queen, Monique Heart, Peppermint, and The Vixen in Nubia tour. The tour began its run with sold-out shows in New York City, and has plans to visit Los Angeles, as well as other major cities across the United States. [43][44]

On May 28, Couleé announced the release of Shea Coul-Alé, a beer in collaboration with DoStuff Media and Goose Island Brewery as a part of their Drag a Beer campaign. A portion of all profits from the beer will go to an organization that supports individuals within the LGBTQ community.[45]

RuPaul's Drag RaceEdit

After auditioning five times, every year since they started doing drag[46] Couleé became one of 14 queens to compete on the ninth season of RuPaul's Drag Race.[5][47] After portraying Naomi Campbell in the Snatch Game challenge, Campbell tweeted Couleé in approval. [48]

Couleé won their first challenge in the fourth episode, alongside Sasha Velour.[49] They again won the following episode, portraying Blac Chyna for "Reality Stars: The Musical".[50] Couleé won another challenge in the ninth episode, "Your Pilot's On Fire", again alongside Sasha Velour.[51] In the following episode, "Makeover: Crew Better Work", Coulee lip synced for their life against Nina Bo'nina Brown, sending her home to Demi Lovato's "Cool for the Summer".[52] Couleé won once again during the season's "Gayest Ball Ever", after creating a look inspired by the Village People's "construction worker".[53]

In the season's penultimate episode, the final four queens wrote, recorded, danced, and performed a verse in RuPaul's "Category Is", choreographed by Todrick Hall. In a series first, all four queens ended up advancing to the finale.[54] In the season finale, Couleé received a personalized video from Blac Chyna, whom Couleé had portrayed earlier in the "Reality Stars: The Rusical" challenge.[55] In this finale, for the first time in Drag Race history, the final four queens all participated in a "lip sync for the crown". Coulee was selected to lipsync against Sasha Velour, to Whitney Houston's "So Emotional", but lost. They ultimately placed in joint third/fourth place.[56][57] Couleé's loss was met with controversy, with many people claiming that Shea Couleé should have won the crown.[58] Coulee themself responded to the controversy, defending Velour's win, and saying "Ultimately Sasha was more successful than myself and the other girls."[59]

While on tour, Merrell and fellow Drag Race contestant Farrah Moan were harassed by a woman at a kebab shop in Newcastle in April 2018 who first yelled at and then tried to hit the off-duty queens. [60] Since losing Season 9, Couleé has been requested by fans to compete on an All Star season.[61][62][63][64] On the 8th May, Coulée was announced as a contestant on the fifth series of All Stars via the Drag Race Youtube channel.

On May 8, 2020, Couleé was announced as one of the ten queens competing on the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars.[6]


In June 2017, Shea Couleé released three music videos to promote their debut EP, Couleé-D.[65] They co-directed the music videos, and co-produced the EP.[66][67] Azealia Banks and Shea Couleé announced plans to release a studio collaboration.[68] The collaboration never came intro fruition after Banks ghosted Couleé.[69]

On May 18, Couleé Re-Released their song ‘’Creme Brulee’ as well as an accompanying music video. The song is inspired by other female rappers such as Lil' Kim, Nicki Minaj, and Azaelia Banks. The song was originally written in 2013 and was the first song Couleé ever wrote.[70] Billboard named "Creme Brulee" as the best Drag Music Video of 2018.[71] In September, Couleé released “Gasoline” a collaboration with Gess, who produced, co-wrote, and featured credit on the track.[72]

On June 21, National Selfie Day, Shea Couleé was featured in Shawn Hollenbach's track "Double Filter Face", along with an accompanying music video. [73] On July 15, Shea Couleé released "Rewind", a collaborative song with them and Gess. The following month, they released a music video for the song, directed by Sam Bailey. The song is about Shea Couleé's former boyfriend who suffered from bipolar disorder and committed suicide.[74][75]

In an interview with The Advocate, Couleé announced that for the past three years, they have been working on an album.[76]


Queens of color are less celebrated than our white counterparts. But that's life, we have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition.

–Couleé, in an interview with Billboard[77]

Couleé has said it is important to them to use their career in drag to inspire people. In an interview with Seattle Gay Scene, they said, "I would say the influence I would like to have on the queer community would be to inspire people—specifically queer POC—to feel comfortable in themselves and their identities, to understand that they're special, they're amazing, and that anything you want or dream about, you deserve it.[78] They have been particularly outspoken about racial equality, especially within the RuPaul's Drag Race fandom and drag community. In October 2018, Couleé interviewed The Vixen about racism in America for the UK's Black History Month edition of Gay Times.[79] In another interview with Gay Times UK, Couleé discusses the importance of supporting and uplifting trans women of color.[80]

Couleé has spoken against President Donald Trump.[81] Specifically, in reaction to Trump's potential policy eliminating transgender recognition, they wrote:

"Dear Trump: You don't tell women what to do with their bodies. You don't get to define gender. You don't have the qualifications to do so. You don't have a spine. You don't have a clue. We won't take this lying down. November is coming. Look how orange you fucking look girl."[82]

