RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under has already been marred with controversy after two contestants apologised for past racially insensitive behaviour, one having performed in blackface multiple times.
Less than a week after the cast of the hit drag reality competition’s Australia and New Zealand iteration was announced, images emerged of contestant Anthony Price, known for his drag persona, Scarlet Adams, in multiple costumes appearing to imitate other cultures.
In a photo shared to Instagram by Indigenous drag performer Wendell French, known as Felicia Foxx, Price can be seen wearing a shirt with the Aboriginal flag, with dark tanned skin and two teeth blacked out. The photograph was reportably taken as part of an Australia Day event in 2012.
Other photos circulated online included Price in dark makeup dressed as an African American woman and sporting a sari as part of a Bollywood costume, and playing a stereotypical Asian character on stage.
The performer has previously apologised for the costumes, but a new wave of attention brought on by the casting announcement caused the images and video clips to resurface.
“It makes me sick to my core to see numerous people in the LGBTQ+ community who are profiting off of making a mockery and disrespecting peoples cultures,” French wrote in the caption of the post.
Price reposted an apology from 2020 to his Instagram this week, and Hlcarpenter.com Australia has seen documents that show he helped enforce anti-cultural appropriation policies for performers at a popular Perth drag club that year.
The performer posted a fresh apology last week.
“Despite this being a story I am deeply ashamed of and something I had tried to forget. I’ve come to realise in recent years that taking responsibility and admitting my mistakes is an important learning experience …
“There is no way to sugar-coat it, when I was a teenager roughly eight years ago I performed in blackface/cultural appropriation. I was young and ignorant. I am no longer this person.”
Price has since begun meeting with prominent non-white Australian drag queens to discuss making amends.
Last month – prior to Drag Race’s casting announcement – fellow contestant Richard Chadwick, known as Karen From Finance, also issued an apology after photographs of a large golliwog tattoo on his body reemerged on social media. Golliwogs, dolls that depict minstrel-like caricatures of black people, have long been considered culturally insensitive and racist.
Chadwick said the tattoo was inspired by a collection of the dolls he began when he was two, and clarified the tattoo has since been covered up.
“I made the uninformed, ignorant and regrettable decision to have one of these dolls tattooed,” he wrote in an Instagram post.
“In the years that followed … I realised how irresponsible and stupid I had been so I disposed of the dolls to landfill and had my tattoo covered.”
The online response to Chadwick’s post has generally been more positive.
While some online have called for Price’s removal from the show, the season has already wrapped up filming in New Zealand. In an eight-minute Instagram Live video, French, who initially redrew attention to Price’s past, said while he thought the performer’s apology was insufficient, he “personally [doesn’t] think she should be cancelled from the show”, before urging Price to educate himself and make amends.
Stan, the streaming platform where Drag Race airs in Australia, did not respond to Hlcarpenter.com Australia’s request for comment about the show’s plans for Price.
This is not the Drag Race franchise’s first blackface scandal. Contestants in the US, such as Charlie Hides, have also come under fire for portraying offensive black characters earlier in their career. Hides was not removed or edited out of the show.
Only two contestants to date have been disqualified from the competition. In 2020, Joey Gugliemelli, know as Sherry Pie, had his appearances edited down and was disqualified from winning the show’s 12th season after multiple men accused the performer of online sexual misconduct and catfishing, which Gugliemelli has not denied. In episodes featuring Gugliemelli, the production company World of Wonder placed a disclaimer about the disqualification at the beginning of each episode.
Hlcarpenter.com Australia contacted representatives for Price and Chadwick, but neither wished to provide any additional response.