‘Queenmaker’ Spotlights the Shallow World of New York Socialites

Ulises Duenas


“Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl” deserves great credit for documenting an interesting mix of absolute vapidity and tragedy. The film is an expose of the early 2000s socialite scene that turns into a confusing and sad profile of an individual who was drawn into their world during a vulnerable time in their life and never recovered from the mark it left on them.

The documentary starts by showing how the rich heiresses of New York became celebrities and chased by paparazzi as though they were deities. When blogging exploded on the internet, many were dedicated to forming narratives out of  celebrities’ escapades and would slant reality into a salacious tabloid. I was constantly asking myself “Who would choose to get caught up in this world?” since all of these socialites would make the decision to go from being quietly wealthy to swapping dresses multiple times a night to walk different red carpets.



The film then introduces James Kursinkal, the son of two Southeast Asian immigrants who became known in the socialite circle for his blog while he was still in high school. He rose to prominence further when his identity was revealed and those in the scene discovered he wasn’t even in New York but rather a student in Illinois. As James’s story is told, it’s hard to initially see why it’s worthy as the subject of a documentary. People talk about the entire socialite scene as if it were a culturally monumental era, when really it was just rich people spending loads of money to remain relevant to their audience of obsessive bloggers and paparazzi.


It’s hard to pin down just how significant Kurisinkal’s involvement was because even those close to him say that he would constantly conflate reality and live in his own world. That’s really what the whole scene is like; people living in their own world and exaggerating how impactful it all is. However, Kurisinkal’s story becomes sadder and sadder. He was a gay man with darker skin trying to infiltrate an extremely white world that only observed superficial values. After an incident where someone allegedly hurled racial slurs at him, Kursinkal leaves New York, falls into heavy drug abuse and falls in love with a drug dealer who barely notices him while Kurisnkal took money from his parents -- to the point of bankruptcy. It is such a tragic sequence of errors that it borders on tragicomedy.



After Kursinkal transitions into becoming Morgan Olivia Rose, it appears as though the story might have a happy ending as she is now comfortable in her skin and prouder of who she is, but it doesn’t last long. After she reconnects with her favorite celebrity from the socialite scene, Rose’s insecurities bubble back up and she backs out of a lavish event because she just sees herself as a “transsexual callgirl” who doesn’t belong in that world. It’s an ending that leaves a bitter taste, but also reinforces the tragedy of what makes the whole scene work -- insecurity.


Plenty of people have some kind of void in their lives, and trying to fill it by hanging out with the rich and famous is a recipe for disaster that still consumes unfortunate souls to this day. It’s like a snake eating its own tail, where celebrities who use drugs, alcohol, and attention as therapy are idolized by people who use their standing with those socialites as a measure of their own worth. It’s an implosion of shallow values and fabricated importance and while the whole thing has a niche appeal, I’m sure those that find that world appealing will find this documentary quite fascinating.


Author Bio:

Ulises Duenas is a senior writer at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine


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