When I first hear their name Misty Frequency it comes with an easy hip-hop-infused beat and familiar rhythm that echoes in my mind. The classic Che Fu song of the same name is just pluralized. When I ask for confirmation of this theory, Piripi seems to smile: Yeah. Yeah, it is.
And then they gift me an image. They and their friend were present as kaitiaki, helping to protect the whenua against development by Fletcher Building.
One dawn morning on the front line of the land occupation – the mist rolling in around them, and a song begins to play. We Listening. (Listening). On the (on the) Misty Frequencies. Piripi had friends doing Drag already but hadn’t known where to start. Their friend says: That would make the perfect drag name… Yeah, they think it would be. And then something moved in... It has never been the same since.
After that, they moved the idea of Misty from the Whenua to a backstage dressing room. It can take three or four hours for them to transform into Misty Frequency. They describe their drag persona as an “amplified version” of themselves. A version that gives them greater confidence.
Of course, Piripi and Misty share identities- Whakapapa, for one. Piripi Mackie is Ngāti Kahungunugu, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Ngā Rauru me Kai Tahu and Clan Mackie in Scotland.
As a takatāpui artist, their art practice draws a lot of inspiration from Te Ao Māori- The land occupation at Ihumātao being just one. Images of Ihumātao played behind them the first time they ever performed in Drag.
Piripi also recently decided to call themselves a drag performer rather than using the more gendered name drag queen (they had previously been performing under). This means Misty now shares their pronouns too – ia/they/them.
As a visual artist, Piripi sees Misty, costume making, makeup and persona as a visual art form. They say they would like one day to stage a drag performance in a gallery but laugh when I ask what that would be like- It is still just an idea.
Apart from this, growing up without much privilege or resources meant that creativity was a necessary part of life. But creating something from nothing makes it more meaningful, they believe.
They use the hours it takes to transform to prepare themselves for the intensity of being on stage: Light everywhere the song goes.
“They describe their drag persona as an “amplified version” of themselves. A version that gives them greater confidence.”
Performing for audiences and feeling their energy is part of what they enjoy about Drag. Still, as an Autistic performer, the stimulation of the experience can be tiring- this means they will sometimes leave the venue quite quickly after performing.
They don’t know what you do about that – it’s the nature of the art form. But being able to sometimes participate in online shows is one thing that has given them a chance to take Drag at their own pace. Where they can be themself amplified by what [they] know.
Piripi Mackie features in the upcoming Attitude docuseries What’s the Disabili-TEA about people at the intersection of queer and disabled identities.