If you thought Philly spirit was missing from the public impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump, you were sorely mistaken.
Drag queen Pissi Myles, who got her start performing in Philly, arrived in a striking ensemble for Wednesday’s session in Washington D.C., ready to absorb the historic event and encourage political engagement.
“It was empowering,” Myles told Billy Penn on Thursday. “I don’t think there are a lot of people who show up to the Capitol looking the way I do.”
Indeed, the performer — clad in a skin-tight scarlet moment and the tallest fake eyelashes — stood out in a sea of blazers and button-downs.
Six years ago, Myles, a native of North Jersey, jumpstarted her drag queen career in Philadelphia. She performed in popular Gayborhood bars like Woody’s, Tabu and Voyeur, and organized a monthly comedy variety show at L’Etage called “What Makes Me Pissi,” attracting national drag performers like Monet X Change and Miz Cracker.
In 2014, Myles won the Philly Drag Wars — a 13-week competition modeled after the reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Each week, she and her competitors had to follow a prompt to come up with an original musical number and design a brand new fashion ensemble to go along.
“It was probably one of the craziest, stupidest things I’ve ever done,” Myles said. “But I won, and it opened a lot of doors for me. It basically helped me to create my name.”
So why’d the 31-year-old performer show up to the impeachment hearing? To get young people to pay attention to the news.
‘A much bigger deal’ than anticipated
Myles, who prefers not to have her birth name published to avoid harassment, was invited to the Capitol by the livestream news platform Happs.
Founded earlier this year, the app is made up of voluntary contributors who try to make current events more exciting to young people. As of September, it had roughly 4,000 members and 800 regular users.
Happs’ political director attended a Pissi Myles show in New York earlier this year, and apparently loved her style and her sense of humor. “I was invited down as an entertainment reporter to add a bit of levity to the situation,” Myles said.
And that she did. When Myles showed up on Wednesday morning, her attitude and style commanded the attention of the self-absorbed political scrum. She went a semi-viral on social media and in the national news.
She also live-streamed the impeachment unfoldings from a pink smartphone secured to a selfie stick.
Myles acknowledges objective reporting isn’t exactly her brand: “I’m more of a commentator, because I’m very opinionated. It’s hard for me to put all those opinions to the side.”
Bearing witness to the impeachment proceedings was astonishing, she said. Hearing the testimony of Bill Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, helped Myles understand the severity of the situation.
“It became very clear it was a much bigger deal than I think a lot of us even anticipated,” she said. “There was a level of importance that you could kind of feel being in the area. It was one of the most amazing things.”
Judging by the widespread social media response to her attendance, Myles thinks it helped engage people who might not always keep tabs on the news. She said she got feedback from tons of young people and LGBTQ people who said they paid attention just because she was there.
What’s Myles up to now? Resting. On Thursday, the drag queen took the day off to recharge her own batteries — a priority of vital importance to the New York performer.
“I really think it’s important to stay informed and perform your civic duty,” Myles said. “But also to be able to take a step back and laugh at it. It becomes such craziness. People described what happened yesterday as a circus, but all politics are a circus.”