In March 2020, RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12 contestant Joey Gugliemelli, whose drag name is Sherry Pie, admitted to more than ten accusations of predatory behavior and was disqualified from the already-taped season. On February 16, nearly a year after Gugliemelli’s deceptive and coercive behavior came to light, Tamron Hall interviewed him on her daytime talk show. Gugliemelli began the interview by saying, “I’m here to apologize,” and “I understand in lieu of this year how much pain I’ve caused.” Hall asked Gugliemelli if he’s worried about criminal charges because there are allegations of financial fraud. Although he confirmed that he hasn’t been contacted by authorities apart from a wellness check after his victims went public in 2020, he said, “I’m prepared to take any responsibility. Listen, when everything happened, I’m not here to hide. I didn’t want to be somebody who was accused of something and kept denying denying denying. This isn’t something that I deep down felt good about doing.” Gugliemelli said he no longer has the degrading videos that he had coerced his victims into recording and sending to him, and he claimed his motivation to seek these videos out was not sexual but, rather, “It was about control and fear … Most of these things ended up happening because of my immense fear of losing these people. I had relationships with a lot of these people prior.”
Gugliemelli also stated that he was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder right before he was disqualified from Drag Race, and though he doesn’t blame his mental illness for his actions, he said, “There’s an immense amount of fear that comes with having BPD.” Hall asked about his childhood, and he answered that he has had insecure relationships with men going back to when his father left the family before he even knew him.
The accusations against Gugliemelli in 2020, which he confirmed and admitted to, involved his posing online as a casting director named Alison Mossie. He used this fake identity to manipulate friends and acquaintances from Nebraska and New York to film sexually explicit “audition tapes” involving nudity, masturbation, and steroid use. Victims felt violated and humiliated, and many passed up paying acting opportunities to travel to New York under false pretenses, all orchestrated by Gugliemelli.
When Tamron Hall announced on Monday that Hall would be interviewing Sherry Pie on air, many writers, drag artists, and viewers criticized the show for giving an abuser a platform for image rehabilitation without featuring the full details of Gugliemelli’s actions or giving his victims a similar platform. New York drag queen and fellow Season 12 Drag Race contestant Jackie Cox tweeted her disapproval of the show’s decision to bring Gugliemelli on, writing, “Through personal conversations I have had with these victims, it is clear that the abuses Sherry perpetrated go far beyond what is commonly referred to as ‘cat fishing.’” Cox elaborated, “Sherry manipulated these men into filming live sexual acts, putting their bodies in physical danger by coercing them to use steroids, and financially controlled them by encouraging these men to turn down paying jobs in lieu of the fake film project that Sherry created.”
Canada’s Drag Race contestant Ilona Verley wrote from the perspective of “someone that has survived sexual abuse” that “if she actually felt bad she wouldn’t have taken this opportunity to further traumatize her victims.”
Hall, for her part, addressed this criticism upfront before interviewing Sherry Pie, saying to the camera at the top of the show, “I’ve interviewed rapists, I’ve interviewed murderers,” and clarifying, “It’s not giving away your platform. It’s called an interview. And people who do bad things are interviewed.” After speaking with Gugliemelli, she brought on culture commentator Ryan Mitchell, one of the writers who had criticized her on Twitter about the decision to interview Sherry Pie. Mitchell made it clear that “Joey does not represent the LGBTQIA+ community” and wondered how this televised interview would negatively impact Gugliemelli’s victims.