The power and passion of Pissi Myles: 'You feel like a warrior when you're a drag queen.'
Pissi Myles understands the power of drag.
The performer, a longtime favorite on the Asbury Park scene, said that the art form first and foremost serves as a source of humor in dark times.
"It allows you to face things that you normally wouldn't want to face or be able to face with a sense of light-heartedness," said Myles.
But beyond levity and grace, there is protectiveness, even empowerment, to be found in drag.
"You feel like a warrior when you're a drag queen," she said. "And so, in times like these when things feel so heated and feel so out of control and oppressive, it gives people power to step out in what I call our armor, which is our drag. It allows you to feel strong in a moment when you don't necessarily feel strong."
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Myles' armor and strength were on display for the world to see in November when she became an instant global media sensation, causing a social media stir by arriving at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. amid the Trump impeachment hearings.
"That's something that people ask me a lot about, especially after the impeachment hearings," Myles said. "It's like, 'How do you walk into the Longworth Building in full drag?' And I said, 'Well, how do you not? If you step out of the car and you look like that, where can you go but forward?' "
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Myles was reporting on the hearings at the Longworth House Office Building for streaming channel Happs News.
Following her appearance at the Congressional hearings, Myles covered the November Democratic primary debate in Atlanta. She said this week that she didn't know if she'd be back in our nation's capital to report on the impeachment trial in the Senate set to begin Tuesday, Jan. 21.
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"I would love to be there," Myles said. "If nothing else, I will absolutely be the voice saying that everyone should be paying attention and making sure that everyone is aware of what's going on because it is so important right now."
In addition to being an in-demand drag performer, Myles has become a tireless advocate for LGBTQ representation and visibility. It's a drive that seems to have been ingrained in the native of Berkeley Heights, Union County, from an early age.
"As someone who felt like an outsider there weren't a lot of outlets for me," Myles recounted. "And so I grew up in this little white suburban town full of very conservative people and I was this loud, obnoxious gay kid who just wanted to make everybody notice him. And that was kind of empowering for me.
"I think that's kind of where Pissi was kind of conceived. I loved drag, but I never thought of drag as something I was going to do, but I was forced to build that persona of, 'Well, if you're not going to like me, I'm going to love me.' And that's basically where she was born."
Myles took a vulnerable look back with "The Power of Finding the 'Funny' in Any Situation," her talk delivered as part of the TEDxDrewUniversity conference at the Madison campus in March. The talk dealt with Myles' mother's alcoholism and death, coming out to her father and the need to seek levity in life.
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It's a message, Myles said, that even she needs to be reminded of from time to time.
"My biggest hope is that people don't think of it as some kind of trivialism," she said. "It's not lost on me that there are going to be situations, and there have been situations, where I have struggled to find that humor and I've had to be reminded of the fact that you have to take a step back and look for it because it's not always easy to find that. I hope that having this out there will remind people when it's the most difficult to look for it."
After she took Washington by storm, Myles returns to Asbury Park to host the third annual benefit drag show supporting Jersey Shore animal rescue organization Rescue Ridge on Sunday, Feb. 16, at Georgie's Bar.
Also featuring DJ Mick Hale, the show runs from 2 to 6 p.m. at 810 Fifth Ave., with a suggested $10 donation at the door.
Myles, who now lives in Somerville, Somerset County, said she always welcomes the chance to return to her old stomping grounds — especially for a good cause.
"I started doing drag at Georgie's years ago," she said. "And every time I walk in the door that feels like home."
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Myles is also involved with the Monmouth County Historical Association's new digital oral history project, working to represent and document the experiences of under-served communities.
The project's first phase is focused on members of the LGBTQ community, with Myles serving as one of its first subjects.
(Anyone interested in participating in the project as a subject can email the Monmouth County Historical Association at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
"Every time I do something like this, I always think to myself, 'Is this something I would want these kids to have as a resource? Is this something I would want young people to be able to see so that they know how bright their future is going to be?' " Myles explained.
"And when they asked me to do the (MCHA) project I was so excited, I was like, 'This is perfect, I would love for them to hear that I went through a lot of crazy hardship as a young person, but that it kind of blossomed into this really wonderful life.' I have such a wonderful opportunity to live with my amazing husband and my friends and my family. I've wanted that to be something I could share with especially young LGBTQ people."