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Drag performer accused of stealing $700 from audience member's purse

A viral TikTok video appears to show a former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant removing cash from a woman’s purse. 
Image: Shannel, "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars" Series Premiere Party
Shannel attends "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars" Series Premiere Party at XL Nightclub, in New York, on Oct. 24, 2012.Daniel Zuchnik / Getty Images file

A “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alumnus has been accused of stealing money from a woman’s purse in the middle of a Las Vegas “Drag Brunch” performance. 

A video posted to TikTok by Megan Gerber shows former “Drag Race” contestant Shannel, whose real name is Bryan Watkins, removing cash from a purse while the audience looks on. At the end of the video, which has over 4 million views, Watkins puts down the purse and struts away. Gerber alleges that the purse is hers and that about $700 was taken. 

Gerber did not respond to a request for comment.

In a series of TikTok videos, Gerber shared additional details about the incident, which occurred Saturday at the Mexican-themed bar and grill franchise Señor Frogs. Gerber alleged that after the incident, Watkins, who was one of the brunch’s headliners, realized Gerber was upset and asked her from the stage what was wrong. When Gerber accused Watkins of stealing hundreds of dollars, Watkins responded, “B—-, please, I took a dollar,” Gerber alleged. 

“There were tables next to us that saw him take the wad of cash out of my wallet, and nobody told him he could go into my purse,” Gerber said in one of the videos. She alleged that she then excused herself from the performance and reported the incident to the venue’s general manager. Afterward, she said, she reported the incident to the police.

Las Vegas police confirmed in an email that they had received Gerber’s larceny report. A spokesperson said the case has not yet been assigned to a detective but that it “will be turned over to that bureau or detective to do a followup or investigation.” 

On Wednesday, Watkins posted an 11-minute video to Instagram titled “In My Words,” extending an apology to Gerber and an explanation of the “comedic bit” during the drag performance. 

“During my performance, I did pick up her purse, and I danced around with it for about 20 to 30 seconds or so. I opened it up. I took a couple of dollars out of it. I added it to the wad of singles that actually were already in my hand from having performed around the room,” Watkins said. 

He ended the video by saying: “No, I did not steal $700 from her purse. Yes, I inappropriately picked up her purse, and I made comments to her that were in poor taste. Yes, I ruined her birthday experience, and I apologize for that. It was never my intention, and I feel horrible for that. So for these reasons, I really am sorry and refrain from ever doing a bit like this in my show again.” 

Watkins did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Voss Events, the event-planning company behind the “Drag Brunch” show, said that only $2 was removed from Gerber’s purse and that it was later returned to her. 

“We have taken appropriate actions to ensure this never happens again at any of our events and feel terrible this guest had her experience ruined by this unfortunate incident,” the spokesperson said, adding that Gerber and her friends were offered a full refund of $1,200 plus an additional $700, “despite the fact it was never stolen.” 

The spokesperson said the company asked Gerber to take down her TikTok videos, alleging that they are inciting hate and threats directed toward its drag performers, but Gerber declined and “insisted on $7,000 in compensation to remove the posts.” 

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