Letter to Ru Paul

Dear Mama Ru,


I have watched every episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Seasons 2-9 and All Stars 2 in three months time. In May I was gearing up to model in an important event for breast cancer, and one day I told my friend that I would be channeling my inner drag queen for this upcoming runway show. I had never seen the show and she insisted that we watch it together to help me get ready for the event. She curated my experience by introducing me to season 7 first, the fashion queens. My wife and she and another friend watched several episodes in one afternoon. RuPaul’s Drag Race had me at Max, Pearl, and Violet.  I decided that I would channel you and Violet for the confidence I needed to rock the Runway show. I did and I slayed, and I raised over $7000 for the organization with my bra alone.


I would like to share with you a little more about this event, and also introduce myself. It  is called Art Bra, and it is an annual event to raise money for an organization called Breast Cancer Resource Center in Austin, Texas. Women who have or have had breast cancer are matched with bras made by local artists and designers, and theatrically costumed by a small team of wonderful, artistic, fantastic, compassionate individuals. The event is a spectacular evening of glitz and glamour and heart. Women affected by breast cancer come together to be transformed into their character, celebrate their post cancer bodies, and model their bras that are auctioned to the highest bidder, in order to raise money for the BCRC. These women’s ages range from 20 to 70+. They are all shapes and sizes, and all changed by cancer. Treatment for breast cancer generally has a surgical component to remove and/or reconstruct the breast, and many of us are left with bodies changed in other ways brought on by our treatments. The event is always highly emotional and extremely empowering for the models. ArtBra has grown in size every year and we always top our fundraising goal from the year before. In June we raised over  $800,000! The organization offers practical and financial support to women going through breast cancer in the Central Texas area. They provide patient navigators that help women of all ages and backgrounds navigate through a breast cancer diagnosis. They also provide support groups and regular meet-ups for breast cancer patients in all stages of treatment and beyond. The support group that I belong to is the Pink Ribbon Cowgirls. We are comprised of ladies who were diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 45. I was introduced to the organization in 2012, at the age of 33, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have been a member ever since, being supported and offering support for new members. I was asked to be the 2017 Art Bra Cover Model, which meant that I got to wear my outfit a bonus time for the ArtBra website’s photo shoot. Of course it was a transformative experience for me, and my involvement as a model the last two years has been a wonderful and creative tool in my healing.


My spirit was put to the test with my cancer experience. My treatment plan consisted of a mastectomy with reconstruction, 6 rounds of chemotherapy, one year of tri weekly infusions and 10 years of hormone therapy. I got a massive infection after my second reconstruction surgery and ended up with a 5 day stay in the hospital, emergency surgery and roughly 10 more reconstruction surgeries in an attempt to fix the botched reconstruction. I lost my hair like most other people going through chemo, but to my utter disappointment, the hair never came back. I am now a #baldieforlife #alopecianbeauty . I have spent the last 5 years diving deep into my soul, and expanding and opening to the universe to find the tools to heal PTSD and love myself in a way that I never even dreamed possible before the catalyst of cancer. I see myself as a fierce and fabulous queen now, but she was not born without blood, sweat, grit and tears. No doubt my Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent that I have cultivated largely due to this experience helps me to not only survive but truly thrive in my life post illness. I have gone through many stages of grief and acceptance about the physical results of my cancer, especially the permanent hair loss. I am a hairstylist myself, in the beauty business for over 14 years now. My skills and interests and living and working in an artistic community were definitely hot tools that helped facilitate the acceptance of my situation. I wasted no time trying everything from medications and herbal treatments, hair thickening powders, butch haircuts, magic tricks and wigs, and even weave. I worked through a lot of questions about my identity being wrapped up in my image. I questioned the programming we receive about how we are supposed to present ourselves in this world. I began to shed old ideas and programming and eventually arrived at a place of full freedom of expression with my day to day appearance. I became a chameleon. I am in love with life more now than ever before, because I have survived an illness and been given another go at life, and because I have been able to strip down to a way of being that allows me to present in any way that I want, anytime that I want. I am setting an example in my community that we don’t have to fit into any boxes. We are gifted with these beautiful bodies, we can decorate them however we want. And dressing up (or not) can be SO MUCH FUN.


I share this with you because I am a fangirl of you and all of your beautiful queens. My wife is also a fan girl and we have a little team of everyday queens that are now starting to attend all of the drag queen tour events we can in our area. I want you to know that the magic that you bring to your show and your work is appreciated so much. I also want you to know that two of my biggest goals that I am working on manifesting in my life now are to write a book about my experience and how it has transformed me, and to be on your show in some capacity. I have this great idea of a family resemblance challenge where you bring on women affected by breast cancer or women affected by alopecia. What do ya think?! If you did that I would be the first to sign up! It would be such an honor and such a big check off my bucket list if I were to be put in drag by one of your queens, and walk down the runway with her. Please consider it for a future episode. Please keep being an amazing human in every way. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for reading this.

060317 art bra

All my love,
Shondi Pugh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s