Earlier this week, a Facebook post shook Philadelphia’s Gayborhood, as Drag Queen Entertainment co-founder Jimmy Boone (and boyfriend of frequent Gayborhood queen Astala Vista) accused now former Drag Wars hostess and former RuPaul’s Drag Race competitor (Season 3 and All Stars 1) of sexual assault. Boone accuses Imfurst (real name: Braden Chapman) of assault on the set of the music video for her song “Where The Party’s At”. Boone posted the accusation on his Facebook page earlier this week;
** TW: Sexual Abuse ** After almost six years of thinking “Should I say something?” or “Will anyone actually…
After almost six years of thinking “Should I say something?” or “Will anyone actually care?”…. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to share one of my first experiences in the “Local Drag Scene.” Sorry in advance, this is going to be a long one… In Summer of 2014, My boyfriend, Joseph Cassise III, and I signed up to be unpaid extras in Mimi Imfurst’s (Braden’s) upcoming music video. Joey hadn’t even performed in Drag yet and the gig was for us to be guys in our bathing suits around the pool. We get to the house in Cherry Hill, NJ where the video is being filmed and wait for Mimi to be ready. Once Mimi was ready to go, she came out of the sliding glass door of the house, walked down the deck right to where Joey and I were standing. She looked me up and down and then proceeded to fondle my genitals through my bathing suit and held on until she was able to feel every part she wanted to. While she did this, she very flirtatiously asked “…and who are you?”
I spoke with Jimmy Boone earlier this week regarding this alleged assault. Boone was forthright and direct his his allegations and stood by his original statement;
Michael Cook: What made you want to come forward with your allegations against Mimi Imfurst?
Jimmy Boone: It is honestly something that I wanted to do ever since I got wind that what happened to me was not actually a one time incident. Her grabbing people’s crotches and grabbing genitalia used to be a part of Philly Drag Wars, so it almost was like an accepted part of the culture. I did not really go to Philly before my boyfriend started getting involved with drag actually, we started going to the Gayborhood and getting to know people when he started getting an interest in drag. I did not really know anything before that. Once everything happened during this music video, that was my first interaction with Mimi Imfurst, and after that I was terrified. I ended up working with other queens and would hear about what she would do to them. Not so much sexually, but with pay, being very difficult to work with, and it was almost an elephant in the room that no one wanted to speak up about. To this day, I can’t describe the power that she has over people. I consider myself to be independent and outspoken, but Mimi Imfurst was my kryptonite when it came to that; I can’t pinpoint it really.
MC: You and your boyfriend own your own corporation correct?
JB: We launched Drag Queen Entertainment about three years ago and we’ve been busy ever since. It didnt leave much time for self reflection or mental thought on those things. Quarantine gave me some time to look at some things and it kind of just felt like it was time. I also watched the Philly Black Queer & Burlesque Town Hall, and there was a part where Mimi was called out for what I think was described as “sexual misconduct”. There was no accountability or recognition, and it didnt frankly seem like she gave a shit about anything. It was decided at that point that I think more people that actually have an experience with this needed to come forward. I know what happened to me wasn’t good; if I was in retail and someone above me did this, it would not be a good situation. At the end of the day whether it’s drag or otherwise, it’s not right. I always felt kind of guilty; several years ago Mimi had online sexual conversations with people and the conversations were inappropriate and she was abusing her power. I felt guilty that I did not speak up and say anything, and that was in the back of my head.
MC: The statement you made on Facebook was both shocking and very detailed.
JB: The statement I made took me four to five days to put together, I don’t just blurt things out on Facebook. I like to type them out, reflect on them, and make sure it is exactly the message I want to portray and not simply reacting to something. I’m happy with the way it came out, even though it was a novella by the time that it was done, and I feel it portrays the story that way that it happened.
MC: Have you heard from Mimi Imfurst since you released your statement?
JB: Not at all. The last time we spoke was in October of 2018 we had started a drag brunch. It was right next door to where she does one at the Punchline and she was not happy about that, and we had words about that. That was also when I confronted her about touching me and she left me on “read” in the message. In March of 2019, I had reached out to her again because she had added a bunch of queens to her Punchline roster and they were a bunch of queens that I was already working with at my new brunch. She had told the queens that were working for her that they could not work with me, but I did not bring up anything about her touching me at that point. She just addressed the questions on the queens at that point and nothing else.
MC: What has been the reaction from the queens in Philadelphia?
JB: I’ll be honest, the support that I have received is about twice as much as I was expecting. I did not put this out there to get likes and just wanted people to know the truth about this person. There are rumors and speculation, but I wanted something concrete and in writing about this so that everyone knew where I stood, what the facts were, and what this person is capable of. The amount of people that have commented on the post itself and have reached out to me privately have been overwhelming and I could not be more grateful. There are a few that I have not heard from that I am a little surprised at as well.
