“RuPaul’s Drag Race” fan favorite Darius Jeremy “DJ” Pierce, who goes by the stage name Shangela, was accused of rape in a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that while filming the first season of his hit HBO show “We’re Here” in 2020, Pierce raped one of the show’s former production assistants, Daniel McGarrigle. McGarrigle, 39, is seeking unspecified damages from Pierce, 42, and the show’s production company, Buckingham Television.
McGarrigle alleges the encounter occurred in a Monroe, Louisiana, hotel room following an after-work party in February 2020. The lawsuit states that Pierce purchased and handed McGarrigle five shots of alcohol and two mixed drinks at the party, and asked McGarrigle to come back to Pierce’s hotel to help him pack for an early flight the next day.
At the hotel room, the suit states, McGarrigle “immediately threw up in the toilet.” Pierce then allegedly suggested McGarrigle spend the night with him in his room, saying, “If you want to lay down in my bed until you feel better, you can do that.” McGarrigle agreed, according to the lawsuit, and passed out on Pierce’s bed fully clothed.
At some point throughout the evening, McGarrigle alleges, he woke up with his pants pulled down and poppers — a liquid commonly used by gay men during anal sex — being poured on the side of his face. McGarrigle then “felt Pierce on the lower half of his body, rubbing his penis against his buttocks, attempting to insert himself into his anus,” the lawsuit says.
In response, McGarrigle claims, he screamed “No!” and tried to fight Pierce off but felt “extremely weak.” Throughout the alleged assault, the lawsuit states, Pierce told McGarrigle, “I know you want it, and you’re going to take it.”
After the encounter, the suit states, McGarrigle was “fearful of losing his job” and “did not immediately report the sexual assault to the authorities or to Buckingham TV,” and he “tried to maintain a cordial relationship with Pierce.” McGarrigle then resigned from the role in the summer of 2021, the suit states.
According to McGarrigle’s attorney, Daniel Gilleon, McGarrigle has been in contact with the Ruston Police Department in northern Louisiana regarding the alleged incident since December. No charges have been filed at this time.
Pierce characterized the allegations as “entirely meritless,” saying in a statement that they “perpetuate damaging stereotypes that are harmful not only to me but also to my entire community.”
“This newest filing is nothing but an attempt to shake down both me and a well-regarded television company,” Pierce said. “No one should be fooled: it has no basis in fact or in law, and it will not succeed.”
A representative for HBO’s “We’re Here” said the network and Buckingham Television received a complaint from McGarrigle in July 2021 regarding “an incident that was alleged to have occurred in early 2020.”
“Buckingham and HBO take the safety and well-being of personnel on our shows very seriously, and Buckingham immediately launched an investigation,” the representative said. “The investigation concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support these allegations.”
After competing in seasons two and three of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and season three of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” Pierce, who has 1.6 million followers on Instagram, became one of the franchise’s breakout stars.
Aside from filming “We’re Here” — a reality show that also stars fellow “Drag Race” alumni Eureka O’Hara and Bob the Drag Queen — Pierce became the first drag queen to compete in the U.S. version of the hit competition series “Dancing With the Stars” last year. In June, Pierce spoke at a Pride event hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris at the vice president’s official residence.