A meeting between Sharon Needles, winner of the past season of “Rupaul’s Drag Race,” and LGBT activists angered by her use of the word “nigger” in her act ended abruptly today after two people planning to protest her show walked out.
Aaron Coady, who performs as Needles, attended the meeting out of drag. A tearful Coady said he felt berated by the activists who questioned his use of the racial slur. He defended Sharon Needles as a “transgressive” character meant to push buttons and shine a spotlight on all that is dark in society.
“If people educated themselves on the type of work and didn’t just judge it by my costume choices and simple screen shots and really investigated why I use the imagery I use, I’m really more on their side than they think,” Coady said, tears rolling down his face.
“I take some of the darkest shit in the world and put in the spotlight to remind people we live in a tempermental world,” he added.
Enakai Ciseaux and Maura Ciseaux, who met with Coady and are organizers of the protest, said they were disappointed Needles would not publicly apologize for using the racial slur and still planned to protest tonight’s show.
“We are disappointed that, after acknowledging that her words are hurting queer people of color and stating that she does not want to create or further a divide in the LGBT community, Sharon is refusing to issue a public apology or commit to not using racist imagery and epithets in her shows. Saying, ‘I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings,’ to one person is not enough when she knows she’s hurt hundreds,” Enakai Ciseaux said after the meeting.
The drag star’s management asked for the meeting after learning activists planned to protest Needles’ appearance at the Jungle tonight as part of the Fantasy Girls show. The protest is centered around Sharon Needles autographing a photo of herself to a woman of color with “love you nigger” as well as other instances of her allegedly being racist and transphobic, according to organizers of the protest.The protest is set to start at 9:30 p.m. tonight.
The informal meeting with Coady and the Ciseauxs began constructively when Coady said he was removing the racial slur from his act and he apologized to the Ciseauxs. Owners of the Jungle and Needles’ management were present as were other reporters.
Coady said he would personally apologize to Ciseaux. But Enakai Ciseaux said he didn’t want a personal apology ― he wanted Sharon Needles to make a public apology. Coady said that wouldn’t happen.
“Sharon is an example of current social anxieties who is designed wholeheartedly to put government, to question, mocks concept of wealth… We also do things that question power of language,” Coady said.
“Basically in creating juxtaposition between intent and language. A lot of things Sharon tries to do is try to mock these things [people] really are afraid of and mock these things that control our society…and try to put a comedic twist to it. But I understand it is not designed for everyone or isn’t consumed way that I want it to,” Coady said. “I definitely understand how it can be misinterpreted. Sometimes I don’t even trust my own work. Sometimes I not sure which direction and am constantly growing and evolving.”
Enakai Ciseaux said that as a white man, Coady cannot reclaim the word “nigger.”
“You’re not black. That’s not your word, girl,” he said, adding that as a white male Coady is the “face of racism.”
“You were never called nigger. You can’t do that. Why can’t you see that? What you’re doing is continuing to hurt people who look to you for community,” Enakai Ciseaux said.
Coady said he modify his language in the future.
“If it means anything I have taken it out of my repertoire of language. I can’t fight this one anymore. This is one I lost. My intentions are never to hurt anyone. The good I have done for youngsters and letters I get everyday about bullying, really does make me think,” Coady said.
“There’s ton of things in my art I question. I’m not going to ask if it’s right or wrong, I’m going to let it go. I’m too busy, too exhausted to fight this anymore,” Coady said.