MC: When did you fall in love with the art of drag and turn it into a business?
JB: It was probably watching how much of a natural my boyfriend was at it. His third time on stage was Philly Drag Wars, which was a big event at the time. He was voted on by the judges to all be on their teams and it was a big deal. He was a natural. In Philadelphia at that time, there were a few “powers at be” at the time and a lot of shady business practices at the time. The highest booking fee you could get was fifty dollars, and that amount was not physically possible to live off of. When I was sitting in the audiences at Mimi’s events and we all paid a ten to twelve dollar cover to get in, that money is going somewhere; there’s money here. Why are the people putting on the entire show not receiving any of that? We realized that if Joey wants to do this full time for a living, we would have to produce our own things and not rely on booking fees.
I left a retail job and was bouncing around and ended up at a pizza delivery place. It had just been taken over and they were looking for new ways to get people in the bar. He was about two years into drag and we decided to pitch them a show and see how it goes. The owners loved the idea and we ended up selling out the room. I ended up getting a text later on that the owners were cancelling the show and closing the doors.I left the house and was not coming back without a venue. I need up getting into Ollie Gators in Berlin, but we took over the catering room and did the same show we were going to do. We had a successful night, all the queens involved had a great time we realized that this was what we wanted to do. We phased out of our careers and launched Drag Queen Entertainment in January of 2018.He has been full time since then, I went full time in January of 2019.
MC: What do you want to come from going public about what has happened with Mimi Imfurst? Are you looking for an apology or public accountability?
JB: I can say with all confidence that I do not want or need an apology. I have already moved past it in that sense. Yesterday was a strange and big day for me; it took me about fifteen minutes to click “post” and put the statement out there. Once I did, the weight of release that I felt was something that I never expected. If there was going to be a genuine apology, it probably would have come two years ago when I bought it up to her the first time. Anything now is to save face or to not lose an opportunity. I don’t wish harm on her or wish her to lose jobs, but she has proven that when she is in a position of power, that power is abused. I don’t think she should be in any position of power. Unfortunately, what she is doing and the events with Live Nation put her in a position of power. She has an International events marketing company behind her, so that is a lot more of an opportunity than a lot of event producers have and that puts her on a pedestal and makes people not hold her as accountable in my opinion, or allows her to get away with things because she has an opportunity to provide. There are a lot of people who may not know also. I don’t think that Mimi should be in a position of power and would find it hard to believe that while having a national brand, there is another person that has been abused in some way. I feel like she has shown who she is over and over and recreates herself in a new light. Drag Wars was the thing for a while, then the Drag Diva Brunch, and she also does the Philly Drag Awards. This past awards show, someone teamed up with her and the event was actually a fundraiser.
MC: You have definitely spoken out and now things are going to change; are you ready for that shift?
JB: When I did this, I never thought I would be speaking out about it, so I wanted to be sure I got everything out in the post I wrote. The post you saw was about two pages of a word document, and originally what I had typed was four to five pages and every experience I had ever had with Mimi. As I typed, I realized that I could almost create a website of situations that I had been in and things that I knew. There are just so many examples of things that she has done wrong, and some are not even my own experiences. I felt that sharing my this experience enough should open peoples eyes. There are a handful of people that I had told, but there are plenty that I had not. There are a lot of people that I know that are good hearted people that are working for her and not knowing what she has done; I wanted to make sure all of the facts were out there.
Writer’s Note: As I prepared to completed this piece, I reached out to several of Mimi Imfurst’s colleagues in the Philadelphia drag scene, several of which refused to go on the record. One of which came forward with a statement on the performer that I definitely did not expect. The following statement is from drag performer Miss Troy (also known as Aunt Mary Pat) a former colleague of Mimi Imfurst in the Philadelphia drag scene.
My drag career in Philly began in the Spring of 2016. I was told by many fellow performers that if you wanted to get booked than you had to do Drag Wars. I had attended the previous two cycles as an audience member to support my friends. It was so exciting and so many people attended. I knew I had to get in on this.
Before my cycle began, I had met Braden (Mimi Imfurst) in the downstairs lounge at Voyeur after one of the shows. At this point, I had never heard anything negative about Mimi & had only known her from TV. My boyfriend at the time was talking to Mimi and shortly after speaking, she leaned in and kissed him. I walked up as she was doing it, and then she grabbed me, leaned in and kissed me too; it was kind of weird. After that, we finished our drinks and left. I had witnessed a few things prior to my cycle that disturbed me as well. On the mic, she yelled “Get that Mexican out of here” to my Puerto Rican drag mom. She had made derogatory jokes. She had cut queens of color over cute, skinny, white queens. Yet still, nobody quit working for her, and Drag Wars went on as normal.
