If you’ve been keeping an eye on the news flying out of the RuPaul’s Drag Race workroom, you’ll know about the latest controversial situ. It not only puts the show in an awkward position but the controversy also makes the show difficult to watch.
But even worse, it makes me worried for the other queens.
Last week, Buzzfeed reported that RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12 contestant Sherry Pie has been accused of catfishing various young aspiring actors and allegedly manipulating them into sending fake sexually suggestive audition videos (extremely big yikes). Shortly before this week’s episode, the show released a statement announcing the New York queen was disqualified and wouldn’t be invited back to the finale.
And, while queens like RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11 Winner Y’vie Oddly and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’s Sum Ting Wong have praised the show’s and LGBTQIA+ community’s swift response, ever since, I’ve felt uneasy about continuing the show and how it could impact the other queens.
This week’s episode, “You Don’t Know Me,” introduced us to the remaining six queens with a musical theatre challenge based on the late American musical theatre choreographer Bob Fosse (jazz hands, turned-in knees and all), that had the girls write their own lyrics and choreograph their own dance routine, with a gorgeous tulle runway theme and special guest judges popstar Robyn and Westworld’s Thandie Newton. It was a recipe for a fun cute episode with plenty of drama, camp, looks and self-love, but it all fell flat from Sherry Pie being there.
In fact, it was straight up uncomfortable.
What is the ‘Sherry Pie Incident?’
In 2015, Sherry Pie—real name Joey Guglliemi—allegedly pretended to be a woman named Allisson Mossie, who worked at a prestigious theatre company in New York City called Playwright Horizons. Under the identity of Mossie, Guglliemi convinced various young actors that he was casting for a new play called Bulk, and through a series of long email conversations, told them that it would not only feature scenes with substance abuse but masturbation. From there, he took advantage of these young actors’ ambition to do anything to get into such a competitive industry, persuading them to send uncomfortable content, including audition videos of them masturbating, for their big break.
As these audition videos grew more and more inappropriate and uncomfortable, the actors reached out to the theatre company and found out that nobody under the name Allisson Mossie ever worked there. According to the victims in an interview with Buzzfeed, when confronted about it, Sherry Pie never apologised or admitted responsibility for his actions. It wasn’t until they contacted Instinct Magazine and the story unfolded this weekend that they made a comment.
So basically, once his past became a controversy and jeopardised his position on the show.
What does it mean for the rest of the queens and the show?
For many, competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Heidi N Closet, the endearingly loveable southern U.S. dancing queen from North Carolina, comes from a town where, as she puts it in her introduction talking head in the premiere, “the chicken outnumber the people.” The weird and eclectic art hoe with multiple personalities, Aiden Zhane, comes from the Georgian swamplands, where there’s no drag scene and she still works a day job to make ends meet. Neither would get to be where they are or be able to show their drag to the world without the success of being on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
But, being on the same season as Sherry Pie jeopardises their success. “You Don’t Know Me” already wasn’t as entertaining as the first episode in the two-part premiere, “I’m That Bitch,” but it was even more apparent when Sherry Pie was speaking every few minutes in a talking head. Each season of RuPaul’s Drag Race is recorded a year before it airs, so the judges had no idea about the controversy at the time when they were praising her for a performance designed to tell the world who she is.
I also worry that knowing what we know, it’ll be hard to divorce opinions on the show with supporting her. I can already imagine special guest judges like Democratic Party member and politician Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez potentially praising her in a challenge and then being put on blast because of it.
As the season airs, we could also grow increasingly more and more exhausted with the blacklisted queen’s presence on the show. People will look back and remember the season as the one where the redacted queen appeared, not because of the memes, iconic looks and drama in Untucked. Sherry Pie may be disqualified but that doesn’t mean the editors can just edit her out completely—that’s just not how video editing works. None of the producers, RuPaul or other competitors knew about Guglliemi’s behaviour. But, because of this controversy, their run on the show is forever tied to it.
At least, until they appear on an All Stars.
So, where does that leave us?
Having followed the pre-season hype train, I was excited to finally see queens like Rock M. Sakura and Jaida Essence Hall walk into the workroom. The first half of the premiere was so fun and full of such a likeable and entertaining cast, and “You Don’t Know Me” was a chance to meet the other girls and get a full understanding of each queen’s persona, aesthetic and charm. But, going into it after reading up on the controversy, I couldn’t fully enjoy their entrance looks once Sherry entered the room, and I don’t want that to be how I remember this season or its cast.
Yes, the Sherry Pie incident and her rumoured position in the top four makes the show hard to watch, but we need to remind ourselves that that mindset makes it even harder for us to celebrate the achievements and success of the other girls. Forget Sherry Pie and her alleged catfish tomfoolery, let’s talk about how precious, adorably charming and anime-zing Rock M. Sakura is, how iconically bad Dahlia Sin’s fosse performance was, or how I would die for Jaida Essence Hall.
Crystal (DRUK) giving a reminder to all you messy hoes out there relishing the current drama from rupaulsdragrace
Let’s not let this incident take away from what’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for these queens, and a RuPaul’s Drag Race season that—bar one redacted queen—is shaping up to be pretty damn great.