On Tuesday, July 28, the Television Academy announced the nominees for the 72nd annual Primetime Emmys. Every year, there are some shocking snubs but also some delightful surprise entries.
One of those surprises came in the Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program category, where HBO’s new reality series We’re Here was nominated against RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked, Amy Schumer Learns to Cook, Netflix’s Cheer, and a Kevin Hart comedy special.
In case you are unfamiliar, We’re Here follows the Halleloo Holy Trinity—Drag Race vets Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela, and Eureka O’Hara, duh—as they travel across America and drag up small-town USA along the way. Think of it as To Wong Foo… the TV series or Queer Eye with drag queens.
“We were just so happy for everybody involved in the show that are being recognized,” Stephen Warren, executive producer and series co-creator, tells NewNowNext over the phone after the nominations were announced. “And the stories that we’re telling and how important they are, especially now. And just to mean something. I mean, I know we’re so lucky to have this platform to elevate so many important stories, and it’s just beautiful.”
Warren and We’re Here co-creator Johnnie Ingram had already been in touch with some of the drag daughters from the series, including breakout stars like Hunter from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico’s Lady Shug. “This nomination is very much for them too. It’s an experience,” says Ingram, adding that they would be hosting a virtual toast with the We’re Here queens and drag daughters later that day to celebrate their nomination.
“It’s just nice to have everyone together, even in little tiny squares. It just feels nice to be able to celebrate things in these challenging times,” Ingram adds.
When it’s brought up that We’re Here and Untucked will be going up against each other in a battle of the queens, Ingram notes that they would not be here “without the Drag Race franchise. But at the same time, we just love that we’re able to exist together on this wonderful platform. Drag is important, it’s for everyone. It is as American as apple pie. And if people don’t see it yet, they will after watching our shows.”
Calling from her hometown of Paris, Texas, Shangela says she has been halleloosing it since the nomination was announced. It was amazing for two shows that highlight drag to be nominated for Emmys, she says: “My journey, going from throwing drinks on Untucked 10 years ago to now being nominated for promoting positivity in the queer world… it’s just really cool.”
Shangela’s co-host, Bob the Drag Queen, says that the nomination is special because “it feels nice to be a host of a show that is being recognized by people whose opinions I respect.” Like Shangela, Bob was also on Untucked back in the day and confesses that being up against the Drag Race aftershow “feels a little surreal.”
Eureka agrees (“Can we both win?”) and says that the nod to We’re Here “means everything.”
“It means the hard work everyone put in is touching people’s hearts, it means the show is out there and loved,” she adds. “For me, it also means all the love and support my mom gave me is further validated since everything I do, I dedicate to her.”
Warren believes We’re Here’s nomination proves that drag television shows don’t have to be “just a spectacle that is confined to a competitive space. I think our show has shown that drag is an opportunity for people, whether they are gay, straight, whatever, to express themselves. And I’m really proud of that.”
Ingram is just honored to be able to elevate stories of the LGBTQ and two-spirit communities: “A lot of families are sitting and watching the show and are understanding each other for the first time, which is really important. Those stories mean the world to us, and to the show, and makes us so proud to be able to elevate these stories in such a way.”
The end product turned out beautiful and polished, but Shangela confesses that for filming, “a lot of the time, we were figuring it out. But we knew that we had something special and to see this work be recognized by the voters of the Emmys, one of the most prestigious awards in television, if not the most. I was like, ’Wow, that feels good.’ And it’s a leap, personally.”
As Shangela reflects on filming the show’s first season, the We’re Here creative team is already busy working on Season 2, even during a global pandemic.
“We’re in the middle of casting, and it’s going to be better than ever,” Ingram assures fans. “It’s going to be phenomenal.”
Can we get a halleloo?