“The Little Mermaid” makeup designer Peter Smith King has heeded criticism of Ursula’s revamped look that Melissa McCarthy brings to life in the live-action remake, specifically against the belief that a queer artist should have gotten the job.
Rob Minkoff, character illustrator for the original 1989 film, pulled the cue from late drag performer Divine for Ursula. When speaking with TIME, Minkoff said, “Divine seemed like such a great, larger-than-life character, and it seemed like a funny, weird idea to take… [Ursula] And I treat her like a drag queen.”
Since revealing the first footage of Ursula to McCarthy, King’s iteration of the aquatic villain has been met with criticism from some drag artists. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 14 contestant Keri Colby answered To the Twitter videoStating that “[this is] Definitely why we should hire up and coming gay artists with a pulse in the present and a vision for the future more often.”
King responded to the criticism in a recent interview with Insider. “I find that very insulting,” he said. “Why can’t I do a good job as a gay makeup artist?”
“That’s ridiculous. That’s an attempt to claim that and that’s fine, if that’s what they want to do,” King said. “But don’t degrade people because they’re not what they want to be.”
When working on researching the character, King says he had a close partnership with McCarty. “We discussed everything. I mean, we both laughed about how much we love drag queens and drag queens and stuff,” King said.
King also revealed that Ursula was not based on a divinity like Minkoff: “It wasn’t based on any traction at all.” ”