It also probes his personal life, although reveals little that’s not already known. He’s assumed to be gay, and has had close relationships with men, but never admits to anything more than friendship. To do so would almost certainly have killed his career, in spite of his obvious flamboyance and androgynous appearance. When he goes to the opening of an exhibition on his life, he’s greeted like a religious figure. The sight of Hamilton creator Lin-Maneul Miranda (who’s met many of the world’s great and good) going to pieces when meeting the icon underlines what he means to many in the Latin world. The final reading is that this is an informative introduction to a mystifying and unique man.
Walter Mercado may not be a household name in the UK, but the Puerto Rican artrologer is a Latin American superstar, Liberace and Uri Gellar rolled into one, known for his flamboyant dress sense, positive message and secretive personal life. This documentary catches up with the 87-year-old, charting his rise, fall and resurgence.
The documentary successfully shows those of us who only heard of Walter when Alexis Mateo impersonated him on Drag Race who he is and why he’s so widely loved. Beginning his life in a poor Puerto Rican village, the stars aligned when he gained a reputation as a healer, marking the start of a meteoric rise.
He acheived mass appeal through daily television slots focused on uplifting messages. His pick ‘n’ mix approach to religion results in non-denominational positivity which, combined with his theatricality, creates an appealing combination, particularly compared to the more dogmatic theatricality of the Catholic Church. And for his part he seems genuinely passionate about sharing positive, empowering messages, his indifference to the business side emphasised by his accidental signing over of all his assets, and name, to a former friend.