A Twitter thread once went viral amongst the gay community about how gay men are celestially assigned a female celebrity (aka, a queen) to worship for the rest of their lives. The replies were full of hilarious stories about having to defend queens who had public downfalls, such as Lindsay Lohan or, in my case, Britney Spears. If I had to distill down the Hulu documentary film Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl, I’d say it plays like a memorable response to this thread. The description of the film is intentionally vague, but like Grey Gardens, Queenmaker has the makings of a future LGBTQ+ classic.
Split into three parts, the story starts with a brief history of New York City socialites and how the game was changed by Paris Hilton and Tinsley Mortimer in the early aughts. Interviewees include Tinsley Mortimer and fellow socialite Olivia Palermo, plus journalists (Ben Widdicombe, Emily Gould, Kelly Cutrone, Lola Ogunnaike), photographers (Patrick McMullen, Adam Hoff), and publicists (R. Couri Hay and Kelly Brady). This section leads to the rise of blogs that specialized in socialite coverage and tearing women down, including Gawker and Socialite Rank.
The second part of the film focuses on Park Avenue Peerage, a popular socialite blog that felt like it was written by an insider. Rather than tearing women down, the blog lifted them up and focused on positive images and stories. In particular, the blog focused so much on Tinsley Mortimer that she was accused of being its ghostwriter. Instead, it was an 18-year-old college student in Illinois named James Kurisunkal who, once unmasked, got to live his dream of living in New York City and partying with the “It Girls” he idolized. Interviews include James’ parents (Philomena & Joseph Kurisunkal) and his college best friend (Casey Blakely).
As for part three… well, that’s where I don’t want to spoil anything. I went into the documentary knowing nothing but the synopsis Hulu provides, which steers clear of anything related to the final act, which is about half of the 90-minute runtime. I will say that it merges together the stories of the first two parts, while also making sense of the film’s main framing device – a mystery woman in a pink dress sitting on a pink couch wearing a tiara and watching footage from the film on a pink TV. Who is she? You’ll have to watch to find out, but I promise it’s surprising.
Directed by Zackary Drucker, Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl has a specific and unique voice. Archival footage is paired with animation that uses cut-out photos, as if from a magazine, to depict moments that weren’t caught on camera. The visual language also leans into the Y2K esthetic, often showing twenty-year-old computer monitors as a muse scrolls through old blog posts relevant to the story. Ultimately, Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl is the story of a gay man who met his queen and how their life changed from that moment forward.
I give Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl 4 out of 5 animated glitter blog wallpapers.
Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl premieres Wednesday, May 17th, exclusively on Hulu.