When Disney chose Peter King, an Oscar-winning makeup artist, to transform Melissa McCarthy into Ursula for the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, the decision ignited controversy within the drag queen community. Several critics asserted that a queer makeup artist should have been hired to replicate Ursula's look, which was originally based on the legendary drag queen, Divine, in the 1989 animated classic.
Peter King, conversation with Insider, took umbrage at this criticism, terming it as 'ridiculous' and 'very offensive'. He put forth a question: "Why can't I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist?" Seemingly irritated by the drag queen community claiming Ursula's aesthetic as solely their territory, King held his ground, defending his right to reimagine the character's look.
King's rendition of Ursula, however, did not win favor with many drag queens, who called McCarthy's makeup amateurish. Sierra La Puerta, a drag queen, took to Twitter, stating, "We said Ursula was inspired by a drag queen we didn't mean one who had only been doing it for 3 months bc-"
Unmoved by the mounting critique, King held that he doesn't understand the need for an artist to form an 'attachment' to their work. In response to arguments favoring the championing of upcoming LGBTQ+ makeup artists by Disney, he said, "a makeup artist or makeup designer could design makeup. They don’t have to have an attachment to the nature of what they’re doing."
King further surprised critics by revealing that Divine wasn't his inspiration for McCarthy's Ursula. Rather, he said, "It was me... I played around quite a lot with different colors, different shapes, and stuff. It just was sort of Melissa and I talking and creating."
In the midst of the dispute, McCarthy expressed admiration for the drag community and its influence on her performance. She said, "I’m a huge, huge fan of drag shows... There’s a drag queen that lives in me. I’m always right on the verge of going full-time with her."
With the rising tide of anti-drag legislation, McCarthy continues to support drag queens passionately, even posting a tribute on Instagram that said, "You've been entertained by drag queens your whole life. Don't pretend it's a problem now."
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