Taylor Sheesh: A Filipino’s homage to the American superstar

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Taylor Sheesh performs as American pop star Taylor Swift in Lipa City. —PHOTOS BY CHARMAINE ESTABAS AND LIENIEL JUSTINE GABUNI

(First of two parts) Taylor Sheesh: A challenge to fan stereotypes

LIPA CITY—Dressed and accessorized as Taylor Swift, a Filipino drag queen entranced thousands of the American pop superstar’s fans who kept a symphony of screams going on a football field here on Aug. 12. 

On stage, Mac Coronel’s alter ego Taylor Sheesh, wearing a blond wig, an edgy one-legged black jumpsuit, black boots and a contour on fleek, appeared to grasp Swift’s essence down to the multi-Grammy-award-winning artist’s mannerisms and gestures, even the famous raised eyebrow that only true Swifties can catch.

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Filipino drag queen Mac Coronel’s alter ego.

Coronel, 28, perfectly lip-synced Swift’s hit singles, such as “Love Story’’ and “You Belong With Me.’’ The fans alternately screamed and sang along, and took on the challenge of answering trivia questions. Thirty Swifties also cat-walked the stage and struck a pose, flaunting their creative suits to bag the best Taylor Era costume of the night. 

Largest crowd

Organizer Flare Infinity Productions said the “Swifties Night’’ at The Outlets in Lipa City, Batangas,  recorded 12,377 event registrations—her largest crowd so far, Coronel told the show’s producers. 

The crowd mostly consisted of teenagers and young adults, with a number of middle-aged parents escorting their Swiftie kids to the free-admission event. 

Coronel has visited various cities and provinces nationwide and met fellow fans to celebrate their love for Swift. In July alone, she performed in over 18 events in between her work as a call center agent.  

“The events are usually on Thursdays and Fridays, which are my days off from work. [Other events are] in the afternoon, so I accept those invites,” she said in an exclusive interview.

Her shift as a call center agent starts at 11 p.m. and lasts until the next morning.

On that Saturday-night concert, Coronel concluded her performance at past 8 p.m. She engaged in a meet and greet with fans and posed for memorable photos. With just a few hours remaining, she had to swiftly organize her belongings before heading back to Manila. 

Her supervisor is kind and considers her situation when she arrives late for work, she said.  

Filling people’s sadness

Just how does Coronel survive her hectic schedule? “I actually don’t know,” she said. 

Coronel felt driven by how thousands of Filipinos were saddened when Swift skipped the country yet again in her scheduled concerts. “I became her to fill people’s sadness, so that they can at least experience the tour,” Coronel said.

Swift has embarked on her blockbuster “The Eras Tour,” which she describes as a journey through all her musical “eras”—every show is divided into acts dedicated to each of her 10 studio albums. 

After the United States and Latin American countries, the pop star is set to visit the Asia-Pacific region in early 2024. Despite high anticipation from Filipino fans, the Philippines is not part of the tour. 

The singer-songwriter last visited the Philippines in 2014 for her “The Red Tour.” She skipped the country in the succeeding “The 1989 World Tour” and “Reputation Stadium Tour.”

Related: Glamour and glitz (and more) in drag

Falling in love immediately

Swiftie Gabriele Alexis Joves, 20, said he felt “devastated” to learn that his idol would not take her current tour to the Philippines. He said he could not afford the tour ticket now but was praying for the country’s inclusion in the future.

Joves became a fan during Swift’s “Speak Now” era (the pop star’s third studio album was released in 2010). He recalled listening to one of Swift’s songs on YouTube and falling in love “immediately.” 

“Her works were outstanding for her age at that time,” said Joves, from Tarlac province.  “It amazed me that such talent was recognized and nurtured. It led me to support her by listening continuously to her work.”  

Swift wrote all the 14 “Speak Now” tracks when she was 18-20 years old. The album was nominated for Best Country Album in such music award shows as the 2011 Academy of Country Music Awards and the 2012 Annual Grammy Awards. 

Most of her succeeding collections received similar accolades, with “1989” and “Folklore” chosen Album of the Year in the annual Grammy Awards in 2016 and 2021, respectively. 

Embroiled in a feud with her former record label over the ownership of her masters, Swift decided to re-record her first six albums and reclaim her work, branding them the new “Taylor’s Version.” So far, she has released the re-recordings of “Fearless,” “Speak Now” and “Red.” Her “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” is due out on Oct. 27. 

Tarlac concert

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Swifties scream their hearts out while Taylor Sheesh rocked a Tarlac school gymnasium on July 28.

Joves was among fellow Swifties screaming their hearts out while Taylor Sheesh rocked a Tarlac school gymnasium on the evening of July 28. 

Typhoon “Egay” had left the Philippine area of responsibility two days before the event but torrential rains continued to pound Tarlac.  Still, over 700 Swifties came to witness Coronel do her thing.

While tickets for the event were sold at two tiers—P500 for VIP and P200 for general admission—most of the attendees availed themselves of the more expensive pass to see the drag queen up close. 

“I felt happy and excited. I knew I’d still experience the same hype as Taylor Swift’s,” Joves recalled, adding that he went home hoarse and drained from shouting and jumping at the event. 

Brought so much joy

For Geoff Caoleng, a casual listener of Swift music, Coronel’s performance as Taylor Sheesh made him like the American singer more. He said he saw how Coronel brought so much joy to her audience that he now wanted to experience the “Eras” Tour himself because “nothing beats the original.”

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Impersonator Christopher “Taylor Laughter” Diwata appears on stage as Taylor Lautner, the heartthrob actor who briefly dated Swift in 2009.

