Season 12 of the US reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race only kicked off a week ago, but it has already been rife with controversy over New York City based drag queen Sherry Pie (Joey Gugliemelli) after they were accused by five men of catfishing and predatory behaviour.
The victims, all aspiring young actors, were all duped by Gugliemelli, who posed as a female casting director, in order to convince the victims to send videos of themselves, often in compromising or embarrassing situations with the purpose of auditioning for parts which never materialized. The first to speak out about his experience, Ben Shimkus, posted in a Facebook status that later went viral how Gugliemelli had a clear history of recommending people to their female alias ‘Allison Mossey’. Others had vastly similar experiences, with one victim going so far as to masturbate on camera for ‘Mossey’ in the hopes of gaining a part in a prestigious Broadway production. After calls for their disqualification from the competition, Gugliemelli posted what was meant to be a form of apology on their personal Facebook:
“This is Joey, I want to start by saying how sorry I am that I caused such trauma and pain and how horribly embarrassed and disgusted I am with myself. I know that the pain and hurt that I have caused will never go away and I know that what I did was wrong and truly cruel. Until being on RuPaul’s Drag Race, I never really understood how much my mental health and taking care of things meant. I learned on that show how important “loving yourself” is and I don’t think I have ever loved myself. I have been seeking help and receiving treatment since coming back to NYC. I truly apologize to everyone I have hurt with my actions. I also want to say how sorry I am to my sisters of season 12 and honestly the whole network and production company. All I can do is change the behaviour and that starts with me and doing that work.”Joey Gugliemelli on Facebook 5 March 2020
Their presumption that they will be allowed the chance to ‘change the behaviour’ comes too late. We should not, and cannot, allow sexual abusers a second chance, especially in an industry such as drag, where the vulnerability of the LGBTQ+ community is at times fragile. With the increasing power that drag queens are gaining in the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it also means that predators have a platform from which to take advantage of fans, and even their peers. The Sherry Pie situation highlights how the #MeToo movement spans more than gender or sexuality. In the wake of the guilty verdict in the Harvey Weinstein trial, it’s time we stand up to those who attempt to use their power over others.
There were some concerns that Drag Race producers at VH1 would merely ignore the controversy. However, with accusations as extreme as they are it would have been an unwise step, with previous winners Bob the Drag Queen and Aquaria voicing their disgust at the situation on Twitter. Merely blaming your lack of self-love is not, and never will be, a justification for abusing others. It is clear that Gugliemelli is relying on this crutch in an attempt to make a comeback from a situation that in 2020 will almost certainly see them ‘cancelled’.VH1 made the decision Friday night to announce Gugliemelli’s disqualification, saying:
“In light of recent developments and Sherry Pie’s statement, Sherry Pie has been disqualified from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Out of respect for the hard work of the other queens, VH1 will air the season as planned.’VH1 Statment
Gugliemelli is only the second Drag Race contestant ever to be disqualified from the competition after Season 4 contestant Willam Belli received visits from their husband during filming when contestants were sequestered from outside contact. With their disqualification coming after the season had already been filmed, Sherry Pie will continue to feature in the season. Gugliemelli will not appear in the still-to-be-taped finale and reunion, regardless of their overall placement in the competition. The decision by RuPaul’s Drag Race to disqualify a contestant before the show has fully begun was clearly difficult. This was, however, undeniably the right choice, and a show of support for victims of abusers of power everywhere.
Image Credit: Variety