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Film and TV

The Little Mermaid: 5 drag queens and LGBT faves who could play Ursula

Reiss Smith July 9, 2019
Ginger Minj and Ursula

Ginger Minj has spoken about her desire to play Ursula. (Getty/Disney)

Will Disney honour The Little Mermaid‘s queer legacy by casting an LGBT+ performer as Ursula in its upcoming remake?

When Disney announced that Halle Bailey—a black singer and actor–would play Ariel in its live action remake of The Little Mermaid, the news was taken by some as a hint that producers might cast other key roles diversely—including main villain and LGBT+ icon Ursula.

The original 1989 animation drew Ursula as a vampy sea witch with purple skin, bold blue eye makeup and a shock of white hair—a design heavily inspired by subversive drag queen Divine, real name Glenn Milstead.

Divine in a red dress
Divine inspired the design of Ursula n the original Little Mermaid. (Ron Galella/WireImage)

According to a 2016 article in Hazlitt, the film’s producer and lyricist Howard Ashman might even have considered casting Milstead for the role.

Jeffrey Schwarz, director of the biographical film I Am Divine, told Hazlitt that Milstead definitely “would have wanted the part” had he not passed away in 1988, shortly after making his mainstream breakthrough in Hairspray.

While the latest reports suggest that Melissa McCarthy is being courted for the upcoming remake, there are a string of drag queens and queer performers who could instead carry on Divine’s legacy.

Ginger Minj

Ginger Minj has admitted that playing Ursula is her “biggest goal.”

“I grew up watching Divine, she was my saviour, she was my RuPaul,” the Drag Race runner-up told Gay Times in December 2018.

“I’ve always felt like, ‘Okay, I’m next in line, I’m gonna be the new Divine.’ And Ursula was based on Divine. Divine would’ve voiced Ursula if she hadn’t died when she did, so I feel like it would be right to have a drag artist do the role.”

Minj said that she is “probably one of the most qualified” drag queens to take on the role.

“I can sing and I can act it, I love that role and I cherish it, it’s a huge part of my life. I think that I should at least be given the opportunity to fight for that role.”

Tituss Burgess

Though not a drag performer, many have called for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Titus Burgess to take on the role of Ursula.

The queer actor and singer got his big break in the Broadway version of The Little Mermaid in 2007, originating the role of Sebastian.

He has since made Ursula’s ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ a part of his repertoire, and after performing the song at the Vulture Festival in July 2018, quipped: “Maybe they’ll get their act together, put me in that movie.”

Nina West

Drag Race’s current Miss Congeniality gave her first audition to play Ursula in February, when she performed as the tentacled witch for a charity fundraiser.

Since graduating from the show,  Nina West has geared her career towards children’s entertainment, releasing an album of original songs called Drag Is Magic.

She told Entertainment Weekly in May that “one of my dreams has been to engage a younger audience, queer parents, and parents of queer kids.”

Describing herself as a “Disney nerd,” she added: “I want to fill that gap and be the drag queen who’s like Barney or Mrs Doubtfire, doing stuff that’s family friendly.”

Peaches Christ

As one of the most successful queens outside of the Drag Race ecosystem, Peaches Christ has made a name for herself with her campy satires of cult films such as Grey Gardens and Death Becomes Her.

A writer, director, producer and performer, Peaches arguably has the strongest CV on this list as well as a personal link to Divine, who she often cites as her biggest inspiration.

Peaches Christ
Peaches Christ says Divine was her first tase of drag. (Ray Chavez/Getty)

In 2015 she told San Francisco’s Left that her very first taste of drag came when Hairspray was being filmed in her native Maryland.

“I wasn’t exposed to drag until high school,” she said. “And then I finally saw Hairspray and was introduced to Divine – everything changed for me.”

Peppermint

Peppermint made history by becoming the fist openly trans women to compete in RuPaul’s Drag Race back in 2017.

Since then she’s become the first trans actress to originate a principal role on Broadway, playing Pyhtio, a non-binary oracle in the musical Head Over Heels.

Peppermint
Peppermint attends the opening night of Head Over Heels on Broadway. (Noam Galai/Getty)

While the show’s reviews have been mixed, many have singled out Peppermint’s performance as a highlight.

Perhaps she’ll make history for a third time by become the first trans actor to lead a Disney film?

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