By Joey Nolfi
March 06, 2020 at 03:32 PM EST

RuPaul's Drag Race

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Following multiple catfishing allegations against RuPaul's Drag Race season 12 contestant Sherry Pie, EW has learned that the New York City-based performer has been disqualified from the reality competition series.

The news comes hours before the 28-year-old — whose birth name is Joey Gugliemelli — was set to make her debut tonight on the second half of season 12's two-part premiere, which was taped last year.

“In light of recent developments and Sherry Pie’s statement, Sherry Pie has been disqualified from RuPaul’s Drag Race," VH1 and production company World of Wonder said in a statement to EW. "Out of respect for the hard work of the other queens, VH1 will air the season as planned. Sherry will not appear in the grand finale scheduled to be filmed later this spring.”

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On Wednesday, aspiring actor Ben Shimkus accused Gugliemelli of catfishing him, writing about his alleged experience with the drag performer in a lengthy Facebook post. Shimkus claimed he met Gugliemelli while they studied musical theatre at State University of New York College at Cortland, and that their friendship continued outside of school as well. After Gugliemelli left SUNY Cortland, Shimkus — then a senior — received a tip from a friend about an available role at Playwrights Horizons in New York City. His friend advised him to reach out to a casting director named "Allison Mossey" (spelled "Mossie" in some accounts, though EW was unable to verify which spelling was used to allegedly catfish the victims), who was "immediately" interested in working with him.

"Allison and I went through an email thread that lasted over 150 emails in about three weeks. We covered topics of pay, living situations in the city, when I would have to leave school for rehearsals, and conversations about acting choices for the character. I had to film scenes that felt particularly sexual and awkward, but the opportunity seemed too good to let the overt sexual nature or my inhibitions get in the way," Shimkus wrote, adding that he filmed himself performing awkward material for Mossey in the hopes of landing a role of a character with large muscles in a play called Bulk. "I wanted the professional experience and the bright and shiny object on my resume."

After Mossey ignored his contact requests over a prolonged period, Shimkus says he grew suspicious and contacted Playwrights Horizons directly, and he was told that no one at the company had ever heard of her. (A representative for Playwrights Horizons tells EW the group has never worked with anyone by the name of Allison Mossey/Mossie).

"I reached out to the friend who originally got this email contact. He, too, was in a callback for a different show with the same woman. I told him not to contact her again. I also asked where he had gotten the contact from. It was from Sherry Pie, who was adamant about her friendship with Allison," Shimkus continued. "One of my best friends told me that a colleague who had worked at a theatre doing Hairspray with Sherry also had the same experience with Allison Mossey. Another friend said the same thing had happened to someone she knew. Her friend was also in close contact with Sherry. Wherever Sherry seemed to go, Allison would follow. Since being open about my experience, six people have corroborated stories with me."

In a BuzzFeed interview published Thursday, four other men — including other SUNY Cortland students and members of a Nebraska theater company — joined Shimkus in accusing Gugliemelli of posing as a casting director who coaxed them into submitting fake audition tapes while performing degrading material. One of the men said he agreed to masturbate on camera as part of the process.

On Thursday night, Gugliemelli posted an apology on the Sherry Pie Facebook page, in which he said he was sorry for causing "trauma and pain" before expressing disgust with himself.

"Until being on RuPaul's Drag Race, I never really understood how much my mental health and taking care of things meant. I learned on that show how important 'loving yourself' is and I don't think I have ever loved myself," he wrote. "I have been seeking help and receiving treatment since coming back to NYC. I truly apologize to everyone I have hurt with my actions. I also want to say how sorry I am to my sisters of season 12 and honestly the whole network and production company. All I can do is change the behavior and that starts with me doing that work."

Season 12 of RuPaul's Drag Race continues tonight at 8 p.m. on VH1; it is currently unclear how the show plans to address Gugliemelli's disqualification in subsequent episodes.

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RuPaul's Drag Race

RuPaul — as host, mentor, and creative inspiration — decides who's in and who's out.

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