‘The Little Mermaid’ Makeup Designer Responds to ‘Offensive’ Ursula Criticisms: ‘Why Can’t I Do as Good a Job as a Queer Artist?’

“The Little Mermaid” makeup designer Peter Smith King has responded to criticisms of the revamped Ursula look that Melissa McCarthy brings to life in the new live-action remake, specifically contending against a belief that a queer artist should have landed the job.

Rob Minkoff, the character animator of the original 1989 film, pulled reference from the late drag performer Divine for Ursula. When speaking with Time, Minkoff said “Divine seemed like such a great, larger-than-life character, and it just seemed like a funny and quirky idea to take [Ursula] and treat her more like a drag queen.”

Since the first footage of McCarthy’s Ursula was revealed, King’s iteration of the aquatic villain has been met with criticism from some drag performers. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 14 contestant Kerri Colby responded to a video on Twitter, stating that “[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.”

King responded to the critiques in a recent interview with Insider. “I find that very offensive,” he said. “Why can’t I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist?”

“That’s ridiculous. That’s trying to claim it and that’s fine, if that’s what they wanna do,” said King. “But don’t put people down because they’re not what they want it to be.”

When working on the look for the character, King says he had a close partnership with McCarthy. “We discussed everything. I mean, we both laughed about how much we love drag queens and drag makeup and stuff,” said King. 

King also revealed that his Ursula wasn’t based on Divine like Minkoff’s”: “It wasn’t based on any drag acts at all.” 

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