Drag is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as performances with “clothing more conventionally worn by the other sex, especially exaggeratedly feminine clothing, makeup, and hair adopted by a man.” It may be a controversial topic, but Drag has always played a big part in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
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The live-action remake of Ariel’s story is about to hit theaters this weekend! Actor Melissa McCarty stays true to its drag heritage in her portrayal of Ursula the Sea Witch. In fact, McCarthy has participated in drag herself! She detailed her drag experience in a 2017 Rolling Stone interview, and now brings her expertise to one of the most well known Disney villains.
Ursula in The Little Mermaid is Based on Drag Culture
The animated Ursula, voiced by Pat Carroll and loved by Disney fans, was inspired by the LGBTQ drag queen sensation, Divine. Often referred to as drag’s first superstar, Divine became a cult classic type icon during the 1970s and 1980s.
Two of Divine’s most popular films include Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974). He also played Edna Turnblad in the 1988 film Hairspray.
His drag appearance largely inspired the look animators chose for Ursula in 1989 The Little Mermaid. Her body type, eye makeup, and jewelry all resemble the essence of Divine’s glamour. Ursula even originally had a mohawk to resemble Divine’s look in Pink Flamingos!
Melissa McCarthy’s Drag Experience and Her Ursula
Melissa McCarthy worked to become a stand-up comic in New York City in the 1990s and performed drag on the side. She specifically told Out Magazine that as an actor she couldn’t separate the “unbelievable art form” from the character of Ursula. When playing the part, McCarthy says she “always goes back to Divine.”
McCarthy speaking to Rolling Stone about her drag experience said,
It was me there with my lovely gay guy friends and I was dressed like a big old drag queen. I went by Miss Y. I had a gold lamé swing coat on, a huge wig, big eyelashes. I talked about being incredibly wealthy and beautiful and living extravagantly, and the first night worked great. It was such a happy, good feeling, and it gave me such confidence.
Melissa McCarthy now has a chance to use her comedy roots from her early acting days in a huge Disney movie, already projected to make millions of dollars. Fans have faith in her ability to bring Ursula to life alongside Halle Bailey as Princess Ariel in The Little Mermaid.
Catch the drag-inspired character in this Melissa McCarthy movie in theaters on May 26!