Continuing their political activism, Coulee has publicly endorsed Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren[83], and spoke at Warren's DragCon NYC booth, encouraging people to vote for her in the 2020 United States presidential election.[84] They also marched alongside Warren at the Las Vegas Pride Parade.[85]

Personal lifeEdit

Merrell identifies as gay and non-binary,[86][87] preferring singular they pronouns when out of drag[88] and goes by she and her while in drag.[89]

At one point, they suffered from bulimia.[90] In 2018, Couleé received Corrector Dental Surgery, something they had wanted since they were a teenager.[91]

Shea has two drag daughters, Kenzie Couleé,[92] and Bambi-Banks Couleé, whom she adopted into her family in 2018.[93] Shea, Kenzie, and Bambi represent the current members of Shea's drag house, Maison Couleé.

Couleé has named Naomi Campbell, Grace Jones, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Josephine Baker, Diana Ross, and Stevie Wonder as personal icons and influences.[3]



Title Details Ref
Couleé-D [65]


Year Song Ref(s)
2017 "Ride" [65][94]
2017 "Cocky" (Featuring Lila Star and The Vixen)
2017 "Feeling So"
2018 "Crème Brûlée" [95]
2018 "Gasoline" [72]
2019 "Brand New" [96]
2019 "Rewind" [97]

As Featured Artist

Title Year Album
"Category Is" (feat. The Cast of RuPaul's Drag Race, Season 9)[98]

(RuPaul featuring Peppermint, Sasha Velour, Shea Coulee, and Trinity Taylor)

2018 Non-album single
"R U Mad (John "J-C" Carr & Bill Colemax Mix)"[99]
(Michael Blume featuring Shea Coulee and Peppermint)
cynicism & sincerity

(GESS featuring Shea Coulee)

Plastic City

(Big Dipper featuring Shea Coulee)

Late Bloomer
"Room pt.2"[102]

(The Vixen featuring Shea Coulee)

Non-album single
"Breakfast at Tiffany's"[103]

(Aja featuring Shea Coulee)

2019 BOX Office
"Double Filter Face"[73]

(Shawn Hollenbach featuring Shea Coulee)

Non-album single



Year Title Role Notes Ref
2016 Lipstick City Mrs. Coulee / Shea Writer / Producer [22]


Year Title Role Ref(s)
2015-16 You're So Talented Shea [104]
2017 RuPaul's Drag Race (season 9) Contestant [47]
Breakfast Television Toronto Guest [105]
WGN-TV Guest [106]
2018 Hey Qween Guest [7]
Windy City Live Guest [107]
2020 RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars (season 5) Contestant [6]

Music videosEdit

Year Artist Title Director Ref.
2017 Peppermint Too Funky Marsin [20]
Herself Cocky Jaren Merrel [65]
Feeling So Vincent Martell
Ride Sam Bailey
2018 Crème Brûlée Vincent Martell [108]
2019 Iggy Azalea Sally Walker Colin Tilley [30]
Shawn Hollenbach Double Filter Face Unknown [109]
Herself Rewind Sam Bailey [110]
2020 The Vixen ft. Herself Room Jeremiah Meece [111]
Waze & Odyssey Always Unknown [112]

Internet seriesEdit

Year Title Role Producer Ref(s)
2015 James St. James' Transformations Guest World of Wonder [113]
Cooking with Drag Queens Guest Feast of Fun [114]
2017 PMB Guest Willam Belli [115]
Drag Queen Carpool Guest, hosted by RuPaul Logo [116]
Untucked Guest World of Wonder [117]
Countdown To The Crown Guest World of Wonder [118]
Shot with Soju Guest DS Shin [119]
Whatcha Packin' Guest VH1 [120]
Queen to Queen Guest Logo [121]
Drag Makeup Tutorial Guest Logo [122]
Talking with the Tuck Guest Trinity the Tuck [123]
2018 Call Me Couleé Star Jordan Phelps, Vincent Martell [23]
Chaotic Creative Guest Zain Meghji [124]
Jasmine Master' Class Guest World of Wonder [125]
Fashion Photo Ruview Special Guest World of Wonder [126]
Spillin' the Tea Guest Billboard [127]
Cosmo Queens Guest star Cosmopolitan [40]
2019 Huda Boss Guest Mari Haitkin [128]
2020 Bobbin' Around Guest Caldwell Tidicue [129]


Year Production Role Venue Ref(s)
2019 Coulee With A "C" Herself Laurie Beechman Theatre [39]
2019 The Naughty Tour Herself Abraham Chavez Theatre [130]
2020 A Midsummer Slay: The Slequel! Herself Palace Theatre [131]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Giving Body Category Work Results Ref.
2017 WOWIE Awards Best Drag Queen Music Video "Cocky" Nominated [132]
2018 The Dragstagram Award Herself Nominated [133]
2020 The Queerties Future All-Star Herself Nominated [134]

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit