DOWNTOWN — Shea Couleé will have to lip synch for her life — and for the "RuPaul's Drag Race" crown — during this week's finale.
Shea is the third Chicago queen in a row to make it to the finale of the competition TV show, which challenges drag queens to dance, crack jokes, act and create looks to win and be named America's Next Drag Superstar.
Shea grew up in suburban Plainfield, but she got her start in drag after moving to Chicago and seeing a previous season of "RuPaul's Drag Race." Living in Chicago and experiencing its diversity showed Shea "you can really be yourself," she said.
"To be able to go through this experience and make it all the way to top four when it was such a group of well-rounded queens this season, it was a major confidence boost," Shea said. "I just loved the opportunity of being able to represent Chicago."
The finale begins at 7 p.m. Friday on VH1. After that, Shea will join an upcoming tour of queens from season nine. Her EP, "Couleé-d," comes out next week.
Here's where you can spot her in town, what she has to eat before she goes on tour and how you can become a Chicago queen:
How to celebrate Chicago Pride:
Shea isn't able to be in Chicago for this year's Pride Parade, but she'll "be here in spirit," she said. The Pride Parade kicks off noon Sunday at Montrose Avenue and Broadway, and Pride events are being held throughout the month.
"It's a celebration of just being one's self," Shea said. "Put on your biggest, brightest colors. Grab a fun, fruity beverage and just go out and have fun.
"There's so much love and positivity in the city. ... Anywhere you go you're bound to find so many Chicagoans just being loud and out and openly queer. It's great."
How she prepares to leave the city:
Shea's schedule has been "hectic" since she started on RuPaul's Drag Race. She makes it back to Chicago about once a week, she said, though she'll be gone for longer when she starts touring with the season nine queens in several weeks.
Before she heads out of town, she grabs her favorite foods: pizza, popcorn, hot dogs and burgers.
"I do love to take Garrett's popcorn on the road because it's like the best snack," Shea said. "Chicago-style popcorn is literally the best and I crave it."
Her other favorites: Chicago-style hot dogs and "amazing burgers" from Redhot Ranch, 3057 N. Ashland Ave., and thin-crust, bacon-and-pepperoni pizza from Calo, 5343 N. Clark St.
Where you can find her when she's home:
Shea isn't scheduled to perform in the city until Oct. 6, when she'll appear at Roscoe's, 3356 N. Halsted St.
While you wait, you can spot her hanging out at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark St., on Sundays, and she loves going to the movies or relaxing at the beach in the summer.
Shea also frequents the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, looking for inspiration. At least one of her "Drag Race" looks — the rainbow dress — got its start at the Art Institute.
Wait, that rainbow dress:
Yes, Shea's controversial rainbow look — which some "Drag Race" fans have argued didn't represent a typical LGBTQ rainbow — was inspired by Jackson Pollock's "Greyed Rainbow."
The painting is on display at the Art Institute, and it's long served to inspire Shea: It was the first piece of artwork she felt she understood when she visited the Art Institute as a child.
"It's really just an iconic piece for me," Shea said. "Every time I go there and see it, I go back to that moment."
Drag queens (from left) Lucy Stoole, The Vixen and Trannika Rex are Shea Coulee's picks for upcoming seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race. [Facebook/Instagram]
The Chicago queens who should be on 'Drag Race' next:
There are so many "talented girls" in Chicago that it's hard to "pick and choose" who should next represent the city on "Drag Race," Shea said. Here are a few of her idea:
• Lucy Stoole: "I would love to see a bearded queen on 'Drag Race.'"
• The Vixen: The queen has a "fiery personality," Shea said. "I love a good savage drag queen."
• Trannika Rex: "She's a fun comedian. I think she has a personality that would go over well on TV."
How to become a drag queen in Chicago:
People who want to explore drag can start by "getting dolled up," going out and participating in amateur events in the city, Shea said.
Shea got her start at an amateur event at Roscoe's Drag Race, a competition for amateur queens held every Tuesday. Berlin, 954 W. Belmont Ave., also hosts Crash Landing, a three-week competition for queens.
Queens should be true to themselves to stand out, Shea said, even if they're concerned their work could "seem weird to others."
"It sounds corny, but it really starts with following your heart," Shea said. "It's just like your happiness as an individual is very important, and you are the only person who is responsible for that."