Taylor Sheesh: A challenge to fan stereotypes

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Mac Coronel aka Taylor Sheesh performs as Taylor Swift. —PHOTOS BY CHARMAINE ESTABAS AND LIENIEL JUSTINE GABUNI

(Second of two parts) Taylor Sheesh: A Filipino’s homage to the American superstar

Mac Coronel, a Filipino drag queen impersonating Taylor Swift as Taylor Sheesh, is challenging stereotypes about fans, an Ateneo de Manila University instructor said. 

Sheesh rose to popularity after clips of her performing in the appearance of the American pop superstar became viral on social media. She has been invited to perform at several fan events across the country. 

According to Andrea Anne Trinidad who specializes in fan and media studies, fans are often portrayed as mindless consumers of media. “It’s important for fans to be recognized for their production capacities so that they won’t be seen as just fans who do nothing but cry because they failed to secure tickets to Taylor Swift’s concert,” she said. 

As producers, fans can create their own material, Trinidad said, citing examples: Writers venture into fan fiction, and those who draw share fan art. Sheesh, a Swift fan since 2009, becomes a producer herself of performances the moment she dons the blond wig and steps on stage. 

“That’s what Mac is showing—that you can actually be a fan while at the same time producing for the community,” Trinidad said.

‘Playing’ with artists

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The drag queen and impersonator meets fans in Lipa City.

Fans love to “dog show,” the media studies scholar added, using a term that content creator Sassa Gurl coined to refer to “the posts and memes that made fun” of her, as explained in a previous post on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

“We’re playing with our own artists,” Trinidad explained. “In the context of the fandom, that’s respectful, but when people outside the fandom do it, it’s like you’re disrespecting Taylor.” 

Filipino fans would call Swift by a satirical name, such as “Taylor Marie Joy Alison Batumbakal Swift.” (The pop superstar’s formal name is Taylor Alison Swift. Marie and Joy are common female first names in the Philippines. Batumbakal is a meme surname used by pop culture fans in “Filipinizing” celebrities.) And a manipulated photo of Swift wearing the “sablay,” the sash worn by graduating students of the University of the Philippines, sometimes accompanies the meme persona online. 

According to Trinidad, the satirical name and the sablay photo are examples of fans locating Swift within Filipino culture. “There are already traces of that, so I feel that [Taylor Sheesh] just intensified it. It’s like the persona of Taylor Swift has become Taylor Sheesh in the Filipino context,” she said.

LGBTQ+ causes

Swift’s fans, known as Swifties, are close to LGBTQ+ causes, buttressing the idea that fandoms serve as alternative spaces for education, Trinidad said.

“Directioners,” or the fans of the boy band One Direction, would “ship” the band’s members, or root for two people to be in a romantic relationship. One popular pairing is Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, referred to together as Larry Stylinson. 

“Even before I learned about queer theory in school, I already understood it because it’s also discussed within the community,” said Trinidad, a Directioner since 2015. 

She cited a similar situation vis a vis Swift and the Swifties, who earlier shipped the pop superstar with model Karlie Kloss and actress Dianna Agron. 

Swift made clear her support for the LGBTQ+ community in the 2019 music video “You Need to Calm Down,” which stars such queer icons as television personality Ellen DeGeneres and drag queen RuPaul. 

“If Mac didn’t impersonate Taylor Swift, she wouldn’t receive that kind of support, especially if the background of the community isn’t politically aligned with the LGBTQ+ causes that Taylor Swift herself advocates,” Trinidad said.

On the other hand, drag queen Jiggly Caliente, who has competed in RuPaul’s Drag Race, took a jab at Taylor Sheesh’s viral performance at TriNoma mall in July. “Prime example of drag is for everyone but not everyone should be on stage,” Caliente said in an Instagram story, for which she later apologized to Coronel.

But there is no need for Coronel to perfect her impersonation of Swift, Trinidad said, adding that fans would prefer her to a “perfect” drag performer who is not a fan.

On Aug. 11, Coronel posted on X a photo of a letter she received from a Swiftie during her stint in Iloilo City. In the letter, the fan expressed the hope that Coronel would get the hat Swift hands to a lucky fan during each of her “22” performances on “The Eras Tour. “

‘The great war’  

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Taylor Sheesh

On March 4, 2024, Coronel will see the famed Taylor Swift in the flesh as a member of the audience of the Eras concert at the Singapore National Stadium. 

A ticket to the show is so infamously difficult to get that Swifties coined the term ”The Great War’’ to refer to ticket sales for the tour.

There were reportedly over two million virtual ticket-buyers for the Singapore leg of the tour within the first hour of its launch. The small city-state has a population of only 5.45 million.

From data provided by Klook, an official experience partner of the show, Filipinos bought more tickets for the show on its site than any other nationality. All of its ticket packages were sold out within two hours of release. 

Swift initially planned a three-day tour from March 2 to 4 but later announced a three-day extension from March 7 to 9 as fans instantly overwhelmed the ticket booths both onsite and online.

The Eras Tour began on March 18, 2023, and will end on Aug. 5, 2024. It is Swift’s most expansive concert tour yet, totaling 146 shows across five continents.

The authors are third-year journalism students at the University of the Philippines’ College of Mass Communication and are interns of CoverStory.ph.

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