Jeffrey Bowyer Chapman breaks silence on ‘heartbreaking’ exit from ‘shady’ Canada’s Drag Race

Canada’s Drag Race

Former Canada’s Drag Race judge Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman has broken his silence on the toxic behind-the-scenes culture and racist fan bullying that led to his exit.

Bowyer-Chapman, 36, served as a judge in the first season of the Canadian spin-off but left before season two following a campaign of online backlash for his comments as judge.

At the time he cited “scheduling conflicts” as the official reasons for his departure, but he now reveals there was a lot more to it.

Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor and model said he took the job after a positive experience on RuPaul’s Drag Race in the US, but the independent production team in Canada had its own ideas.

“I 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,” he said, “but this was a different set of producers. And I think they were trying to create something impactful and prove themselves along the way.

“As so, there are many instances where looking back I should have paid attention to my intuition and spoken up. And I didn’t.”

Having previously worked with reality TV producers for his series unREAL, he said he was “aware of how dark and how shady that world can be”.

He pointed out several early moments that made him uncomfortable, such as when a “white, gay, male showrunner pulled me aside, right before I was to meet the queens for the first time, and told me I was the ‘man-candy that was there for the queens to drool over’,” he said.

“All of the judges had signed these very ironclad contracts stating that we would not fraternise with any of the contestants or the crew off-set,” which meant “that we would have no personal relationships, or dialogue, or contact with the queens whatsoever, other than when we were filming,” he explained.

But coming into the werk room, “the queens were flirting with me and being suggestive in some ways. My walls went up immediately,” he recalled. “I realised there were different expectations being put on me that were not being placed on the rest of the cast, and nobody was going to protect me.”

The harassment from the showrunner continued as Bowyer-Chapman’s boss told him he needed to play the role of the “sassy” judge on the panel. “And being told that from a white person, ever, as a Black person, it’s like a dog whistle,” he said.

“It’s like what is said of Black women and of Black queer men, meaning that you’re the hot-headed, opinionated one who’s going to tell it like it is and not give a s**t about what anybody has to say. And that’s not who I am.”

Bowyer-Chapman said he was told to play the role of “sassy” judge on the show (YouTube/Tricia Martel)

Bowyer-Chapman suffered online abuse over some of his negative comments towards the queens. He’s now said that producers gave the judges prompts and asked them to read pre-written negative critiques that were added into the edit later on; a source told the Hollywood Reporter that this recording session wasn’t purely negative, and that Bowyer-Chapman signed off on the first three episodes.

The matter of race was a persistent issue for Bowyer-Chapman, who noted that he “didn’t see one Black person” on the crew. “There really was no Black talent,” he said.

But the flood of toxic racism he faced from so-called fans was something else altogether.

“The amount of times that I was called a stupid n****r in my inbox from white, gay men was shocking – specifically because we were in the midst of a racial justice awakening,” he said.

“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.”

The backlash ultimately led Bowyer-Chapman to delete his Twitter account in August last year and was a big factor in his decision to step down as judge. According to him, the fault lies not solely with the fandom but within the show itself.

“As gay men, we unfortunately have grown accustomed to experiencing hate and vitriol and homophobia,” he said. “I guess I had just never experienced it from my own community. That was the part that was most heartbreaking.”

Laura Michalchyshyn, Blue Ant Media’s chief creative officer and an EP of Canada’s Drag Race, told The Hollywood Reporter: “We consider Jeffrey a part of our family, and when he came under attack on social media during last season, we were horrified at the hateful abuse he was forced to endure.

“In addition to clearly and publicly condemning that bullying, we sought to stand with him by blocking and deleting inappropriate and vile racist comments.”

RuPaul and Drag Race streamer World of Wonder declined to comment, but their relationship with Bowyer-Chapman remains good, according to the The Hollywood Reporter.

The publication notes that World of Wonder has been rolling out some anti-bullying measures since RuPaul’s Drag Race season nine in 2017 – a series of PSAs and social media messages reminding viewers to “say love”.