The LGBTQ community and legions of Drag Race fans are distraught over the revelation of a RuPaul's Drag Race contestant's history of preying on and manipulating young male actors.
As a result of the controversy, TV Executives of RuPaul's Drag Race announced Friday that contestant Sherry Pie was disqualified from the reality competition's 12th season currently in progress.
Friday's announcement came after five actors gave explicit details with corroborated allegations against Joey Gugliemelli—a.k.a. "Sherry Pie." Gugliemelli introduced the actors to casting director Allison Mossey with promises of either a starring role in an upcoming film, TV show or theatre production.
But Mossey never existed.
Gugliemelli then used the Mossey persona to manipulate the young men to submit sexually demoralizing audition photos and videos of themselves in order to get the promised high-profile role.
Since news broke of Gugliemelli's dismissal, the number of victims who came forward have expanded to eight men.
Before any decision was made, people were calling for Sherry Pie/Gugliemelli to be disqualified, including Drag Race season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen and Season 5 and All-Stars 2 alum Detox.
A spokesperson for VH1 and production company World of Wonder issued a statement, saying:
"In light of recent developments and Sherry Pie's statement, Sherry Pie has been disqualified from 'RuPaul's Drag Race'."
Before the second part of the season 12 premiere—which would include Sherry Pie—aired on Friday, March 6, VH1 began the episode with a black screen and their full official statement.
Drag Race season 2 and All-Stars contestant Pandora Boxx, season 7 and All-Stars 2 contestant Ginger Minj, season 9 and All-Stars 4 contestant Farrah Moan and Drag Race season 10 winner Aquaria all posted about the controversy on their social media.
But as fans began to share jokes and memes about the controversy online, season 8 alum Shea Couleé urged people to think of Gugliemelli's victims.
People agreed that disqualifying Sherry Pie from winning season 12—which was filmed and edited months ago—and barring them from any future Drag Race appearances like the reunion or finale was the right decision.
A day before Gugliemelli was disqualified, Buzzfeed News reported that the actors who made the accusations were Gugliemelli's former classmates at SUNY Cortland in New York and actors he worked with from the Nebraska theater company.
For the article, the behavior was referred to as "catfishing." The term was created in the 2010 documentary Catfish.
catfish: use a fictional online persona to trick someone into a personal, romantic or sexual relationship
Ben Shimkus was the first to come forward in a Facebook post on Wednesday with the accusation against Sherry Pie after seeing promos for Drag Race season 12 featuring Gugliemelli. This prompted others who were sexually exploited by Gugliemelli to speak out.
The catfishing persona told Shimkus she was casting a new production called Bulk—about a man who continues growing larger by taking steroids—for the prestigious Playwright's Horizons in New York City. For other young actors, Gugliemelli claimed the part was a new Netflix movie or TV show also called Bulk.
Shimkus was still a senior enrolled in Cortland State University's Musical Theatre program when he was encouraged to reach out and audition. He and Mossey corresponded with over 150 emails in a thread discussing payment, living situations in New York and character development that included video tape submissions.
Shimkus wrote about the overtly sexual nature of the videos:
"I had to film scenes that felt particularly sexual and awkward, but the opportunity seemed too good to let the overt sexual nature or my inhibitions get in the way."
"The specific video submissions I sent were of me taking steroids and immediately growing larger muscles and gaining physical power."
"The character, Jeff, talked about how much his armpits began to stink and how much he liked that. It was a tough pill to swallow, knowing that I hadn't listened to my gut instinct about how uncomfortable I was."
"That I had sent suggestive videos of myself, and I didn't know what the videos were being used for."
"Since being open about my experience, six people have corroborated stories with me."
A 27-year-old actor who wished to remain anonymous shared dozens of emails with Buzzfeed revealing he was also coerced into sending degrading video footage of himself.
"The subject matter of the videos was very vocally stressing upon what does it feel like and what does it smell like [for the character to be that muscular], like, talking about the slime underneath ... his pits."
"It was a discussion of, 'How do you think — when he smells, does that feel like a climax to him? When he ejaculates?'"
"Being hungry and young and wanting to get a break, I continued to do whatever was needed for this casting,"
The actor was also financially compromised when he spent $63 on a bus trip in 2016 after Mossey told him to come into New York City for an audition.
"I just spent a lot of money on this and it wasn't easy. Her persona decided to rip me off."
News of Sherry Pie's disqualification was seen as proper justice.
"For the victims, I hope this small victory aids in our healing process."
Daniel Lynn Evans, a 35-year-old performer, was another victim who came forward after Shimkus wrote his Facebook post.
Evans had met Sherry Pie in 2017 when they were asked to work together for a drag show that eventually fell through. A week later, Gugliemelli reached out to Evans on Instagram with another job opportunity—Bulk.
While Buzzfeed called the interactions "catfishing", social media users had another name for Sherry Pie's manipulation.
Evans shared a screenshot of his exchange with "Allison Mossey," who told him:
"I think they may ask you to get bigger, but they pay for it ... I know you had some size issues I just really didn't know if you want to get BIGGER."
Their correspondence abruptly ended when the performer indicated he had no intentions of getting "bigger" for the role.
"After a few messages back and forth, I think she finally caught on that I wasn't gonna take the bait and stopped messaging. I never heard from her after that."
When Evans was apprised of Sherry Pie's disqualification from Drag Race, he told Buzzfeed:
"I think it was the right thing to do. As much as I want to say that our personal lives shouldn't affect our professional, this is different."
"This was premeditated predatory behavior, and we can't let any of the LGBTQI youth that's out there watching think that this is OK in any capacity."
Sherry Pie responded to the allegations and apologized for causing "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."
She blamed mental illness and said she was "seeking help and receiving treatment."
People were dismissive of her self-victimizing statement as an apology.
In fairness to the other contestants vying for the crown, the 12th season of Drag Race will reportedly air as filmed.
The VH-1/World of Wonder statement said:
"Out of respect for the hard work of the other queens, VH1 will air the season as planned.
For those who are unaware of the production process on Drag Race, the competition show films the entire season up to the selection of the finalists. After the series airs, the live finale and/or reunion—some seasons the two are filmed as separate episodes—is filmed with the contestants reactions to what happened during the aired episodes and the announcement of the winner.
There is no way to completely edit Sherry Pie from the episodes since they were filmed prior to the news breaking about her catfishing. However after viewing the first episode that included Sherry Pie and in light of the screen time and "hero edit" given to Gugliemelli, some fans are suggesting VH1 and World of Wonder look at editing some of the non-competition footage to limit Sherry Pie's screen time, especially during "confessionals" where Gugliemelli appears out of drag.
Supplemental content like Fashion Photo Ruview, Pit Stop and highlight videos created after the announcement and shared by World of Wonder on YouTube and other social media already do not include Sherry Pie in light of her disqualification.
Whether criminal charges or civil lawsuits result from the growing number of allegations against Joey Gugliemelli remains to be seen.