Five men have accused Joey Gugliemelli, better known by the drag persona Sherry Pie and currently competing on the 12th season of Drag Race, of using a false identity to pressure them into sharing photos and videos. BuzzFeed News reported out the claims, describing situations in which Gugliemelli, posing as a casting director over email, asked men to send him audition tapes of themselves for made-up roles with often degrading demands, including getting one man to agree masturbate on camera. The young men Gugliemelli targeted were primarily his former classmates at SUNY Cortland and actors he’d worked with at a Nebraska theater company.
The accusations began with 25-year-old actor Ben Shimkus posting a Facebook status describing how Gugliemelli, a former classmate of Shimkus’s, posed as a woman working for Playwrights Horizons. Using the persona of “Allison Mossie,” Gugliemelli pressured Shimkus into taping videos of himself reading sexualized scenes for a made-up show called Bulk about a man taking steroids. “I had to cope with the fact that these videos I had sent of myself were not for the benefit of my career,” Shimkus wrote. “I had sent suggestive videos of myself, and I didn’t know what the videos were being used for.”
Other men interviewed by BuzzFeed News described similar situations, in which Gugliemelli posed again as Allison Mossie and pressured them to read for a project called Bulk, in three cases, and for a fake Nightmare Before Christmas musical in another. David Newman, a Cortland alum, described filming a scene in tank top and shorts for the Nightmare Before Christmas musical. Josh Lillyman, who worked with Gugliemelli in Nebraska, described Gugliemelli encouraging him to tape for Bulk, offering to help him tape his auditions, and pressuring him into masturbating on camera in the room. Landon Summers, who knew both Gugliemelli and Lillyman, was also pressured into taping videos for Bulk. While he didn’t tape with Gugliemelli in the room, he remembered Gugliemelli encouraging him to take his clothes off in auditions, though Lillyman ultimately decided not to. A fifth anonymous actor was also pressured into taping for Bulk, and filming himself shirtless.
In response to these stories, Gugliemelli posted a status on Facebook, writing, “I want to start by saying how sorry I am that I caused such trauma and pain and how horribly embarrassed and disgusted I am with myself.” He added that in making Drag Race he learned about the importance of taking care of his mental health. “I have been seeking help and receiving treatment since coming back to NYC,” he said. “I truly apologize to everyone I have hurt with my actions. I also want to say how sorry I am to my sisters of season 12 and honestly the whole network and production company.
Update, 3:48 p.m.: VH1 announced that Sherry Pie has been disqualified from Drag Race in the wake of these accusations. “In light of recent developments and Sherry Pie’s statement, Sherry Pie has been disqualified from RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a spokesperson for VH1 and World of Wonder said in a statement. “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.”