When I started drag, Mimi did not know who I was. I was fairly new to drag and was clearly treated as a throwaway body on the stage. After a few weeks, I started receiving messages from Mimi, either directly after the show or late at night on the weekends. I entertained them at first because I didn’t want to upset Mimi or get kicked off of the show. She would invite me over to her house and I would fake a reason that I couldn’t go. Eventually, I got into a relationship and she stopped messaging me.
Throughout the competition, Mimi constantly was gaslighting us. Manipulating the show to make it more like a live TV show rather than a local competition. Drag Wars was a popularity contest and not a talent show. It was about how Mimi could gather your cell phone number and email, and to see who put the most money in her pocket. $10 was charged at the door. Contestants received no money throughout the duration of the show. The judges were paid less than $100 per show. Let’s say, the show was attended by at least 100 people each week. That means Mimi earned $15,000. The prize was $1,000. If you subtract the cost of judges and the prize, that means Mimi walked away with almost $10,000.
After the show, I worked for her brunch. It all started nice enough. I was desperate for work and she was paying me. But it became clear she was underpaying us and profiting off of our hard work. She gave her closer friends more dates and opportunities, and always had a “token” person of color in the cast. She would do themed shows, take all the well-known songs and leave us with scraps.
Finally, two years ago I did return for Drag Wars All-Stars. It consisted of five shows, with one per month. She promised cash prizes to the winners of each show and the overall winner. I received no money despite being in the Top 2. The finale show, I won each round. I made the top 2 and lost to another contestant. I was later told that the finale had been rigged. I was told in the final round only my name was in the random bucket, to set up the lip-syncs. Mimi had a narrative in mind and tried to drive it. After I was informed of this, I cut all ties with Braden, Mimi, Faux Real and all the other aliases she has business under. Mimi has since stolen show ideas from me, harassed me online, has threatened to expose me and “ruin me,” and used several different accounts to track me online. I have blocked Mimi and truly want her to apologize. I want her to admit her wrong-doings and take responsibility for her actions. I think the only way to make amends is to step down and remove herself from the Philadelphia performance scene.
I reached out to Mimi Imfurst for comment on these allegations and she wholeheartedly denies any wrongdoing. She gives her explanation below:
Jimmy Boone’s allegations are 100% false. I have had numerous altercations with Jimmy since Fall 2018. He has demonstrated a constant pattern of trying to undercut my business, at any cost. This lie is just another desperate attempt as he seeks professional gain for his own company. Since forming his own company with his boyfriend, their company has nearly duplicated my programming, business models, and advertising styles. They even went as far as launching a competing drag brunch in the same building where my drag brunch is and attempted to hire the same cast I employ. Yes, I do have a non-compete clause that is an industry standard for obvious reasons. When I put my foot down to protect my business, Mr. Boone first made this accusation, knowing it would hurt me. I generally don’t respond to works of fiction, so I ignored him. If I did do something as egregious as sexually assault Jimmy, why would he have featured me in his promotional commercial and hired me multiple times since late 2017?
Troy Hendrickson is another troubled person with a history of maliciousness toward me. He has been very bitter since losing Drag Wars All-Stars. He is extremely talented and seemed to be a shoe-in to win, but he lost his final lip sync against a drag queen dressed as Charlie Brown and still hasn’t gotten over the unanimous decision of six judges that the other queen won. Since losing, he has engaged in harassing behavior including photoshopping my head on animals, posting poorly written nursery rhyme style raps about me and even going so far as dressing up as me to host other events in a stalker-esque manner. His extreme behavior when he loses is legendary in Philadelphia. He also doesn’t seem to understand the true costs that go into mounting a production like Drag Wars, which I have already stated that I won’t be producing again in the future and I am taking a break from Philadelphia Queer Nightlife. I do not take Troy’s accusations lightly, especially when after losing Drag Wars, he went and produced an identical competition using the same business model where his own boyfriend was unfairly a competitor.
I admit that I have acted inappropriately in the past. It was embarrassing and hurtful to others; I owned up to my behavior and I have apologized. It is something that I think about every single day with remorse as I strive to be a better person. That being said I refuse to apologize for the lies from from two angry cis white male competitors, trying to weaponize petty drag drama and my polarizing drag character to co-opt some of the most important social justice movements of our lifetime for their own personal gain and vendetta.
Cover Image of Mimi Imfurst Courtesy of Mimi Imfurst (Facebook)