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Queerty: Ursula makeup artist responds to criticism that a queer artist should have been used


Melissa McCarthy is made up as UrsulaMelissa McCarthy is made up as Ursula (Photo: Disney/Twitter)

The hair and makeup artist who worked with Melissa McCarthy on The Little Mermaid has responded to criticism of his work.

British artist Peter Swords King is a veteran of the industry with 42 years worth of experience.

Disney’s “live-action” The Little Mermaid is based on the beloved 1989 animation of the same name. It dominated theaters over the Memorial Day weekend and is on course to take around $120 million at the US box office by the end of today.

The sea witch Ursula in the original animation was partly inspired by the late drag performer, Divine. Melissa McCarthy has talked of the comparison and spoken of her love of drag.

Because of this, some modern-day drag queens have voiced disappointment over Ursula’s look in the new movie. The New York-based Sierra La Puerta posted a photo of McCarthy as Ursula, quipping, “Now when we said Ursula was inspired by a drag queen we didn’t mean one who had only been doing it for 3 months bc-”

Now when we said Ursula was inspired by a drag queen we didn’t mean one who had only been doing it for 3 months bc- https://t.co/gOODRvVT4l pic.twitter.com/BvNSf4wdp4

— Sierra La Puerta (@_SierraLaPuerta) May 17, 2023

La Puerta’s tweet was liked over 7,000 times.

When you lie on your resume and end up with the job. https://t.co/wzbLiJxq7t

— Art Simone (@ArtSimone) May 18, 2023

Kerri Colby, who was featured in RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14, responded to a clip on Twitter, saying, “Absolutely why we should hire up and coming queer artists with a pulse on the present and a vision for the future more often. Yes I agree, this is that.”

– absolutely why we should hire up and coming queer artists with a pulse on the present and a vision for the future more often. Yes I agree, this is that.

— Kerri Elyse Colby (@kerricolby) May 17, 2023

“Very offensive”

Talking to Insider, King said he disagreed.

“I find that very offensive,” he said. “Why can’t I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist?”

“That’s ridiculous. That’s trying to claim it and that’s fine, if that’s what they wanna do, but don’t put people down because they’re not what they want it to be,” he added.

King’s resume includes Lord Of The Rings (for which he won an Oscar in 2003) and Mary Poppins, plus lots of theatre work. He said he met Divine in the late 1980s, but his Ursula work did not take inspiration from the late Baltimore legend.

“I personally don’t get it. Yes, I’m very old now, so that’s fine, I get that too, but, you know, 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,” he added.

He said he and McCarthy did discuss a mutual appreciation for drag queens.

“We discussed everything. I mean, we both laughed about how much we love drag queens and drag makeup and stuff. But it wasn’t based on any drag acts at all,” he said.

King also said he wasn’t directly inspired by the 1989 movie, either.

“No, no. It was me. I didn’t really draw on anything. I played around quite a lot with different colors, different shapes, and stuff,” he said. “It just was sort of Melissa and I talking and creating. So I didn’t really draw on anything at all.”

Besides facing some backlash for his work, he said working on The Little Mermaid was a hugely positive experience with a “lovely crew, lovely cast.”

Little Mermaid box office

The Little Mermaid is on course to be the fifth biggest Memorial Day Weekend opening in the US ever. It also picked up $68.3 million internationally. Variety notes it will need to continue to do good business for some time as it cost a whopping $250 million to make.

The only market where it appeared to flop was China, where it took fifth place at the box office and only took $2.5 million. Its performance has reawakened debate in the country around the casting of Black actress Halle Bailey in the lead role. Movies with black leads have traditionally performed poorly in China.

This weekend, WeHo Pride announced that McCarthy would be one of its ‘Icons of Pride’, alongside, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Laith Ashley, Niecy Nash-Betts and Jessica Betts. It singled out McCarthy for its “Ally Icon”, for her outspoken allyship and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community.


Related

Melissa McCarthy’s not just a drag fan & ally, she was also a drag performer who appeared at Wigstock

Our new Ursula used to take New York stages as a full-blown, dragged up comedy queen.


The hunky puppeteer behind ‘The Little Mermaid’s Flounder has got the internet all wet

Between sexy Flounder and the muscled mermen, we’re starting to think it really is better down where it’s wetter.


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