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.
Scoop: I spoke with five men who say they were catfished by Drag Race queen Sherry Pie who posed for years as a cas… https://t.co/mFQW6zCvw1— David Mack (@David Mack)1583468030.0
Since news broke of Gugliemelli's dismissal, the number of victims who came forward have expanded to eight men.
ICYMI https://t.co/bo9sVSiQAY https://t.co/orbSuva6jx— David Mack (@David Mack)1583590542.0
Particularly disturbing report from @tfitzsimons with an eighth accuser who says he was pressured into taking stero… https://t.co/ysih9Mas8m— David Mack (@David Mack)1583595668.0
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.
Disqualify her. 🥂🥧— Bob The Drag Queen (@Bob The Drag Queen)1583470537.0
Never in 12 years of the show have I witnessed someone being cancelled before the first episode even airs. SHEEEEEE… https://t.co/ujttf67Q33— Mrs. Harry Styles (@Mrs. Harry Styles)1583416482.0
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'."
“In light of recent developments and Sherry Pie’s statement, Sherry Pie has been disqualified from RuPaul’s Drag Race....— RuPaul's Drag Race (@RuPaul's Drag Race)1583527916.0
...Out of respect for the hard work of the other queens, VH1 will air the season as planned. Sherry will not appea… https://t.co/GfRNVS4dd3— RuPaul's Drag Race (@RuPaul's Drag Race)1583527916.0
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.
This whole thing is diabolical and the story keeps growing. I just don’t understand the need to go this far with li… https://t.co/s8uBVGlPn1— Pandora Boxx (@Pandora Boxx)1583553752.0
When we are given this platform, it’s our responsibility and privilege to help create a safe space and sense of com… https://t.co/u2tLTGmsLh— Ginger Minj (@Ginger Minj)1583429438.0
When some1 uses their influence & power to sexually prey on people, they need that influence & power removed. PERIO… https://t.co/wbdLusjsAh— 👑 Farrah Moan (@👑 Farrah Moan)1583439550.0
Bam! I’m so proud of how @RuPaulsDragRace @VH1 and @WorldOfWonder are handling this! The victims deserve this respe… https://t.co/3Z19yRjNAk— 👑 Farrah Moan (@👑 Farrah Moan)1583528234.0
I hope all the victims can heal and find peace within themselves and learn to trust people again. I can’t imagine w… https://t.co/rSiTaGUJfX— 👑 Farrah Moan (@👑 Farrah Moan)1583439581.0
An apology should not include lies, to say the least. @sherrypienyc you are walking on very thin ice. Choose your w… https://t.co/hTX2oMOvA2— Aquaria (@Aquaria)1583472045.0
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.
I know we all like to Kiki over some drama. However I think out of respect of the survivors of this whole Allison M… https://t.co/D1pLGXXDrA— Shea Couleé (@Shea Couleé)1583430424.0
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.
@davidmackau @RuPaulsDragRace Good work. Predators like Sherry Pie need to be called out and exposed. This is going… https://t.co/3gzxEtLSD4— Johnny M. Gayzmonic (@Johnny M. Gayzmonic)1583536959.0
@joeynolfi It’s going to be interesting for sure. But she got what she deserved. And now let’s move on to criminal charges.— Shane Avery (@Shane Avery)1583530021.0
@RuPaulsDragRace https://t.co/7T6cnmVhsa— SlayCoulee (@SlayCoulee)1583527936.0
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.
@EW "Catfishing" is putting it lightly.— shipstew (@shipstew)1583545506.0
@BuzzFeedNews This wasn’t cat fishing... it was predatory behaviour.— MeHo (@MeHo)1583539232.0
@EW It’s not cat fishing. Call it what it was; sexual abuse— Ryan Zeegers (@Ryan Zeegers)1583533406.0
@EW @Lisa5mtl i hate that it‘s reported as catfish allegations cause that isn‘t the worst part, the worst part is t… https://t.co/XNxDcYyuYN— mira (@mira)1583589590.0
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."
sherry pie finally released a statement and it's the most basic and fakest apology there is. what she did was disgu… https://t.co/gzcsgqPPb2— 🍂 (@🍂)1583475829.0
People were dismissive of her self-victimizing statement as an apology.
@jamesdeen_ Mental illness is no excuse.. 🙄🙄— Shelby Kay (@Shelby Kay)1583492726.0
@jamesdeen_ This is giving me huge Kevin Spacey "yeah but also I'm gay" vibes— Michael (@Michael)1583482767.0
@aquariaofficial @sherrypienyc Notice how the apology didn’t happen until Sherry Pie was caught? Yeah, she’s not so… https://t.co/JwksTextm8— Ehren Williams (@Ehren Williams)1583709674.0
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.
@BuzzFeedNews But haven’t they already recorded all of the episodes - they can’t just cut her out??— Alice Ford (@Alice Ford)1583530232.0
@BuzzFeedNews It’s going to be an interesting season. She had a tonne of camera time this episode - I wonder if the… https://t.co/yXQpbJE879— 𝕽𝖍𝖆𝖊𝖓𝖆💫 (@𝕽𝖍𝖆𝖊𝖓𝖆💫)1583554839.0
@EW This was the right choice. Yes, it'll be awkward to see her on the show, but many cast/crew poured their hearts… https://t.co/DGZgltKO2g— Shawny Lee Shuman (@Shawny Lee Shuman)1583535521.0
@RuPaulsDragRace period y’all did the right thing— stream stupid love 💗 (@stream stupid love 💗)1583527949.0
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.
I have to disagree. I believe VH1 should delay airing subsequent episodes to recut the season with diminished prese… https://t.co/D90GqWzSlq— ShowtimeSyzygy (@ShowtimeSyzygy)1583710710.0
@Willowresists Sherry pie. It’s just awkward watching her knowing all that happened and how shady she is.— Nick 🏳️🌈 (@Nick 🏳️🌈)1583709751.0
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.