When a performer comes to town, Flip Phone director Chad Kampe sends an Uber to pick them up and take them to the venue. That’s exactly what he did on Saturday for Mayhem Miller, a drag queen who competed on the 10th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Miller is the self-described “queen of the party,” a neon vision in brightly colored gowns and striking black eye makeup. He got his stage name from watching Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson’s sex tape; Tommy had “mayhem” tattooed on his lower abdomen.
He was staying at the AC Hotel in Minneapolis and needed to get to UNION Restaurant for the much anticipated Love on Top Beyonce Party, where he would be the headliner. That night, he was wearing a purple mini dress and big Diana Ross hair. It was his first time in the city, and he was ready to put on a show.
He got a message from Kampe saying his ride was downstairs, grabbed his luggage, and headed to the door. When he found the Uber parked outside, he says, the driver shot him a puzzled look. But he went about his business, motioning for the driver to pop the trunk so he could deposit his supplies. He's ordered rides in the past where the driver clearly didn't want him to be there -- long, frosty, uncomfortable rides. But it was a show night, and he had places to go.
He says once he sat down, the driver turned around and gave him a once-over, still looking perplexed, and asked where Miller was headed. "UNION," Miller answered. He says the driver shook his head and said he didn't think this was Miller's car. He asked for Miller's name.
"My name is Mayhem, but I'm not the person who ordered the car," he said. He explained that the promoter had someone call for him -- he wasn't sure who. But he had the screenshot Kampe sent him as proof.
The driver just shook his head. He told Miller he needed to get out.
Miller tried to salvage the situation. He says he asked the driver to call the person who ordered the Uber and confirm that Miller was his passenger. The driver wanted Miller to call him. He couldn't, he protested -- he didn't know who'd made the call in the first place.
It wasn't enough. Miller eventually gave in, got out of the car, and ordered another Uber.
Kampe has never had a performer refused a ride, and Miller has never been kicked out of a car. "I've never felt more 'less than' than in that moment," he says.
On Monday, he took to Twitter. To his surprise, the internet erupted with righteous anger on his behalf.
Girl I would drive you all over earth— Nel Darmo of Tarth (@neldarmo) July 23, 2018
Disgusting! I had one down rate me for being in drag a month ago ��— Emily (@piecestweet) July 23, 2018
Ummmmm who do I have to fight— georgina �� (@AgeOfSleeping) July 23, 2018
What kind of trash— 100% That Binch (@evansknight) July 23, 2018
On top of all the support, the thread was peppered with comments from fellow drag performers who say the same thing happened to them -- drivers from Uber and Lyft taking one look at them, or hearing their voices for the first time, and zooming off.
"It's shocking that this happens on the reg for people," Miller says.
An Uber spokesperson said she’s looking into the incident and that the company has a no-tolerance policy for any kind of “discriminatory language or behavior.”
She also pointed out that drivers often try to ensure that they’re picking up the person who originally ordered the ride, and that maybe this had been a misunderstanding. Perhaps the driver had been confused that it was Miller, not Kampe.
Miller doesn't buy it.
"I've called cars for other people and not been present before. I've done it many times, and it's never been an issue." This wasn't about him not being Kampe, he says. This was about the driver being uncomfortable with who Miller was.
Kampe received a message from Uber on Monday citing some “concerning feedback” and promising to reach out to him.