A makeup artist for “The Little Mermaid” called out “very offensive,” “ridiculous” backlash over his work on the look of Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula character in the live-action remake.
Oscar-winning makeup artist Peter King pushed back against criticism from several drag queens who questioned why Disney didn’t hire a queer artist to work on makeup for a character that Alan Menken – composer of the original film – said was inspired by frequent John Waters movie star and the iconic drag queen Divine.
“I find that very offensive. Why can’t I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist?” King told Insider.
“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.”
King’s comments come after Disney shared a video of King applying makeup to McCarthy, a clip that drag queen Sierra La Puerta questioned on Twitter earlier this month.
“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-,” La Puerta wrote.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Kerri Colby, in response to fellow drag queen Denali’s commentary on the clip, along with “RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under” star Art Simone also weighed in on King’s job on the film.
King, who asserted his design for the look wasn’t “based on Divine,” added to Insider that he “personally” doesn’t get the criticism.
“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,” King said.
The artist went on to claim that he talked with McCarthy about his design and said it “wasn’t based on any drag acts at all.”
McCarthy, who once performed as the drag queen Miss Y in New York City, told Deadline earlier this month that she’s been a huge fan of drag since her teenage years and frequently watched “The Little Mermaid” from 1989.
“I was a nanny and we used to watch it every night. And I always was like, ’I know for a fact – but I couldn’t prove it – that she had to be based on Divine,” McCarthy said.
“She just had to be. I was like, ‘the makeup, the look, the attitude.’ And now we know that yes, she was of course based on Divine.”
She also told Entertainment Weekly last month that she “100 percent” used drag as inspiration for her role.