In mid-May, Walt Disney Studios shared a timelapse video showing Melissa McCarthy’s transformation into the villainous Ursula done by King.
The Twitter clip was met with overwhelming backlash from a number of professional drag queens, who felt that McCarthy’s makeup should’ve been done by a queer artist, given the original character’s ties to the drag community.
“When you lie on your resume and end up with the job,” RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Art Simone 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,” former Drag Race contestant Denali added.
In a new interview with Insider, King reacted to the condemnation, calling it “very offensive”.
“Why can’t I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist?” he countered. “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.”
“I personally don’t get it. 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.”
Ursula, from the 1989 animated movie, was designed after drag legend Divine, composer Alan Menken confirmed to Entertainment Weekly in an earlier interview. Menken wrote and composed the original film’s music score.
“I’m a huge, huge fan of drag shows and the whole art of it and the entertainment of it,” McCarthy previously told EW.
The Bridesmaids actor clarified that her version of Ursula had also taken inspiration from drag queens.
“I’ve been going to shows since I was not supposed to be going to shows. There’s a drag queen that lives in me. I’m always right on the verge of going full time with her,” she said.
The Little Mermaid is out in cinemas now. Read The Independent’s two-star review of the film here.