The two Midwestern artists meet to discuss haters, lovers and the composition of their career-changing albums
“They’re out there, just waiting for my downfall.” Shea Couleé laughs at the thought of desperate Internet users with Google Alerts in her name, in shock at the announcement of her next album.
It’s no surprise that Couleé is unfazed by baseless attempts to denigrate his work. She has been an integral part of the drag scene for nearly a decade and continues to creatively push herself regardless of established norms. Such steps have seen the Indiana-born performer pursue flirtation (despite a conservative upbringing), come out publicly as non-binary (Couleé uses her/his pronouns when hanging out), launch a podcast in the hyper-saturated audio market ( it premiered at number one on Apple Podcasts), be cast in Marvel’s Stone heart (there aren’t many drag queens in the MCU yet), and now she’s recording her own album.
“This might be the biggest fucking thing.” Brittney Parks, better known as the Sudan Archives, is impressed with the idea of Couleé fusing original music with her drag. The Midwest natives met on Zoom for Document, each fresh off the making of a career-changing album — Couleé is a debut album and Parks is a stark departure from his previous releases. The two chatted in mutual admiration, reflecting on their character development on stage, the pros and cons of writing at home versus the studio (one is better for nudity), and letting your musician babies develop their own life.
Megane Hullander: Are there ways in which your characters on stage are more like the “real you” than the “everyday you”?
Shea casting: Everything is connected. We consume music in more ways than just listening to it. As storytellers we must cross and ask, What kind of story am I really trying to tell here? And the visuals are such an important part [of that].
Britney Parks: I understand you. When I make music, I see the story in my head. And on stage, you want to tell that story. It’s fun, because it’s my way of dressing on top. I don’t look like that in real life.
Megane: As time goes by, do you and this character become more difficult to tell apart?
Britney: I used to call myself Sudan, because it was my nickname before being my artist name. I said to my mother, ‘Give me another name.’ And she said to me: ‘Okay, what about Sudan?’ I feel like dressing up helps me separate [into the other persona]. I’ve always been the shy girl in class, trying to learn an instrument. When you think about it, that’s just who I am. I guess more people are hearing about it.
Shea: For me, doing drag – and being able to bring out all these other elements of being on stage – is really the time where I can let it all out. And then, in my daily life, I feel like I need more calm. There’s a feeling for me that’s just a bit more introspective – as a viewer, a voyeur. I’m constantly taking more inspiration and research so it’s like, when I’m not on this stage, I keep it really discreet.
Britney: I just clean the house every day, without doing anything.
Megane: Are your creative processes isolated enough?
Britney: I realized that I didn’t like going to the studios. I can send you stuff, but I stay here, naked, smoking joints. I usually keep a diary, and then [later]I go to my diary and I say to myself, It is a song.
Shea: I don’t know if isolation works for me. I am easily distracted. Sometimes I have to throw myself into the studio, because there is a given space and time, so it has to be done now. But often there will be little things that pop up when I least expect it. I’ll get into an Uber or something, and I’ll hear something and put it in my little voice notes.
Megane: What drives you both to stay creative?
Britney: I just need my little lover. I am a romantic.
Shea: I guess what keeps me going is the serotonin boost I get from creating something. The way I feel when I catch myself, or when I tell myself, Oh my god you did that. Because I still doubt myself all the time. I have moments where I show up and see that I’ve done it. It makes me feel like, There’s a purpose for you to do this.
Megane: Do you feel that your fans interpret your music in a different way than you wanted or expected?
Britney: People just do that [based] out of how you behave. If you wear your hair a certain way, people want to be like, What is the political reason? Look, it’s just a hairstyle at the moment, I don’t have a pattern or anything. I wore my hair in afro a lot. I remember people wanted to ask me a lot more political questions, and I don’t really like to see it that way.
Shea: I’m always very happy when I try to project a certain feeling, emotion, memory or situation, and people understand it down to the smallest detail, even if the lyrics can be abstract.
Britney: It’s cool when people break down your lyrics or the song in their own way. Sometimes it’s totally a new perspective, but it makes so much sense.
Megane: How do you feel about releasing these albums when live music is coming back?
Britney: Before my last album, I never really wanted to sing. It was just, like, nobody wanted to sing along to my beats and stuff. So I was like, I was like, Alright, I’ll just sing along. And then it became this thing. I had to become a bedroom producer, then, overnight, a performer. It was too much for me. I had to learn to overcome stage fright and all that. But now all that is overcome. I’m just excited to perform the lyrics and see how it will resonate with people. The violin has always been an extension of me; I just hope it wasn’t a crutch sometimes, and that I wasn’t hiding behind anything.
Shea: I’m just excited to release my first album.
Britney: It’s so important.
Shea: It’s my little baby and I saw myself growing so much writing it – overcoming a whole bunch of fears and insecurities about making music. I’m just really excited to release it and for people to feel all the love that went into making it.
Megane: I feel like a debut album would almost introduce a different kind of anxiety when you have a pre-existing fan base.
Shea: I also have built-in haters [laughs].
Britney: Do not forget them.
Shea: They’re out there, just waiting for me to fall. But it’s exciting, because I’m happy to have this really amazing fan base and support system. I feel like I’m peeling off another layer and letting them see another part of who I am. I’m just really looking forward to seeing how they connect with me as a musician and songwriter versus a drag queen.
Britney: It’s the perfect combo. This could be the biggest fucking thing.
photo wizard Nedu Nwakudu. Hair her factory wigs.