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Melissa McCarthy’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ Makeup Artist Calls Ursula Backlash ‘Ridiculous’

When a behind-the-scenes look at Melissa McCarthy’s transformation into Ursula for the live-action The Little Mermaid film was shared on Twitter in May, social media users, particularly those from the drag and LGBTQ+ communities, spoke out against the hiring of Peter Smith King, the makeup artist in charge.

The late drag queen Divine, whose real name was Harris Glenn Milstead, served as inspiration for the design of the underwater villain in the original 1989 cartoon, according to animator Rob Minkoff. There was a lot of discussion about the fact that a non-drag performer was playing her in the 2023 movie.

With the film now in cinemas, King is reacting to the criticism.

The veteran, who has previously worked on The Lord of the Rings and Mary Poppins, described the insults he’s gotten as “demeaning” and absurd in a recent interview with Insider.

Why can’t he do as good a job as a queer makeup artist? he asked the publication. That’s claiming it, which is fine if that’s what they wish to do, but don’t put people down as they aren’t what they wish it to be.

King also said that a makeup artist is not have to be linked to the nature of what they’re doing.

He said that, unlike the original film, he did not model Ursula after Divine, whom he met before her death in 1988. Rather, he said that the final appearance was the result of chats he had with McCarthy, 52.

King said that they spoke about everything. They both chuckled about how much they like drag queens and drag makeup. However, it was not based on any drag acts at all.

McCarthy, for her part, has talked about borrowing inspiration from drag for her Ursula portrayal, telling Deadline at the film’s recent Los Angeles premiere that she hopes to do every amazing drag queen proud.

The Little Mermaid has made a major impact in cinemas around the country. According to the Hollywood Reporter, it has grossed an estimated $95.4 million at the box office since its Friday premiere.

Halle Bailey (Ariel) and Jonah Hauer-King (Prince Eric) star in Rob Marshall’s 2023 adaptation.

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