If Sherry Pie’s written apology a year ago wasn’t enough, now we can watch the same apology play out for 12 minutes on Tamron Hall’s YouTube channel.
A year ago, just ahead of Joey Gugliemelli, known popularly as the drag persona Sherry Pie, making his television debut on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12, I came forward as a survivor of an elaborate scheme Gugliemelli had set up. For years, Gugliemelli had been posing as Allison Mossie, a casting agent, and using this perceived role of power to get vulnerable young actors to take steroids, send her photos, and take videos of themselves, sometimes sexual in nature. Gugliemelli was disqualified from Drag Race, widely condemned, and issued a written apology before disappearing from social media.
None of the victims I have spoken to accept this apology either in written form or in it’s new video form, which was simply a regurgitation of the first.
On Tuesday, Tamron Hall had Gugliemelli come on her show as a special guest. Many disagreed with the booking and made that clear on social media. I was one of those voices. The backlash was so great that before beginning her interview with Gugliemelli, Hall felt the need to respond to her critics. The longtime journalist pointed to interviews with OJ Simpson, Jeffrey Epstein, and R. Kelly as examples of other controversial figures who had recently been interviewed and hadn’t received as much condemnation. Hall tried to explain why it was important to hear from “bad people.” What she didn’t mention was the fact that in the cases of all of those men, they were under allegations that they disputed. As Gugliemelli said in the first few minutes of the interview, this case isn’t about allegations. These are our stories. Whereas in the cases of R. Kelly, Epstein, and Simpson there was a journalistic need to hear their “side of the story,” in the case of Gugliemelli, there was no disagreement on the facts.
But there’s also outside of that, in the cases of the Epstein and R. Kelly interviews, those were in response to new documentaries that centered the voices, stories, and perspectives of the victims. Epstein and R. Kelly were being brought on to respond to what was uncovered in the footage. With Gugliemelli there was no new news to respond to. And as we’ve come to see since the airing, there wasn’t any further insight to gain.
I question the morality of Tamron Hall’s segment on many levels. Tamron Hall’s show didn’t initially reach out to any victims. This means that whatever narrative was going to be presented was centered around that of our perpetrator — one who has a platform of their own making with a well-followed social media profile and a press team. After I spoke out on social media about this lapse in judgement from the show, one of the producers told me they didn't reach out because “they didn’t think anyone would be comfortable coming forward.” This comes after a number of us have spoken out publicly in the past.
I’m not alone in my line of thinking. Drag Race superstar Detox tweeted “I think Tamron Hall and the Tamron Hall Show should have AT LEAST invited the victims on for a segment…” Fellow superstar Jackie Cox said “I am publicly calling on the Tamron Hall Show to reconsider giving Sherry Pie access to the platform of national television to tell their side of the story without first speaking with the victims…”
Joey seems to be attempting a press tour right now, and I can only assume it is with the intention of Sherry Pie making a comeback. Joey has hired a PR team, through which this interview was likely booked. Sherry’s socials and website suddenly went live yesterday, no doubt timed to the interview. The merchandise section of her website now also says “Coming Soon,” Meaning she is fully ready to monetize this moment. All of this was foreseeable, and as an admitted abuser does not deserve a national platform, was preventable. With that in mind it presents a case study in best practices for how we should and shouldn’t handle cases involving abusers and predators.
The key here should always be to center the survivor. When platforming a known and admitted predator, their victims should be centered. Do not assume they do not want to come forward, if they are accessible, allow them to make the decision. But even within the interview of the abuser, ensure you are considering the perspective of the survivor. This means not glossing over the hardest parts of the stories. In Gugliemelli, the loss of jobs, coercion to use steroids, and other details were conflated to simply “catfishing.”
I’m not here to say that Gugliemelli should never work again: redemption for Joey is possible, and I hope he finds it. But Sherry Pie, the made up drag persona that propelled him to national prominence should not be resuscitated. The producers of Drag Race did something right when they edited her out of the season’s episode.
On Drag Race’s last episode of season 12, I posted the black square that appeared on each of Sherry’s episodes on Instagram with the caption “To everyone who reached out to me with their accounts of sexual harassment or abuse: the queer community is holding people accountable.” Over the span of the show I was reached out to countless times by members of our own community who have shown compassion for all of the survivors. It has been, and continues to be genuinely touching. It is when this story has been in the hands of the straight community — like on the Tamron Hall Show or when covered by Wendy Williams and Michael Yo — that there have been issues.
Let this be a turning point for how we handle these stories. Let this be a moment that media outlets like the Tamron Hall Show and Wendy Williams recognize the immense privilege and responsibility of their massive platforms. And not only recognize it, but utilize it in ways that do not trigger and/or further traumatize survivors needlessly. I hope this moment doesn’t serve as an example to victims as to why they shouldn’t come forward about their abuse. The queer community is here to hear you and believe you. I believe you. We’ve been standing in solidarity with one another in responding to all of this and should be proud.
The straight community will hopefully come along someday.