‘The Little Mermaid’ Makeup Artist Slams Calls for Queer Replacement as “Very Offensive”

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Melissa McCarthy as Ursula

Credit: Disney

Since Melissa McCarthy was announced as Ursula in Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid (1989), there has been one common complaint.

the little mermaid
Credit: Disney

Disney’s original take on the Danish fairytale created one of Walt Disney Animation’s most iconic villains. Ursula (Pat Carroll) – the terrifying purple sea witch – was both charismatic and terrifying, making her ability to manipulate young Ariel (Jodi Benson) into giving up her voice all the more convincing.

The character’s design was inspired by a surprising figure: the drag legend Divine. The film’s composer Alan Menken previously confirmed the fact, with the inspiration clear in Ursula’s eye makeup, jewelry, body type, and mohawk inspired by Divine’s Pink Flamingos look.

Drag queen Divine
Credit: Bellaphon

Ursula’s character has undeniably deep ties with the drag community. That’s why some fans were disappointed by the decision not to give the role in Disney’s live-action remake to a drag queen – and why some are now even more disappointed by Melissa McCarthy’s final look in The Little Mermaid (2023).

Earlier this month, a timelapse video was shared by Walt Disney Studios on Twitter, showing Melissa McCarthy’s transformation into Ursula, courtesy of makeup artist Peter King.

However, McCarthy’s final look met harsh backlash from both fans and professional drag queens who argued that her makeup should, at the very least, have been done by a queer artist – especially seeing as how McCarthy herself confirmed that her portrayal was inspired by the drag scene.

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, surrounded by electric eels
Credit: Disney

“I’ve been going to shows since I was not supposed to be going to shows,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “There’s a drag queen that lives in me. I’m always right on the verge of going full time with her.”

Unimpressed professional drag queens included former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Art Simone, who commented: “When you lie on your resume and end up with the job.”

Another former contestant, Denali, also commented: “[This is] absolutely why we should hire up and coming queer artists with a pulse on the present and a vision for the future more often.”

A close-up of Melissa McCarthy as Ursula
Credit: Disney

Drag queen Selma Nilla also shared her negative take on Disney’s makeup for Ursula before sharing an upgraded version on TikTok, with fans heaping on the praise and commenting, “This is the Ursula we wanted.”

Now it turns out that not only is Ursula’s live-action makeup artist aware of the backlash, but he is outright insulted by the comments. Peter King jumped to his own defense in a recent interview with Insider, calling the comments “very offensive.”

“Why can’t I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist?” he asked. “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.”

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula
Credit: Disney

He went on to explain that he personally doesn’t understand where the backlash is coming from. “Yes, I’m very old now, so that’s fine,” he explained. “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.”

The Little Mermaid is in theaters now. Already seen it? Let us know what you think about Melissa McCarthy’s final look as Ursula in the comments!

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