Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman may have sashayed away from hosting Canada’s Drag Race, but now the Canadian actor and model is speaking out about the  intense online bullying and behind-the-scenes turmoil, which led him to walk  away from the show. 

Warning: This story has details of bullying and a suicide attempt, and might be distressing to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

In an extensive interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bowyer-Chapman  discussed the toxic environment of the production, as well as how the slings  and arrows directed at him by the show’s fanbase affected him emotionally. 

 A Dream Job Turns Ugly 

Bowyer-Chapman, 36, joined the season one judging panel, after several  appearances on RuPaul’s Drag Race, where he had “felt immediately at  home.” For the fledgling judge it was an exciting opportunity. “Drag is magic,”  he told THR. 

His tenure proved short-lived after fans heavily criticised the actor’s pointed  critiques of the contestants, as well as a perceived lack of knowledge about  drag. A (failed) petition to have him removed as a judge even circulated  around social media. The criticism soon turned personal, and malicious. 

A sample of the comments on the Canada’s Drag Race official Instagram  page illuminate the abuse Bowyer-Chapman endured.

“When Jeffrey talks it  makes me cringe,” “Jeffrey is the worst judge ever,” “Fire Jeffrey, can’t stand  him,” “Jeffrey needs to go! He’s ruining the show,” “[email protected],”  and “Jeffrey is insanely annoying to watch. An actor that can’t act.” 

The backlash led Bowyer-Chapman to delete his Twitter account. RuPaul’s  Drag Race UK season one contestant Crystal tweeted her outrage. “So the  black queer judge on Canada’s Drag Race gets bullied off twitter. Ya’ll  happy?” 

 Online trolling left Bowyer-Chapman Shaken 

“The amount of times that I was called a stupid n—er in my inbox from white,  gay men was shocking — specifically because we were in the midst of a  racial justice awakening,” Bowyer-Chapman told THR. 

 “I think that with me receiving all of the hate, and racism, and harassment,  and death threats — it’s shone a light on the insanity of it. It really did show a  lot of people how dark and how toxic the Drag Race trolls have become over  the past couple of years and how unacceptable it is.” 

For Bowyer-Chapman, the hate was particularly hurtful as much of it came  from within the LGBTQ+ community. “As gay men, we unfortunately have  grown accustomed to experiencing hate and vitriol and homophobia,” he told THR. “I guess I had just never experienced it from my own community. That  was the part that was most heartbreaking.” 

 How Drag Race Producers Create Reality 

What fans didn’t realise was that his role as a judge was partially a product of  the production, and not necessarily indicative of his own personal feelings.  

Bowyer-Chapman told THR that judges were fed comments through  earpieces and recorded negative commentary during post-production. “Even  if we didn’t have anything negative to say, you had to come up with  something negative,” he said. 

The audience backlash was swift and came as a shock to Bowyer-Chapman,  who “came into Canada’s Drag Race with a false sense of security because I  had built that trust with the producers of the American show, but this was a  different set of producers.” 

The experience on the show left Bowyer-Chapman shaken.“I remember  watching the first episode on the couch with my partner. And by the time the  credits rolled, just feeling this pit in my stomach.”

He announced his intention  to not return for season two in March 2021. 

 Drag Race Alumni Offer Support 

Canada’s Drag Race season one contestant Ilona Verley told the Star  Observer, “At the time of filming I grew to have hatred towards JBC. He would  be so kind and sweet during the work room walk throughs and so harsh  during the main stage critics. It was really hard to get a read on him so I gave  up trying and just kind of stopped caring about his opinions (which weren’t  even his).” 

“I’m not gonna play dumb. We all knew they had ear pieces in, but to hear  JBC open up about the extent in which those earpieces were being used was  definitely eye opening in understanding the behind the scenes politics he was  experiencing; that made him come off the way he did to us and ultimately the  audience at the hand of the editors,” Verley said. 

Crystal tweeted her support saying, “This man needs his name cleared and a  lot of you owe him an apology.” 

 Drag Race Fan Base Can Be Cruel 

Online bullying has become a common theme for contestants of the Drag Race franchise. 

Drag Race UK season 2 contestant Sister Sister, in a self-penned essay for  The Guardian, said, “I have been tagged in many shocking tweets. Without  going into too much detail, one that came from a blank profile described in  graphic detail how they would like to see me die and what to do with my body.  The toxic fandom have made themselves clear and my mental health has  reached rock bottom…and right now I’m not OK.” 

Ilona Verley, told the Star Observer, “Being in the public eye really showed  me how much words can hurt and cause physical harm to people. After  episode 4, I was physically sick to my stomach over the messages I was  receiving, that then lead to my suicide attempt because I was so sick of  feeling that way. I can only imagine what JBC’s inbox looked like and how he  was truly feeling. People don’t step back and think about how their hatred can  have advanced effects on minority individuals who are already dealing with so  much internalized struggle, and that needs to change.” 

Bowyer-Chapman is currently one of the stars of Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. on  Disney+ and most recently appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race in season 13. 

Canada’s Drag Race season two is set to premiere October 15 with original  judge Brooke Lynn Hytes, joined by new judges Brad Goreski, Traci Melchor  and Amanda Brugel.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

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