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Ursula Makeup Artist Claps Back Over Criticism From Drag Queens

​Ursula Makeup Artist Claps Back Over Criticism From Drag Queens

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula.
@Disney/Twitter

The Little Mermaid makeup artist has something to say to the queens drag him on social media.

The makeup artist behind Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula in the new live-action The Little Mermaid is pushing back against the criticism he’s gotten of his work on the film.

British makeup artist Peter Swords King designed McCarthy’s makeup for the iconic sea witch, but drag queens have taken to social media to slam the artist for the look which they say isn't up to snuff.

Animator Rob Minkoff was inspired by the late, great drag queen Divine when he designed Ursula for the 1989 original.

“Divine seemed like such a great, larger than life character, and it just seemed like a funny and quirky idea to take [Ursula] and treat her more like a drag queen,” Minkoff told Vogue.

But because of this, modern day drag queens were quick to lambast makeup artist King’s design for McCarthy, who started her own career as a drag performer.

New York-based drag queen Sierra La Puerta wrote on Twitter, “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-”

Comedian and drag queen Miss Steak also took to Twitter to compare King’s makeup design to Divine, “I wont indulge in disney discourse BUT Divine was an EXCELLENT makeup artist whose work was clean, symmetrical, and trendsetting.”

Art Simone from RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under shared a similar sentiment, quipping, “When you lie on your resume and end up with the job.”

King is a makeup and hair designer with 42 years of experience. He has worked on plays, operas, and movies such as The Lord of the Rings saga, Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi and Spider-Man: Far from Home.

In an interview with Insider he responded to the criticisms of his work saying, "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 also said that while the original animated movie took inspiration from Divine, he did not. The makeup artist said he and McCarthy talked about what her makeup should look like in the live-action remake.

“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.”

He went on to say that he and McCarthy share a love of drag queens even if that wasn’t his ultimate inspiration, "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.”

Disney also faced criticism on social media for not hiring an LGBTQ+ makeup artist for the film who may have had a better understanding of drag culture and makeup.

Kerri Colby from RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14 clapped back on Twitter in response to a video clip of McCarthy having her Ursula makeup done, writing, “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.”

Other people have also taken to social media to point out why a queer artist should have been hired for the job. @PsychicCancer wrote under Miss Steak’s post, “the makeup artist is bad, you can say it in a million ways. Not hiring a professional who does this exact makeup is on disney refusing to recognize the original queerness that inspired it, and thats what happens. You get an amateur job.”

King responded to this, saying in the interview, “I find that very offensive. Why can’t I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist?”

“That’s ridiculous,” he added. “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.”

Is The Little Mermaid coming in 2023?

The new live-action remake of The Little Mermaid premiered on May 26, 2023.

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Ariel Messman-Rucker

Ariel Messman-Rucker is an Oakland-born journalist who now calls the Pacific Northwest her home. When she’s not writing about politics and queer pop culture, she can be found reading, hiking, or talking about horror movies with the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network.

Ariel Messman-Rucker is an Oakland-born journalist who now calls the Pacific Northwest her home. When she’s not writing about politics and queer pop culture, she can be found reading, hiking, or talking about horror movies with the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network.