Canada's Drag Race judge Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman has opened up about his experience on the show, and why he won't be returning for the second season.
By the time Bowyer-Chapman arrived at the judges' table in the Canadian iteration of the series, he had already appeared on the original US RuPaul's Drag Race and RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars.
However, he said the abuse he faced online after becoming a permanent fixture on Canada's Drag Race was unrivalled.
Bowyer-Chapman described the amount of racist messages he received "from white, gay men" as "shocking... specifically because we were in the midst of a racial justice awakening," after the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests across the world.
He continued: "I think that with me receiving all of the hate, and racism, and harassment, and death threats – it's shone a light on the insanity of it. 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 said he has always felt that "drag is magic", but after consistently being confronted by racist trolls online, he deleted his Twitter account in August 2020, before the first season had even finished.
"As gay men, we unfortunately have grown accustomed to experiencing hate and vitriol and homophobia," he explained. "I guess I had just never experienced it from my own community. That was the part that was most heartbreaking."
Beyond the vitriol he endured from viewers of the show, he also reported poor treatment from behind the scenes.
"I came into Canada's Drag Race with a false sense of security because I had built that trust with the producers of the American show," he continued. "But this was a different set of producers.
"I think they were trying to create something impactful and prove themselves along the way. As so, there are many instances where looking back I should have paid attention to my intuition and spoken up. And I didn't."
In one incident shortly before the cameras began rolling, he remembered a "white, gay, male showrunner" describing him as "man-candy that was there for the queens to drool over".
He claims he was handed negative critiques to give out when he was judging alongside RuPaul's Drag Race winner and Canada's Drag Race host Brooke Lynn Hytes and fashion model Stacey McKenzie.
Reflecting on his position beside his fellow judges, he said: "There was a lot that I experienced that Brooke Lynn just couldn't have because Brooke Lynn is a white man.
"Myself, as a Black queer man, my inbox was flooded with people 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."
Laura Michalchyshyn, a Canada's Drag Race executive producer and chief creative officer of Blue Ant Media, told THR: "We consider Jeffrey a part of our family, and when he came under attack on social media during last season, we were horrified at the hateful abuse he was forced to endure. In addition to clearly and publicly condemning that bullying, we sought to stand with him by blocking and deleting inappropriate and vile racist comments."
Meanwhile a spokesperson for Crave, which streamed Canada's Drag Race in Canada, added: "Jeffrey is a gifted talent whose energy, skills and passion unquestionably contributed to the success of the inaugural season of Canada's Drag Race on Crave. He will always be considered part of the Canada's Drag Race family."
Canada's Drag Race announced back in March that Bowyer-Chapman wouldn't be returning to the judges' panel. In June, it was announced that Stacey McKenzie also wouldn't return.
The panel in season two will consist of Brooke Lynn Hytes, fashion personality Brad Goreski and The Handmaid's Tale's Amanda Brugel.
Canada's Drag Race season 2 will be airing exclusively in the UK on WOW Presents Plus from October 14, 2021. Canada's Drag Race is available to catch up on via BBC iPlayer.
For more information on how you can support Black Lives Matter, please visit its official website or donate here. Readers can also donate to the UK anti-discrimination group Stand Up To Racism, and the Unite Families & Friends Campaign, which supports those affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody.
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