Stephanie Denaro is the New York City woman who was recorded calling a Black man a racist slur at a Manhattan bakery on March 21 and the video has since gone viral. She used the slur after the worker refused to serve her unless she put on a mask. A security guard intervened and asked Denaro to leave before threatening to call the police. Denaro has since been called “bagel Karen” on social media.
The confrontation happened at the Davidovich Bakery in the Essex Market. According to WNYW-TV, witness Jack Weil recorded the incident on his cellphone. He told the outlet Denaro had been the “aggressor” even before using the slur and had been “yelling at everyone.”
The cashier, identified by his first name, Victor, told CBS New York he was enforcing Essex Market’s rule that customers wear facial coverings inside the establishment. He added he was stunned by Denaro’s verbal attack but said he hadn’t wanted to respond because she had her four young children with her.
The children’s father, Durven Dawes, has spoken out since the incident. He told TMZ he lost a custody battle with Denaro and that he fears for his children’s safety. Dawes described Denaro’s rhetoric as “race spitting poison.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Denaro Claims She Used the Offensive Term to Describe the Cashier’s Behavior & Denies Calling the Worker a Racial Slur
The viral video begins with Denaro saying she cannot wear a mask and calls the Black man “sir.” When he asks why she won’t wear a mask, the security guard responds, “She says she has a medical problem. You don’t have to serve her if you don’t want to.” The guard tells Denaro that if she is not going to be served, then she needs to leave the bakery.
Denaro replies by referring to the worker as a racial slur, which triggers gasps from the other customers. Denaro doubles down by stating in a mocking sing-song tone, “That’s what he is! That’s what he is!” She repeats the slur before continuing, “I said it! You heard it!” The guard is heard saying she’s going to call the police. Denaro turns to face the guard and states, “I can call him whatever I want to.”
Denaro’s four young children are visible in the clip. The older children were not wearing masks, either.
Denaro later denied calling the cashier a racial slur. She insisted in an interview with the New York Post, “I didn’t call him the N-word. I called him a term to describe his behavior.”
2. Denaro Says She Isn’t Sorry & Argues She Was Protected by Freedom of Speech
In the days since the confrontation, Denaro has been using a new Instagram account to defend herself amid the backlash. In one of several posts shared on March 24, Denaro claimed the first amendment protected her right to use any word she wants.
She posted an image of the American flag and wrote: “I STAND BY WHAT I SAID!!!! You mistreat me with my children. You infringed on my freedoms. I have freedom of speech. I can SAY WHAT I FEEL. Leave me alone and stop attacking me for saying my opinion. Do you know what the 1st amendment is? FREEDOM OF SPEECH. I don’t see you all getting mad about the others that uses that word? Go focus on more important problems like Chicago’s murder rate… Stop telling me how to live my life.”
Denaro wrote she didn’t want to wear a mask because she has asthma and bronchitis. She also claimed she was “just having a bad day” and “got mad in the moment.” In the Instagram posts, Denaro asked for forgiveness but never apologized for using the racial slur.
She referenced angry direct messages she had received after the video went viral and wrote, “I love everyone.… PLEASE JUST STOP!!!!!! He couldn’t give me a bagel without infringing on my rights……. that is it. FORGIVE ME!!!!!! All of these death and rape threats are not christain. I love all races. I am colorblind. I just got mad in the moment. I really don’t know why you all are so mad at me if everybody else say it… just forgive me and move on it is just 1 word.” The image accompanying the post was a Bible verse that read, “Forgive them even if they are not sorry.”
She wrote in another post, “You liberals are threatening my life with violence and being mad at me for not wearing a mask. I have medical conditions!!!!! NEWS FLASH!!!! The disabilities act is real!! So if you have a problem with me not wearing a mask mind your own business. It is a free country!!!! If I said a word during a verbal fight so what!! It is a word!! Get over it.”
Denaro made similar statements when approached by local media outlets. When asked if she was sorry for using the racial slur, she told Fox5 New York, “It’s not my concern what other people think. I’m not apologizing to a mob.”
She told WCBS-TV she believes mask requirements violate her constitutional rights. She also defended her choice to use the racial slur by telling the reporter that her children’s father, who is Black, “uses the N-word ‘colloquially.'” Durven Dawes has since told TMZ he fears for his children’s safety and that he doesn’t support Denaro’s actions.
Denaro further commented to The New York Daily News, “I’m sorry I said something like that in front of my children. But to say a variance of a word is off-limits because of somebody’s skin tone? That’s just a weird way form of gate-keeping.”
3. Denaro Has Claimed an Ancestry Test Shows She Is a Black Woman & Says She Can’t Be Racist Because Her Children Have a Black Father
Denaro has made claims on social media that she cannot be racist because her children’s father is Black. She posted a photo with her youngest child on March 24 and wrote, “Can’t be racist if I have black children 😉. Jealous libs. Oh yeah!” She added the hashtag “women for Trump.”
Denaro doubled down on this rhetoric when she told WNYW-TV, “I don’t see why I would be attracted to a Black man if I was a racist.”
Denaro later claimed to be a Black woman herself. She posted a screengrab of what she claims were ancestry results that show she is 39% Nigerian. She wrote, “All of you hating on me for no reason! News flash!!!! I AM BLACK!!!!! My skin color does not look dark but my ancestry results came back as me being black! So do not be mad at me no more. Leave me alone!!! As a young black woman I love all of you!!”
It was also not immediately clear whether Denaro is married to her children’s father. On January 7, she posted a screenshot of an email she received from her children’s school. She was instructed to pick up her two daughters from school because they arrived at the building “without consent for random covid testing.” The author wrote that Denaro had “intentionally ignored” the school policy. The email included the girls’ names, which showed their last name was Dawes.
4. Denaro Has Expressed Support for QAnon & Attended Anti-Mask Rallies in New York City
According to the New York Post, Denaro has protested against coronavirus safety regulations in New York City. The newspaper reported she joined a lawsuit suing the city’s school system for closing classrooms during the pandemic.
Denaro’s original Instagram account includes multiple posts against mask requirements and claims that the COVID-19 vaccine is “brainwashing kids.” She has frequently posted about her support for President Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. The New York Daily News reported Denaro has a “Trump shrine” set up inside her Manhattan apartment.”
Denaro has also expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. She wrote on January 8, “Get some rest my fellow QTards… our work is about to begin.” The next day, she shared a screenshot from another account that claimed Trump was stepping aside to transition to “martial law” and that everything was going according to plan.
In November 2020, Denaro posted a photo in front of the Lincoln Memorial while wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. She wrote in all caps, “THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN.”
5. Denaro Says She Attended New York University & Has 2 Poetry Books on Amazon
Denaro was raised in Queens, according to a profile on Amazon. She wrote on the page that she enrolled at New York University in 2000 and “had the privilege of living in downtown Manhattan during the World Trade Center attacks and the aftermath of the Iraq War.” She added that the experience “informed much of her writing and political identity.”
On one of her Instagram accounts, Denaro suggested she was involved in theater as a college student. In March 2017, she posted a photo of what appears to be two medals with the caption, “Best Actress ’01, ’02 #NYU #dramaqueen.”
Denaro has published two poetry books on Amazon. She wrote on her Amazon profile that the second book, American’t Romance, provided a “bird’s eye view of the racial and sexual tensions that complicate relationships in a place as diverse as New York City.”