Season 12 RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant disqualified after sexual misconduct allegations

Season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race has barely started, and one of its contestants has already been disqualified and will no longer be appearing in the finale.

Joey Gugliemelli, who goes by the drag persona Sherry Pie, is a New York queen who was an initially-entertaining competitor on the popular reality show, but has since been accused by eight theatre company performers for allegedly soliciting sexually explicit and humiliating “audition” videos under the guise of a fake name.

After accusations regarding Gugliemelli’s transgressions were made public, he turned to Facebook to post an apology in which he stated, “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.”

As far as apologies for disgusting behaviour go, this one feels pretty empty. If the people who he victimized never spoke out and he was never caught, Gugliemelli very likely wouldn’t have said anything about his actions in order to protect his (now destroyed) career.

Many viewers were rooting for the queen who showed potential and skill with her quirky looks and cartoonish, fun character (with comparisons being made to season 11 favourite, Nina West). And after having placed in the top two that week, it seemed likely that she would be a strong presence this season.

After a spokesperson for RuPaul’s Drag Race swiftly responded to the outrage surrounding Sherry’s sexual misconduct by stating, “Out of respect for the hard work of the other queens, VH1 will air the season as planned. Sherry will not appear in the grand finale scheduled to be filmed later this spring,” fans have been left wondering what the remainder of the show’s run this season will look like.

Considering the fact that the bulk of the show is filmed months in advance, Sherry’s presence would be incredibly difficult to remove and edit out entirely. It’s unknown how future episodes will be structured without Sherry in them the same way — especially with public knowledge about her behaviour, an uncomfortable factor that will be difficult to avoid or overlook, even if her screen time is minimal. Additionally, this incident has generated criticism surrounding the ineffectiveness of the show’s background check process.

It is truly unfortunate that Sherry was given the opportunity to be present on the show at all, and the continuing conversation surrounding her actions has only served as a gloomy cloud over what started out as a promising season.

If nothing else, it’s likely that the people who came forward against Gugliemelli would not have done so if he wasn’t given a public platform or any recognition, providing them with the opportunity to be validated and listened to over the pain they experienced because of him.

It’s a stark reminder for reality television audiences that no matter how likeable someone may seem on camera, they may not be the persona they’re presenting for the sake of your entertainment.

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