BY EMILIO LANERA
cw. discussion of sexual assault
When I first saw the circulated Facebook status about current RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, Sherry Pie, I wasn’t sure what to expect. “I have a weird story to tell about Sherry Pie,” the first line said. Before amateur actor Ben Shimkus told us his story about Sherry Pie, he described how important the show was to him and the gay community, likening it to the Super Bowl. Being a fan of Drag Race myself I agreed with Ben’s sentiments and read on.
“However, I’m not sure if I will be able to watch it at all this year”, he said. I thought this was a strange thing to say after he was just pining over how great the show was. So, I kept reading.
In the next part of his status Ben talked about meeting Sherry Pie at Cortland State University’s Musical Theatre program, and how it was Sherry Pie who introduced him to Drag Race. The two had an extensive history beyond Cortland, performing in multiple shows together. Ben was even a backup dancer for Sherry Pie in two of her drag shows. Sherry Pie eventually left Cortland to pursue bigger projects but gave Ben an email for a woman named Allison Mossey, who supposedly worked for a prestigious off-Broadway company in New York.
Even though it seemed like Sherry Pie was doing something nice, I couldn’t help but feel this story was about to take a twisted turn. I only had to read a few more sentences to confirm my suspicions.
“I had to film scenes that felt particularly sexual and awkward…The specific video submissions I sent were of me taking steroids and immediately growing larger muscles and gaining physical power.”
After sending the audition tape to Allison Mossey, he never heard from the casting director again. Annoyed that Allison ghosted him, Ben told his friend about what happened, and his friend said that a co-worker who had worked with Sherry Pie had the same experience. Eventually Ben put two and two together. And so did I.
“Wherever Sherry seemed to go, Allison would follow. Since being open about my experience, six people have corroborated stories with me.”
Finally, Ben revealed that Sherry Pie was Allison Mossey all along. She was catfishing these young actors into sending her sexual videos, with one of the men masturbating on camera. For a lot of these men Sherry Pie was literally there to help them film their tapes, as “Allison” recommended they accept her help.
Finding out that Sherry Pie was a sexual predator was probably the worst way this “weird story” could’ve ended, and also made me feel incredibly uncomfortable about watching the show. In response to Ben’s status Sherry Pie made her own status the next day:
“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 wrote. “I truly apologize to everyone I have hurt with my actions… All I can do is change the behaviour and that starts with me and doing that work.”
Sherry Pie also claimed that since the show finished filming she’d taken time off to focus on her mental health, but Drag Queens in New York say they saw her working in night clubs since returning from the show. Finding out Sherry Pie had lied AGAIN made her seem even more insincere and despicable.
The same day Sherry Pie made this status, RuPaul’s Drag Race disqualified her from the competition and banned her from attending the finale which is yet to be filmed. The editors also included a disclaimer addressing the assault and tried to minimise her screen time by taking out all her interview segments. Hearing the show was making efforts to address the assault did initially entice me to watch the show again. However, despite their best efforts to minimise Sherry Pie’s screen time, they cannot completely eradicate her from the show. This means Sherry Pie still lingers in the workplace, still participates in the challenges, and still walks down the runway every week. And every time she does I want to throw my laptop across the room.
What makes this problem worse is that according to the Drag Race rumour mill Sherry Pie is expected to go far in the competition, with some saying she makes it to the Top 4. If these rumours are true, then it means that for every week Sherry Pie advances she is depriving another queen of the spotlight. These drag queens spend a lot of money and sacrifice a lot of time to be on Drag Race, and the fact a sexual predator gets to stay and show off their talents while the others pack their bags is unjust.
One of the great things about RuPaul’s Drag Race is it showcases queer people excelling at something that comes from queer culture. This is so important because it shows you don’t need to conform to mainstream society to be successful. Watching a show that has an entirely queer cast also creates role models for gay men like myself. Seeing these queens do what they love is inspiring and reminds me that ambition and hard work can get you places. But when I see Sherry Pie I’m also reminded that being cunning and predatory can get you far too. That’s an uncomfortable feeling to sit with.
It is infuriating to see Sherry Pie every week not only because she is a sexual predator but because she is also very charming and talented. Ben even makes a point of mentioning this in his status, calling Sherry “normally the most hilarious and creative person in the room”. Manipulation and charm always seem to go hand-in-hand, don’t they?
In the few episodes that have aired Sherry Pie has excelled in all the challenges. You can tell the judges love her, and if I didn’t know she was a sexual predator I probably would too, which is not only annoying but also very concerning. While everyone is currently anti-Sherry Pie there are many examples of gifted people who did terrible things but returned to the spotlight. Take Wayne Carey, Louis C.K or Chris Brown as examples. While many still despise these men, over time they have won some fans back. I think Sherry Pie has enough charisma to do the same.
This is how Ben ended his status: “Although Sherry’s drag may be admired by our community, I hope that our community also recognizes the impact of giving her a bigger stage to broadcast from. I hope Allison Mossey and other tactics of sexualizing people in our community without their consent is put to an end.”
It’s still uncertain whether Sherry Pie will be prosecuted for her crimes or even if she can be at all. Since Catfishing isn’t illegal in America and Sherry Pie didn’t profit off these videos (that we know of) it’s hard to link a crime to her actions. There is a possibility to charge her for fraud since she did pretend to be a casting agent, or sexual assault if the man who was tricked into masturbation presses charges, but going through the justice system to prove this will be long, costly, and may not even result in a guilty verdict for Sherry Pie. Unfortunately, Ben’s status and the disqualification of Sherry Pie might be the closest thing to justice we will see.