Oct 23, 2012

Scribbles Exclusive: Interview With Shada Black

By day he’s Niagara Falls resident Scott Johnson, but under cover of night as the moon rises, an amazing transformation occurs. With a nip and a tuck, make-up, wigs and wardrobe, mild-mannered Scott morphs into the incomparable female impersonator Ms. Shada Black. And while anyone willing can dress in drag and walk the walk, mega-talented Shada also talks the talk.

With a devote following of fans from Niagara and beyond, it’s guaranteed a show featuring Shada Black will be a success. She makes us laugh and makes us proud to call her a friend and has been a local favourite since the first time she put on heels and graced the stage.

Although she is currently busy campaigning for title of Empress X of the Imperial Court of Niagara, Shada still managed to find the time for an exclusive online interview with Scribbles. Here’s what she told us.

SCRIBBLES: Who or what was your inspiration to perform in drag?

SHADA: When I first came out and started going to the bar in St. Catharines...it was Trios Chance at the time, I saw a couple of Drag Shows. I became friends with Montanna Dale, Vinessa Nite, Chrissy Snow and Rhonda Richards...I thought it was an amazing way to entertain people and have fun....so I guess you could say that they inspired me to join them to entertain the community and raise money for various charities.

SCRIBBLES: What year was it that you first introduced us to Shada Black?

SHADA: I did drag for the first time in 1992. I see pictures from back then...god we were all skinny! LOL! It was at a bar show...I just can't remember what show it was...it was 20 years ago...I actually can't believe that it was that long ago!!!

SCRIBBLES: How long does it usually take to perfect a new routine?

SHADA: It really depends. I am a stickler for lip synch, so I refuse to do a song until I know every breath and note. For a single number, I usually map it out in my head and hope to God people like it! If it's a group or duet, it can take weeks of rehearsal to get it all down. Dedication is key.

SCRIBBLES: Of all the shows you have performed in, what was the most memorable?  

SHADA: I  have three. ‘The Snow Storm’ that Chrissy Snow put together was amazing. So much fun and so creative.

There was also ‘Night At The Movies’ that Michael Poirier put together. We did commercials, filmed all over the city and brought movie music to life on stage. A lot of work but well worth it!

Thirdly, there was an opening number that we did for Montanna Dale's step down as Baroness III. We did ‘Into The Woods’ with sets and amazing choreography by Jonathon Crawford. To this day it is my favourite number ever to be a part of. We have such a talented and creative group of people in this city, that when we all work together we can produce some truly incredible entertainment!

SCRIBBLES: What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you on stage?

SHADA: Oh God! LOL! There are so many!! It's a part of live performing, but I would have to say when I was doing a Janet Jackson number and decided to do...shall we say...darker make-up. The back of my outfit split during the song, and I had a black face and white back....not pretty at all!!! I never messed around with ethnic make-up again!!! :)

SCRIBBLES: What was the most touching experience Shada has ever had while performing?

SHADA: For me it was when I stepped down as Baroness IV. Seeing all of the people that supported me that year. So many great people from all over coming together in one room really validated what friendships and community are all about.

Also, I would have to say another time would be when my sister came to one of my shows. Although I'm out to my family, the drag thing was never shared. When she came up, tipped me and hugged me, it was a defining moment that I felt 100% accepted for me....no one else's opinions mattered after that, I was finally comfortable being myself.

SCRIBBLES: What titles has Shada held over the years?

SHADA: Well....I was Miss Unity with Montanna Dale, I was Baroness IV when our Court was smaller, and was known as The Imperial Barony Of St. Catharines, I was also Miss Werx in Hamilton. With any luck I'll be Empress X this year! :) VOTE YES! lol!

SCRIBBLES: Outside of Niagara, where are some of the most memorable places you’ve performed over the past 20 years?

SHADA: Well...I have performed in New York City, Winnipeg, London (Ontario), as well as our closer cities of Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo. New York was a big one for me..this year I am looking to expand that list with Vancouver, Rhode Island, Connecticut and possibly San Diego.

SCRIBBLES: Have you ever felt like retiring and if so what inspired you not to.

SHADA: Of course! I mean, I love doing what we do, but it is a job at the end of the day. Sometimes you get tired and think that you're too old to do this anymore. Trying to schedule shows and bookings with personal life, relationships and work...it's a tough road sometimes.

However, I look at people like Michelle DuBerry in Toronto who is 80 years old and [still doing it], so me being tired seems so ridiculous. Plus...I love the community, I enjoy entertaining them and being a part of the fundraisers. Giving up isn't an option for me. As long as I can still do good, then I will.

SCRIBBLES: Who are some of your favourite local drag performers and why?

SHADA: They're all bitches! LOL! I'm kidding! Without sounding like I am trying to be politically correct, I do love them all....we have built a bond over 20 years. We may fight and argue, but that is all a part of life and growing together as friends. I have to say I respect Shae. D. Davidson the most because he has really built a place for himself here and abroad. He came in when we didn't really have any Drag Kings, it was tough for him to find a niche but he really proved himself to be a crucial part of not only our group of performers but of the community as well.

SCRIBBLES: You are running for Empress X...what motivated you to do so??

SHADA: I have been a part of the organization for 20 years. I've seen highs and lows. The organization does such good work, which is why I am still involved. As we grew from a Barony to a Court, rules, procedures etc changed. It's a whole new ball game.

I really want to see the fun put back into it, make it interesting and something that people want to be a part of. I want people to be just as proud as I am to do what we do.

The motivation is simply to raise money for charity...to do something good, something that makes a difference. I don't need a position or title to accomplish that really, but it helps to be in that position to promote the changes I'd like to see made.

SCRIBBLES: We’ll end our interview with one more question. If you could change something about Shada’s persona what would that be?

SHADA: LOL! Oh...this is tricky! Without sounding like a Diva (where are my green M&M's by the way?) I wouldn't change anything. I've created a character that I play, the persona has developed from my years of doing drag...so changing anything wouldn't really do that justice. We are all flawed in some way, no one is perfect, so accepting that in reality and on stage is all a part of the game.

SCRIBBLES: I want to sincerely thank you for taking time out of your schedule to do this interview Shada.

SHADA: I do want to take a second to thank you for your support over the years as well. Scribbles has been a part of our community for such a long time, and I commend you on keeping it going for this long.

SCRIBBLES: Where are MY green M&M's? LMAO