Impersonator Christopher “Taylor Laughter” Diwata also appeared on stage as Taylor Lautner, exuding the essence of the heartthrob actor who briefly dated Swift in 2009. 

Coronel and Diwata held hands during “Back to December,” a track fans believe to be about Swift’s past relationship with the “Twilight” star. The crowd’s ecstatic response created an otherworldly atmosphere of sheer delight and enchantment, drowning out the sounds of the pounding rain.

Organized by Ayel Taliman Corporate Company and MMZ Productions, the “Midnight Madness—A Grand Eyeball Fan- Based Event” pushed for mental health awareness during the Swiftie party. 

“Taylor Swift’s discography encompasses a range of emotions and personal experiences, making it relatable to many individuals who may be going through their own mental health challenges,” MMZ Productions said. 

‘Cry of rebellion’

Swift’s message resonates with audiences of all ages and backgrounds in many countries, including world leaders such as Chilean President Gabriel Boric.

In June, Arturo Zaldívar, a former chief justice of the Mexican Supreme Court, posted on Twitter (now known as X) that he liked the American pop star because she was “a cry of rebellion, an example of intellectual honesty and a cascade of dreams of all colors and sounds.”

In an opinion piece in the newspaper Milenio cited by the English version of El Pais, Zaldivar added: “Her lyrics remind us that it’s OK to be vulnerable, to be different, to make mistakes and to love oneself fully. Because of her authenticity, courage and congruence. That’s why I listen to Taylor Swift.”

The producers of the Tarlac fan event said listeners could 

find “comfort, validation and a sense of belonging” in sharing personal narratives alongside Swift’s music. They invited the impersonators Coronel and Diwata—Taylor Sheesh and Taylor Laughter—to help promote the cause and raise awareness among their large fan bases.

Road to stardom

As Taylor Sheesh, Coronel is already a familiar figure to Filipino fans because she often performs at local fan activities, Swiftie Chelsea Guieb, 24, pointed out. 

Coronel joined the fandom in 2009 after hearing “Fifteen,” a track off Swift’s second album “Fearless.” The then high school student crushed on Swift, relating to the song’s verses about teenage and young love. 

In time, more of Swift’s tunes resonated with Coronel.

After winning a lip-sync contest in 2017, she launched her drag career and became a regular performer at a nightclub in Taguig City. The long-time Swiftie knew her idol well enough to impersonate her as Taylor Sheesh. 

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic and eventual lockdown decimated the live-entertainment industry, and Coronel resorted to full-time work as a call center agent.

She tiptoed back to the drag scene when quarantine restrictions eased. And Taylor Sheesh went live again. 

A quick search of “Taylor Sheesh” on TikTok produces a 35-second clip of Coronel, in a pink tassel fringe top and skirt, lip-syncing the bridge of Swift’s 2014 banger “Bad Blood”  as backup dancers surround her on a stage.

The clip, which has garnered 13.8 million views, was taken at “The Eras Festival in Manila—Encore” at TriNoma mall in Quezon City on May 21. Coronel performed Swift’s songs for more than an hour, with backup dancers and costume changes reminiscent of the actual “The Eras” tour.

News of Taylor Sheesh and the event eventually reached the international press such as Rolling Stone, Washington Post, NPR and Philadelphia Inquirer.

‘To be noticed’

The fan group Swifties Philippines said it conceptualized “The Eras Festival in Manila—Encore” to be noticed by the pop star. 

“It has no other goal but to be noticed, that we want The Eras Tour in the Philippines,” said Guieb, one of the group’s administrators. 

Swifties Philippines pushed for The Eras Tour-inspired and free-of-charge events at Ayala Malls Manila Bay, the cities of Cebu and Davao, and lastly at TriNoma as an “encore” show. It hired Coronel to perform in the first and last events. 

At the Ayala Manila Bay Tour, Coronel performed the medley but wore only one costume. “I was amazed back then because she manually placed the stones on it,” Guieb said of Coronel’s dazzling blue bodysuit that was inspired by Swift’s outfit in the actual tour.

Adopting Guieb’s suggestion for a long set, Coronel eventually wore costumes dedicated to Swift’s different “eras” or albums at the TriNoma show. Among them were a gold tassel dress and boots for “Fearless,” a green flowing gown for “Folklore” and a blue bodysuit for “Midnights.”

In an interview with an online news portal, Coronel said she had a “trusted seamstress” and does her own hair and makeup.

“Our arrangement there was that we covered the cost of half of her costumes,” Guieb said. “Such shows are made possible because the support for her performance comes from all sides.”


A month after the TriNoma show, Swift announced the dates for the Asia-Pacific leg of her tour: Feb. 7-10, 2024, in Japan and March 2-4 and 7-9, 2024, in Singapore. The Philippines was skipped yet again.

Cebu Swiftie Kheena Thrisia Ligas speculated that Swift had yet to return to the country because it lacked the infrastructure that could accommodate the sheer size of “The Eras Tour.” 

Singapore, Swift’s only Southeast Asian stop, for example, has the Singapore National Stadium which has an area of 75,000 square meters. In contrast, the Philippine Arena in Bulacan has only 9,000 square meters. 

But Guieb remains hopeful. “If the show can’t be accommodated now, at least [the producers] know that there is a huge demand here in the Philippines,” she said. “These people deserve so much. Maybe one day.” 

In the meantime, Filipino Swifties may chant “Taylor Sheesh” as she takes the Philippine stage by storm. 

Charmaine Estabas and Lieniel Justine Gabuni, third-year journalism students at the University of the Philippines’ College of Mass Communication, are interns of CoverStory.ph.

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