Desmond Napoles first became a social media sensation back in 2015, when he sashayed his way down Fifth Avenue in the New York City Pride March, wearing a pink tutu. He was 8 years old.
But despite the advocacy work that he’s done with young people in the queer community and the numerous performances he’s given that have been praised, Desmond and his family have frequently come under attack by people who question his parent’s intentions in giving their son, now 11, such a public platform. That skepticism has recently led to the logging of over 200 complaints with New York City’s Administration for Child Services (ACS).
“Truthfully, we were investigated more intensely than any case they’ve had before,” Desmond’s mother, Wendy Napoles, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Because they’ve never dealt with this before, ACS. They’ve never dealt with that many calls for one family, they’ve never dealt with it being an LGBTQ case related to a youth.”
The complaints that led to a months-long investigation were sparked by a performance that Desmond did back in December 2018 at a gay bar in in New York City. Photos and video of the event incited negative reactions from people online, who said that the young boy shouldn’t have been in a venue with a bar. However, Wendy insists that her son was well protected.
@desmondisamazing performing as @gwenstefani. Song is "Just a Girl" by No Doubt . . Here it is! The performance that broke the internet in December 2018! This is THE infamous BROOKLYN performance . . Why the scandal? Well, shortly after this performance, the Conservative media went on a bender, claiming that Desmond was stripping, dancing on a pole, moving in a sexual manner, seducing pedophiles, hanging out in a bar around alcohol, was half naked, and gyrating for money. He was coined the Bacha Bazi of Brooklyn . . So, let's take a look at this performance, shall we? First of all, stripping is the act of making bare. There is NO clothing removed in this performance. The only thing that was removed was a Barbie's head, which was thrown into the audience. Secondly, I don't see a stripper pole, do you? . . Next, if you look at this and see a child moving in a sexual manner, you might have issues. Seriously. Desmond is clearly enjoying his performance and is jumping around like any 11-year old on stage. Desmond obviously loves what he does and is proud of his impersonations. He is a professional, licensed child performer . . Pedophiles? I think you'd have better luck finding them in your churches, sports leagues, and summer camps . . The venue where Desmond performed did have a bar in a separate room. However, Desmond was only allowed back stage in his private dressing room and on stage. He never entered the bar area. It is not illegal for minors in NYC to be in or perform in venues that serve alcohol if they are with a guardian over 21 years old. Mom and Dad were both there to supervise . . Half-naked? Desmond is fully clothed and wearing more clothes than boys allowed to run around shirtless at the beach or even girls at a gymnastics or dance performance. Hypocrisy . . Yes, the audience is giving Desmond money. This is customary for drag performances and some performers make a living on tips alone. It has nothing to do with the way he moved his body . . Lastly, it was reported that there was a "no cell phone policy". False. Clearly, this video was recorded on a cell phone, thus the quality . . Full video on my IG TV and YouTube
A post shared by Desmond is Amazing (@desmondisamazing) on Feb 23, 2019 at 5:30pm PST
“The place does have a bar, but the bar is in a whole separate room divided by several doors. Desmond was only allowed on the stage and in his private dressing room. He wasn’t allowed even near the bar,” Wendy explains. “But the conservative media got a hold of this and they said that he was stripping in a gay bar for dollars for pedophiles.”
According to Wendy, tipping is customary for drag queens, and she and her husband, Andrew, allow Desmond to use any of the money that he makes for toys or whatever else he desires. Still, people saw the performance as inappropriate and even exploitative, which provoked a call to action in the form of reports to ACS.
Throughout the past three months, over 200 cases regarding the Napoles family have been opened with ACS alone, sending it all the way up to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. But Wendy says that several other agencies also investigated their family by looking at every video, every interview and every photo of Desmond — including those being circulated by different hate groups.
“ACS was here unannounced, announced, every single day. They would come at all hours,” Wendy says. “They would come at 3 in the morning even on school nights. They would visit Desmond at his school several times a week and pull him out of class. His grades went down, he thought it was embarrassing, he just started middle school. It’s just been a really horrible experience.”
Social media, where Desmond has aggregated over 150,000 followers, turned into a platform where the family would address the hardships of the investigation and even pose questions to those who were placing the reports. Ultimately, Wendy took to that same platform to share the results of the investigation as a form of defense for her family.
This is what it has come to. We have been accused of child abuse, exploitation & maltreatment to the point that we have been backed into a corner trying to defend ourselves. Recently a YouTube video was made stating that we should allow ACS (CPS) to investigate if we have nothing to hide. Which we have & we do not have anything to hide. We have been under a microscope since early December. I never thought I would have to breach my own privacy & confidentiality to provide proof that has been demanded of us out of malice . . ACS has investigated us thoroughly. Because of the number of reports they received, our case went all the way to the Governor's office. We had announced visits & unannounced visits to our home nearly daily & at all hours & Desmond's school. Our family was probed more intensely than any other case before. All allegations were "unfounded". Currently, we send screenshots of anyone encouraging others or admitting to contacting ACS to ACS to keep in our file. ACS is not a weapon. So many ACS resources could have gone to families that needed help. On the plus side, ACS has been offering us many support services . . In addition, we were investigated by the NYPD, the Child Advocacy Center, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Department of Labor, and the District Attorney's office. No abuse or maltreatment was found. No regulations for child performers were broken. No illegal activity has occurred . . We endured countless posts & videos slandering our family by people who have never contacted us for the truth or watched Desmond's videos where he has spoken for himself. We put up with lies & rumors. We daily clear social media of hateful comments & messages. Someone has been messaging Desmond's followers to convince them of alleged abuse. We deal with hate crimes & death threats perpetuated by "concerned citizens" & have been stalked. The NYPD is assisting us. Desmond has extra security measures in place at his school. All of this because we allow Desmond to be himself & do what he loves. We are a loving and supporting family. Anyone who knows us or met us can attest to that . . ** Covered address & case numbers for privacy **
A post shared by Desmond is Amazing (@desmondisamazing) on Mar 9, 2019 at 12:22pm PST
“The report was determined to be ‘unfounded,'” the letter from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services reads. “This means that CPS did not find believable proof (credible evidence) that a child was abused or maltreated.”
The ACS didn’t immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. However, Wendy says that the check-ins have yet to stop, while the agency also continues to provide the family with preventative resources, such as therapy for Desmond, as well as extra security for him while at school.
“He’s been traumatized in the way that he started to believe that all of this was his fault. And it’s so damaging to him,” Wendy continues. “He feels bad about the stress our family’s under, and he’s pretty much taken the burden on himself. So ACS has been giving us a lot of community and support services at this point.”
But even through the trauma that Wendy says her son has faced, she says that Desmond doesn’t want to stop interacting with people through his social media account — although he’s cancelled some upcoming performances.
“It’s just so important to him to help these people, and it’s really great that he realizes that responsibility that he’s taken on at his age. So he doesn’t want to take a break,” Wendy says of his being a role model for other LGBTQ youth. “It’s like his main mission. I would say that his advocacy work is probably more important to him than doing drag.”
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