Early in 2020, musical theater actor Ben Shimkus made pointed claims directed firmly at New York City drag queen and then-RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12 contestant Sherry Pie. What followed was an avalanche of allegations, witnesses and Facebook posts that painted a much different face on who Sherry Pie apparently was. While the allegations led to Sherry’s disqualification from the show, she has recently reappeared online and on The Tamron Hall Show, openly discussing the events that transpired in early 2020 and where she is now.
While Logan Hardcore had an extensive and direct conversation with Sherry on her own podcast, the perspective of the victims is one that has not been heard, until now. I sat down exclusively with Ben Shimkus to discuss the past year. Whether it is how he feels about Sherry Pie’s attempted return to the limelight, his perspective on the media now, and whether or not there is a place in nightlife ever again for this performer, this brave and refreshingly truthful voice is a much needed one.
Michael Cook: It has been a year of true highs and lows for you; how have you been first of all?
Ben Shimkus: Well, I haven’t had to secretly perform in drag throughout the past year… so I guess better than some?
MC: What has been the response that you have gotten since speaking up during this time?
BS: The response is really dependent on what community it is coming from. Fellow queer people have been courteous and understanding of our stories. Otherwise, the response has been mixed.
MC: What do you think of Joey attempting to work again as Sherry Pie without acknowledging some of the details (steroids, coercion, etc)
A: There were private conversations Joey could have had with us through a mediator that would have created his accountability and our closure. Instead, Joey decided to hire a PR team and test out new material away from public scrutiny. It’s blatantly wrong and self centered. He has not atoned for what he did to so many of us.
MC: What do you think of the entire Tamron Hall interview as well as the subsequent fallout from it? What was it like hearing him speak about it? Did you believe it?
BS: Joey’s words were secondary for me. I have seen this song and dance from him before, so I paid him no mind. Tamron Hall is a far more accountable person than Joey is. As such, I was incredibly disappointed in this interview. She says “let’s talk about it,” but didn’t want to talk with any of the victims. It seemed counterintuitive to the premise of her show to only speak to the perpetrator.
The interview with Ryan Mitchell was the best part. Our community needs more accountability on our anti-racist work, myself included. Ryan has spoken further on the subject in the wake of this interview, and his nuanced view of racism in our community is something that deserves way more platforming than a predator. He should have been given a longer segment than Joey.
MC: We have heard of Joey working as Sherry Pie and is attempting a rebrand as it looks; what are your thoughts on ever seeing Sherry Pie on stage again?
BS: Queens perform in queer safe spaces. This is someone that Tamron was openly comparing to R. Kelly, Jeffrey Epstein, and Harvey Weinstein. Our communities closest public equivalent to Jeffrey Epstein shouldn’t occupy our safe spaces.
MC: Has Joey ever reached out to you to apologize personally or make amends? He mentioned on The Tamron Hall Show that he had reached out to some victims and still spoke with some of them.
A: Joey apologized to me with the same words five years ago. He then victimized at least 20 people to my knowledge and subjected them to even worse things than he did to me. So yes, but I don’t accept it. Apology and genuine accountability are different things.
MC: Is there a world where you think Sherry Pie can ever return to the stage?
MC: What would you say to Joey if given the chance and what do you want to hear from him that you have not? What amends have not been done.
BS: I don’t ever want to speak to him again. I will happily speak to mediators should he choose to hire those and actually generate accountability. He chose to hire a PR team instead, which shows that we are of completely different minds in how he is going to come back from this.
MC: What message do you want to give LGBT media?
BS: The LGBT* media has set the standard for how to respond to a #metoo story. Without the incredible pieces written by LGBT journalists, our story wouldn’t have been heard. So first off, I want to say thank you.
I know Joey is reaching out to a lot of people in the media for positive stories. It is the request of multiple victims that we should not platform him at all in our community. We would like everyone in the LGBT* media to reject his search for positive write ups.
If you absolutely want a story, tell it from our perspective. There are 40 victims, many of whom have public social media profiles and have spoken at length about what he did to us. Reject his request and speak to us instead, as Instinct Magazine has chosen to do here.
MC: Has this sparked anything new in you in terms of advocacy?
BS: I will go where the winds of change need me. I’ve learned I am a fighter this year. If there is a calling that needs me, I will be there. It is the least I can do for a community that has consistently stood in solidarity with us throughout the year.
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