The grind never stops for Taylor Sheesh, the Philippines’ preeminent Taylor Swift impersonator. The minute we get on Zoom, they admit they’ve just woken up from a well-timed nap. After performing as the pop star for 90 minutes on Sunday in front of several thousand people (a concert that went viral on TikTok and Twitter), Sheesh, who also goes by Mac, is gearing up to work the graveyard shift at the customer service job they picked up when bars closed during the pandemic. “At this age we need naps,” the 28-year-old says.
Sheesh’s performance at the TriNoma mall in Quezon City came courtesy of Swifties Philippines, a fan-led coalition promoting Swift across the country and campaigning for her speedy return. (Swift hasn’t toured in the Philippines since 2014.) International dates for The Eras Tour have yet to be announced, and the group is hoping their free listening parties — which are so popular that brands are clamoring to sponsor them — will draw the pop star back to their archipelago.
We caught up with Sheesh as they gushed about all things Swift and shared their journey into drag performance.
How did your viral mall performance come about?
Taylor Sheesh: The admin of Swifties Philippines contacted me about a month before the event and said they were having a listening party at TriNoma, one of the biggest malls here in Quezon City, which is one of the most active Swift-streaming cities in the world.
I have a friend who always makes my drag and Taylor costumes. Once the organizer said that they were having a show on May 21, I asked my friend on April 30 if she could make them in time, and she said, “Sure, why is that even a question?” She made four [costumes]: the blue bodysuit from the Midnights era, the green dress from Folklore — which we love — the Red red-and-black one piece, and the Reputation-era bodysuit with the snake on it. Two days before the show she sent me the finished products, and we checked to make sure it all worked and it was perfect. We mixed those with costumes I already had from past performances.
How long have you been a Taylor Swift impersonator?
I started impersonating her in 2017 or 2018. I am also a drag queen at Nectar Night Club, and I started doing that in 2017. My friend took me hostage. It was my first time in a night club, and she made me go in drag. There was a lip sync battle, and my friend pushed me in — like, literally pushed me — and I won. It was a Lady Gaga-themed drag night, I was either lip syncing “Bad Romance” or “Born This Way.” I was wearing a crop top and shorts, similar to what Lady Gaga was wearing in her performance with Metallica. All my enemies… er… contenders were wearing that that night.
That evening, my manager asked me to join a group she was creating that would perform every Friday and Saturday at that club. It escalated quickly. And since then I’ve performed with Drag Race queens in their shows, like with Sasha Velour and others, when they come to visit.
What is it like to be a drag performer and a Taylor Swift impersonator in the Philippines? Is it supportive? Do you feel safe?
Yes, we feel very safe, and I’m so very happy that since Drag Race Philippines season one, [drag performance] is very mainstream here in the Philippines. They just finished filming season two, so a lot of people here in the Philippines are very interested in drag and we, as drag queens, try to educate them on how a drag queen works, how the culture works.
How do you educate them, by performing? I saw you were also on a TV show recently.
By performing or performing at Pride events, talks, and podcasts. That was my first time on a TV show.
Are you able to perform full-time?
Before the pandemic I worked as a call center agent Monday to Friday and worked in the night club Friday and Saturday night, so Sunday was always my rest day. In 2018, I started my drag career as a full-time job, but when the pandemic started all the bars were closed. I started working in customer support again and still do, in addition to drag. Sometimes I ask the [Swifties Philippines] event organizers when they’ll want me to perform so I can match that schedule to my rest day.
When did you become a Swiftie?
2009. When I heard “Fifteen.”
What are your favorite Taylor songs, personally?
I’m a Speak Now stan, so I love “Last Kiss” and “Dear John.”
What do you love about Taylor?
Everything. Cats. Her iconic moments from The Eras Tour. Her Reputation era, which was so traumatic because she deactivated all her social media. Her break-up with Joe [Alwyn]! She also fights for artists’ rights, for them to be compensated. Artists put too much work into their art, and they need to be recognized and validated. Also, she fought for the Equality Act in the U.S., and she also supported an anti-terrorism law in the Philippines.
How do you feel about the break-up?
I don’t know because I came home from work, and it was [April 9,] Easter Sunday in the Philippines. Jesus just rose up from the dead, and Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn broke up. I don’t know what to feel.
What do you think about her and Matty Healy?
Mmm, for me it’s a no because I’ve read about Matty. But it’s Taylor’s choice. That’s her mind, that’s her heart. We’ll just need to support her just like we support her music.
What was your research process like for your full-length Eras Tour performance?
I watched the first night of her tour on TikTok Live, and I’ve watched every city since. That’s our only way to watch her [in the Philippines], through Swifties [at the venue] streaming her concerts live. So I watch her movements, her costumes, her songs. And of course, we’re always waiting for her surprise songs.
I was wondering which surprise songs you chose for your performance.
I chose “Cornelia Street” and “Long Live,” but my performance is too long, and I wanted to give more opportunities to our live performers [who cover Swift songs at the listening parties], so they sang them! We always sing “Long Live” after the show as a way to celebrate Taylor. The song means a lot to us here in the Philippines. Our former Vice President [Leni Robredo] is a Swiftie, and so are her daughters. She used “Long Live” as a theme song for her campaign.
You said your personal favorite Taylor Swift songs are “Last Kiss” and “Dear John.” What’s your favorite song to perform?
I always love to perform “Love Story” or “You Belong With Me.” Every Swiftie can jump to it, you can see a huge wave of the crowd jumping. When I was performing this weekend, from my point of view seeing the people dancing and especially jumping, I was thinking, “Is the second floor strong enough? [Laughs] Is it going to collapse?”
How would you describe Taylor’s performance style?
Taylor is an awkward dancer, which is very cute to us. Her songs always tell a story, that’s what I tell first-timers or people who are not totally a fan of her. I always say, “There is a Taylor Swift song for every situation.”
Do you try to mimic what Taylor does or add your own moves? What’s your favorite Taylor move to do?
I’m always learning how to act like Taylor, how to move like Taylor, how to smile like Taylor, and overall, how to approach performing like Taylor, like Taylor’s Version. My favorite is when she hits the high note and leans back.
What’s your goal for the future?
I would just want to be noticed by Taylor and to have her come to the Philippines on her international dates. Because I believe that the Philippines is a Taylor Nation country. The last time she was here was 2014 for The Red Tour, which I didn’t get a chance to attend because I don’t have that money yet. Someone on Twitter livestreamed it. But Taylor Nation blocked it!
I want to perform internationally, that’s my dream. In drag, which I love, or as Taylor. I can see my future there.
Are you going to try for a spot on Drag Race Philippines?
I’m enjoying this moment right now. Maybe for season three!