After being announced as one of 15 contestants on season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, New Jersey’s Ariel Versace is already addressing her past. The queen took to her Instagram stories to address messages she was getting surrounding a controversial performance she did during Philadelphia's Drag Wars.
“Okay so before my eyes burn out of my head and my fingers bleed, let’s address this ‘9/11 Number’ nonsense,” she wrote in an iOS notes app, something that has become par for the course for those in the spotlight. “I knew this was going to arise with me now being in the public eye and it being one of the first things that pops up when you Google me. Gotta love the internet!”
In 2014 Versace was a participant in Drag Wars a “Drag Race meets The Voice” style competition to find “Philadelphia’s next drag superstar,” with Drag Race season 3 alum Mimi Imfurst as host. As one of the top three competitors, the queen faced off against the other contestants in “Offensive Comedy Night,” which, according to Versace is an annual event.
“Trust me, past queens have done some fucked up numbers BAYBEE,” she wrote. According to her there have also been numbers surrounding rape, abortion and Hitler. For her number, the 21-year-old put on a show that she had already warned Imfurst about on Facebook.
“I’m. Going. To. Hell. For. Tonight.” she wrote on Imfurst’s Facebook page before the night got started.
During the performance, Versace took to the stage wearing makeshift bombs and clothes that were meant to make her appear as if she were a Muslim woman. Assistants dropped dolls from a balcony as well as torn paper. Some reported that others threw paper airplanes at her, all done to a mix with songs like R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” As the night was on the anniversary of 9/11, Versace said she had decided to make a visual representation of it for comedic effect.
Backlash was strong on social media, and in press reports following the event but in the competition, she progressed to the next round.
“It obviously was shocking to see a ‘comedy’ number about such a sensitive topic that has affected THOUSANDS of people,” Versace wrote on Instagram Stories. “And I’m not just talking about the victims of the incident. I’m talking about the Muslim community as well. The stigma that anyone who is Muslim is now a terrorist, which is a horrible burden to bare (sic) for their community, which I do not condone that stereotype by any means, whatsoever.”
“This was a performance that happened five years ago,” she continued. “So I DO NOT appreciate the influx of messages from these Drag Race stans saying that I’m ‘racist’ or have not apologized for this performance. No I am not racist. Yes I have apologized for this.”
“To all the people saying ‘well you shouldn’t have done it.’ Well you know what, I did. Can’t change it.”
Versace went on, also mentioning Mercedes Iman Diamond who is the first Muslim Drag Race contestant.
“She is so special to me, and we’ve had plenty of open discussions about this topic,” she wrote. “We’re able to joke about it, learn, and grow from it. As I’m sure can all of you.” Versace said that this, at the beginning of her Drag Race career will be the last time she addresses it.
“I apologize for this performance, as I did FIVE YEARS AGO when it happened,” she wrote. “It was insensitive, as sometimes drag is.”