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‘The Little Mermaid’ Makeup Artist Defends Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula Transformation

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Melissa McCarthy as Ursula. Disney

Clapping back. The Little Mermaid makeup artist Peter Smith King is responding to backlash over Melissa McCarthy’s transformation into Ursula.  

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Before and after the film’s May 26 premiere, fans expressed concern over the sea witch’s glam following Disney Studios’ release of a behind-the-scenes look at the iconic villain. In the clip, which was shared via Twitter on May 16, King could be seen glamming McCarthy, 52, with bright green eyeshadow and chalky foundation. 

“Now when we said Ursula was inspired by a drag queen, we didn’t mean one who had only been doing it for 3 months,” read one tweet in reference to the late drag queen performer Divine — who inspired the character in the 1989 animated movie. (Animator Rob Minkoff told Vogue in a May 23 interview that “Divine seemed like such a great character … and a funny idea to take [Ursula] and treat her more like a drag queen.”)

“Who the hell did Disney hire to do Ursula’s makeup? Bro was it dark in the room or what?” a different critic expressed via Twitter. A third reaction read: “I’m not offended by a straight person doing Ursula’s makeup — I *am* offended by how f—king awful it is. Also, the lack of respect for the original’s inspiration of Divine is both extremely clear in this makeup and what queer people are most upset by than if the MUA is queer.”  

Melissa McCarthy. Disney

In response, King told Insider on Friday, “I find that very offensive … Why can’t I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist?” He continued: “That’s ridiculous. That’s trying to claim it and that’s fine, if that’s what they wanna do, but don’t put people down because they’re not what they want it to be.”  

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King added: “I personally don’t get it. Yes, I’m very old now, so that’s fine, I get that too, but, you know, a makeup artist or makeup designer could design makeup, they don’t have to have an attachment to the nature of what they’re doing.”  

The beauty expert explained that his work on McCarthy was his own interpretation and was not meant to mimic the original Ursula. 

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“I didn’t really draw on anything,” he told Insider. “I played around quite a lot with different colors, different shapes and stuff … It just was sort of Melissa and I talking and creating. I didn’t really draw on anything at all.” 

In addition to McCarthy, the live-action remake stars Halle Bailey as Ariel, Jonah Hauer-King as Eric, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian and Javier Bardem as King Triton. 

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