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“Love you nigger.”
When Sharon Needles, winner of season four of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” used those words to autograph a photo of herself after an April performance in Nashville, she ignited a controversy that followed her to Atlanta late last month.
Out of drag, Needles is a white gay man. The autograph recipient identifies as a queer woman of color.
For critics, including the small group of activists who protested Needles’ June 27 performance at Atlanta gay bar Jungle, the contrast makes Needles a racist who had no right to use the slur.
Some 15 local activists gathered outside Jungle to protest featured performer Sharon Needles at the club's monthly "Fantasy Girls" show Wednesday, June 28.
Needles, the winner of "RuPaul's Drag Race" season 4, has caused controversy for her performances and statements that included the word "nigger," wearing a swastika t-shirt and more. Check here for background.
The protestors, led by Enakai Ciseaux, gathered around 9:30 p.m. and stood just outside the entrance of the club holding signs that read "Racists: Sashay Away," "Racism is Not Art," and "Call me 'nigger' to my face," among other things.
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.
LGBT activists say they are planning a protest of Sharon Needles' appearance in Atlanta on Wednesday, claiming the winner of "RuPaul's Drag Race" is guilty of racist and bigoted comments. But Needles has defended her work and the host of her Atlanta appearance said he has not been able to document instances of offensive behavior.
Needles, who hails from Pittsburgh, Pa., performs Wednesday at Jungle as part of the Fantasy Girls show. A nonviolent demonstration is being planned to educate those attending the show about Needles' racist comments, said Cortez Wright, an organizer of the protest.
"We want to show that not everyone supports what Sharon Needles is doing," said Wright, a person of color who identifies as queer.