VH1 has disqualified Joey Gugliemelli, better known by his drag persona Sherry Pie, from season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR). Gugliemelli is accused of catfishing at least five young aspiring male performers over the course of several years. Posing as a casting director, Gugliemelli convinced the men to submit videos of themselves doing embarrassing and often degrading acts to audition for non-existent roles. In one such instance, Gugliemelli is alleged to have had a young man masturbate on camera as a part of the audition process.
The news of Gugliemelli’s predatory behavior first broke after the RPDR season 12 premier when 25-year-old aspiring actor Ben Shimkus, took to Facebook to talk about his experiences with Gugliemelli. In the post, Shimkus recalled Gugliemelli, posing as Casting Director Allison Mosse, convinced him to film scenes that felt “particularly sexual and awkward;” including scenes where Shimkus was asked to record himself pretending to take steroids and recording lines stating that he enjoyed the smell of sweaty armpits. The post was later shared by season 9 Drag Race contestant Farrah Moan (aka Cameron Clayton) who gave his impassioned support to the victims of Gugliemelli’s catfishing.
When someone uses their influence and power to sexually prey on people, they need their influence and power removed….
The post sparked a Buzzfeed News investigation wherein additional men came forward with their stories of being catfished by Gugliemelli. Actor David Newman stated that he was made to film his audition for a fake Nightmare Before Christmas musical while wearing a tank top and short-shorts. Another young actor, Landon Summers, reported that while auditioning for an alleged HBO project, Bulk, he was pushed by Gugliemelli to take his auditions further and further, with Gugliemelli implying that other actors who were auditioning for the same role were taking their clothes off for the audition. Summers Refused. Gugliemelli upped the ante while catfishing Josh Lillyman, a young Australian actor and friend of Summers. Lillyman stated that in an in-person audition for the Bulk project, Gugliemelli—while acting as an “auxiliary agent” for his casting director persona—coerced Lillyman into masturbating on camera as a part of the audition. Lillyman was only 20 at the time.
“He sort of groomed me… I did everything he asked me to because at that point he had built up so much detail for the show that I was truly convinced it was real and associated with HBO…I was willingly doing all the things he was asking me to.” – Josh Lillyman to Buzzfeed News
After the news broke about his catfishing, Gugliemelli posted a pseudo apology on Facebook. In it, he placed the blame for his actions (without ever actually addressing them) on “not focusing on his mental health” and not “loving himself” enough. He further stated that he was seeking help and receiving treatment.
This is Joey, I want to start by saying how sorry I am that I caused such trauma and pain and how horribly embarrassed…
As a result of the controversy, VH1 & World of Wonder productions announced that they’d disqualified Sherry Pie from season 12; stating on RPDR’s official twitter account:
“In light of recent developments and Sherry Pie’s statement, Sherry Pie has been disqualified from RuPaul’s Drag Race. 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.”
There has been no word as to whether criminal charges will be pursued by authorities in the respective districts where Gugliemelli’s catfishing took place. Given Gugliemelli is alleged to have also received money in exchange for “meet ups” and “audition taping,” here’s to hoping that at the very least someone will seek out fraud charges against the defamed performer. Nevertheless, Joey Gugliemelli has made history as the first Ru Paul’s Drag Race performer to be ousted from the competition for actions that took place before ever competing on the show.
Note: the previous contestants who were disqualified, William and Miss Gimhuay, were disqualified for much less egregious behaviors such as unauthorized spousal visits during the filming of the season and bringing an unauthorized prop (a scooter), respectively.