RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Mimi Imfurst has admitted to allegations that she sexually harassed two men online.
Two Philadelphia drag queens came forward to accuse Imfurst, real name Braden Chapman, of harassing them on Facebook Messenger.
Kyle Ayotte, 25 and Ethan Raysor, 24, said to Philadelphia Magazine they were originally afraid to speak out due to Imfurst’s influence in their community. They decided to break their silence because they found out about other victims, which outweighed their fears of getting blacklisted.
“I was so shocked that he opened up to me so quickly, and I couldn’t comprehend what was happening or how to handle it,” Kyle Ayotte said of the messages Imfurst sent to him. “The most famous drag queen in the city was into me, and I felt obligated to go with the flow.”
He added: “Braden was preying on my inexperience in the drag scene to satisfy his sexual fetish to the point that I felt personally obligated to go through with it because I had dreams of becoming a professional drag performer.”
After inquiries about her harassment of the two men, Imfurst provided a statement apologizing for her conduct, and said she continued the conversations because she thought they were wanted by all parties.
“I thought that our conversation, which included sexual and nonsexual discussions, was consensual,” she said. “I realize now that my intent to engage in a playful and welcomed conversation that I initiated did not have the impact on the them that I thought it did.”
She added: “I deeply regret that due to my nature as a public person, they felt pressured or obligated to partake in these conversations, one of which lasted over two years back and forth. I wish I had known more clearly that they did not want to participate in the conversations. If I would have known that, I would have stopped.”
She went on to say that she would “never want Kyle or Ethan to feel violated” and she would work to be a “better person and leader in Philadelphia.”
While Imfurst said that the conversations appeared to be consensual, Ayotte claimed the opposite, saying that he did try and stop the harassment and told the drag queen that their exchange made him uncomfortable, but that his protests were ignored.
“I made it pretty clear that I was uncomfortable with participating, [and] I would ignore the messages,” he said. “Then I’d get a repeated ‘Hey,’ ‘Hi,’ ‘you’re up late,’ or ‘are you mad at me?’ and I’d continue to ignore it.”
Raysor added that his incident speaks to a larger issue that the LGBTQ community and drag performance scene needs to solve.
“We’re not exempt from the pain these incidents cause and the stigma that comes from calling out the powerful people responsible for it,” he said. “What I experienced was an abuse of power through manipulation. Gay or straight, no one should have to go through that.”