Words: Alastair James; pictures: Instagram/@JeffreyBChapman
Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman has spoken out about the racist abuse he received while appearing as a judge on the first season of Canada’s Drag Race, saying a lot of it came from gay, white men.
The 36-year-old Canadian pulled out of the show in March because of the abuse and also deleted his Twitter account.
Bowyer-Chapman was accused of body-shaming one of the contestants, as well as being overly critical, and unqualified for the job. His critiques led to him being compared to the infamously critical Simon Cowell.
"I was called a 'stupid n****r'"
In a sit-down interview with The Hollywood Reporter Bowyer-Chapman, who is gay, opened up about running afoul of a small minority of the RuPaul’s Drag Race fanbase.
“The amount of times that I was called a 'stupid n****r' in my inbox from white, gay men was shocking — specifically because we were in the midst of a racial justice awakening,” he says referencing the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd.
He continues: “It really did show a lot of people how dark and how toxic the Drag Race trolls have become over the past couple of years and how unacceptable it is.”
Bowyer-Chapman who first appeared on Drag Race in the US’ ninth season recounts being told by a white, gay male showrunner (who’s since departed the show) that he was the “man candy” for the queens to flirt with and there to be the "sassy" judge - a word he describes as a racist "dogwhistle".
Bowyer-Chapman went on to explain says he brought in his own make-up artist and began affecting his voice, which ultimately fans would use against him.
He details being asked to record short snippy critiques after filming, which contradicted the “loving and kind” interactions he says he had with the queens.
“Even if we didn’t have anything negative to say, you had to come up with something negative,” he said.
Once the show aired, Bowyer-Chapman’s inboxes flooded with abuse.
“People [were] telling me I was too mean, I didn’t know what I was talking about. Just a lot of blatant racism. Their public profiles read ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but their DMs were all about how my Black life didn’t matter.”
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As he gets ready for people to see his new show, a reboot of Doogie Howser, M.D. called Doogie Kamealoha, M.D., Jeffrey reveals that while he won’t be appearing in the new season of Canada’s Drag Race, he was involved in early meetings and that his experiences have led to changes on the show, including a producer specifically for the judges.
Despite this, and an almost new roster of judges (Brooke Lynn Hytes is the only season one judge to return and will be joined by Traci Melchor and actress Amanda Brugel), Jeffrey says the show could do better.
“There’s a lot of Indigenous talent that has gone unrecognized; a lot of trans and nonbinary talent. People of color beyond Black people. […] There’s so many obvious choices if they had had the reference points. But, that’s what happens when it’s only white, cisgender people behind the scenes making the decisions.”
In statements provided to The Hollywood Reporter, Crave who produce Canada’s Drag Race, and previously condemned the abuse aimed at Bowyer-Chapman, says measures have been put in place to prevent such harassment in future seasons.
Laura Michalchyshyn, Blue Ant Media’s chief creative officer and an Executive Producer on the show, says they’ve stood by Jeffrey and have “worked hard to ensure that Jeffrey was heard and the show is a positive experience for everyone.”
Canada’s Drag Race season 2 is set to return on WOW PresentsPlus, on 14 October. Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. is available on Disney+.
The Attitude October issue is out now.
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