A former production assistant (PA) on HBO’s docuseries We’re Here claims that drag performer Shangela, one of the show’s stars and a RuPaul’s Drag Race alum, sexually assaulted him. Shangela has denied the allegations.
Daniel McGarrigle filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging that Darius Jeremy “D.J.” Pierce, better known as Shangela, raped him in a Louisiana hotel room after a 2020 crew party, the L.A. Times reports. The performer has categorically denied the allegations.
McGarrigle’s suit alleges that at the February 25, 2020, party celebrating the end of production on a Season 1 episode, Pierce bought the P.A. several rounds of drinks. After the party, McGarrigle says he accompanied Pierce back to his hotel room, where he fell asleep, fully clothed, on Pierce’s bed after vomiting in the bathroom.
According to the suit, McGarrigle awoke to what he alleges were liquid poppers being poured on his face. The lawsuit says that McGarrigle’s pants were pulled down, and Pierce attempted to penetrate him. When McGarrigle screamed “No” and tried to fight Pierce off, the suit alleges that Pierce overpowered him, saying, “I know you want it, and you’re going to take it.”
“I tried to fight him off, but I was weak, and he was stronger than me, and he held me down,” McGarrigle told The L.A. Times.
Three other crewmembers, including McGarrigle’s brother, confirmed that McGarrigle had spoken to them about the alleged rape during the production of We’re Here’s second season in 2021. McGarrigle says that he informed the show’s creators, Steven Warren and Johnnie Ingram, about the alleged incident after he left the show in September 2021.
McGarrigle claims that after briefly posting about his allegations on Instagram late last year—he reportedly deleted the post after roughly 12 hours other men contacted him with similar allegations against Pierce.
In a statement, Pierce said he was “hurt and disgusted” by the allegations, which he characterized as “totally untrue.” “They are personally offensive and perpetuate damaging stereotypes that are harmful not only to me but also to my entire community,” Pierce said. “An external investigation into this embittered individual’s claims previously concluded that they were completely without merit.”
McGarrigle confirmed that after he spoke to Ingram and Warren in September 2021, the show’s production companies opened an investigation. But McGarrigle says the investigators’ questions made him uncomfortable, and he declined to participate without a lawyer.
After he posted his allegations on Instagram last December, McGarrigle was contacted by Leslie E. Wallis, an attorney for Industrial Media, one of We’re Here’s production companies. After speaking to investigators again, McGarrigle hired a lawyer, who informed Wallis in April that he intended to move ahead with litigation.
Last month, Wallis emailed McGarrigle’s lawyer.
“Based on the information we have obtained, we have been unable to corroborate Mr. McGarrigle’s allegations,” Willis wrote. “Based on your message to us, we understand that your position is that neither Daniel McGarrigle nor his brother Ryan will speak to us outside of the litigation context to respond to our additional questions. If this changes, please let us know, and we will reopen our investigation at that time.”
Shangela characterized McGarrigle’s lawsuit as “an attempt to shake down both me and a well-regarded television company.” “No one should be fooled: It has no basis in fact or in law, and it will not succeed,” he wrote. “As a hardworking and outspoken drag entertainer for more than a decade, I know that I am far from alone in battling ignorance, bigotry, and prejudice, all of which played a role in the filing of this complaint. That is why I will fight this entirely meritless lawsuit and not allow it to destroy me and those I love or harm the causes we all stand for.”
McGarrigle said that he’d hesitated to come forward with his allegations, partly due to the increasing hostility toward drag performers on the political right. He said he feared that anti-LGBTQ+ conservatives would weaponize his claims to perpetuate the false “groomer” narrative that has led to Republican efforts to restrict or ban drag shows in states nationwide severely.
The Emmy-nominated We’re Here follows Shangela and co-stars Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka O’Hara as they travel the U.S., giving drag make-overs to folks in small towns.