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Shelby Stanger: This show is about wild ideas and there's someone I've been following on Instagram who had a wild idea that really stuck out to me. If you're an outdoorsy person and you've spent time on Instagram lately, you may have seen @pattiegonia. She's the world first backpacking and outdoors drag queen. Pattie sports huge platform heels while stomping, skiing, dancing and now surfing her way through some of mother natures most beautiful scenery. She does photo and video shoots and she posts the finished products on her account where she promotes inclusivity and diversity in the outdoors as well as raises awareness about climate change, things like plastic pollution and so much more in an incredibly fun format.
Her voice is new and refreshing in the outdoors space. I was honored when I reached out to this queen and she agreed to let me take her out for a surf lesson. Just to know, we get pretty passionate and animated in our conversation and there's some not so kid friendly language in this episode. We also get very real and dive into things from the birth of Pattie Gonia, who the amazing photographer behind Pattie is, building community and why that's so important, how Pattie deals with the haters, coming out and most of all we get really deep and how to be wildly you no matter what.
Shelby: Just so the audience knows, in your car or wherever you're listening, we just went surfing. Pattie went surfing in heels.
Wyn Wiley: You know we did the damn thing and it was very addicting. I had fun. I was not expecting to be able to even stand on the board so that was a life accomplishment but then I wanted to get out there. I wanted to keep on going. It was fun. It's like riding a water version of a ski-rat which I love so here we are.
Shelby: Let's back up. I pushed Pattie into some ways and so much so stood.
Wyn: She stood.
Shelby: On basically your tiptoes.
Wyn: She felt connected to Moana. She rode, she got petted, she fell off 18,000 times but we got a few good clips which is the story of life.
Shelby: Tell me what it felt like when you're standing up in the heels because you don't really know the difference between not wearing heels because what we did was we took his go-go boots and put them on underneath-
Wyn: Underneath the wet suit.
Shelby: -the wet suit which I was like, "That's not going to work."
Wyn: It worked.
Shelby: But it actually worked way better. And we only damaged one board.
Wyn: I hit one wave so hard at the end and then decided to forward on the surfboard so much that I put my heel stilettoes straight through the board so that was cute. We still rode the surfboard for the rest of the day. It was great.
Shelby: What did you think of surfing because you've never done it and you were pretty much a natural? We had you understand that paddleboard. The reason why if you're watching pictures or video is because Pattie was going to be standing in go-go boots which means not only is she standing on a board for the first time but in go-go boots that are big it's like standing on your tippy toes which is pretty impossible while on a board underneath moving water. There's a lot. There's also stingrays and I didn't tell you about the sand sharks and all sorts of other things that were underneath you all day.
Wyn: Oh there were sharks underneath us.
Shelby: They won’t eat you..
Wyn: What a perfect metaphor for my real life. Just like sharks underneath the water, we don't know, here we are. Yes, surfing was so fun. For real Pattie lets my inner child out. I used to figure skate growing up and I hadn't figure skated in like over 10 years and I got on skates for the first time in January. It felt so cool to let that inner child out. That randomly ended up with me skating with the JVN. He’s one of my biggest role models and that's crazy.
Shelby: That's crazy. JVN, by the way, is Jonathan Van Ness, the grooming expert from Netflix's reboot of Queer Eye.
Wyn: It's fun. Pattie lets inner me out. It was something like surfing that I've never done before. It's like I don't know if I would have surfed for another few years at least if I didn't have something that was driving me, that I was always saying, "Yo, check yourself, Wyn, when was the last time you did something for the first time." Which is that so Tumblr quote of me to say about? For real it's something that really invigorates me in life is doing something for the first time is being so bad at it.
Literally, by the time this comes out people will see the videos but the reality behind these videos though is that I am almost always falling and messing up and being so bad at whatever I'm doing but that doesn't matter because I'm having fun while I'm doing it. You see the few seconds of glory where I look like I had my shit together but it's a total, total crazy fest behind the scenes.
Shelby: I watched it front row seat.
Wyn: Yes, you did. You pushed me into waves.
Shelby: You did awesome. You basically took the board to the outside and I couldn't swim fast enough to keep up with you. I was like, "Okay. Figure it out. You've got your own wave." Which is pretty remarkable on someone's first day of surfing not having grown up near the ocean and your timing is really good. I'm not just blowing smoke up your you know. I'm just telling you you did a great job.
Wyn: Up my weave. You're not blowing smoke up my weave? Perfect.
Shelby: Yes, your weave. Of course.
Shelby: Pattie's the brainchild of Wyn Wiley, a talented photographer and an eagle scout from Nebraska. Wyn bought the boots to trail track for the first time as a persona he called Gingersnap. After that one night out at the party, he threw the boots back in his closet but not too long after, he dragged them out and threw them in his pack last minute before heading out for a backpacking trip with friends. On that particular hiking trip, Pattie Gonia was born.
Shelby: So Wyn, and we're going to talk about who Wyn is and who Pattie is because I think this is important, but Wyn is an eagle scout which is no joke.
Wyn: Yes. That was my high school life. My childhood outdoor experience was greatly built around scouting. I think I see that different in retrospect now but it was a really great introduction to the outdoors, great outdoor concepts early on. Coming from the Midwest, it was pretty much the only access I really had to outdoor education so I was grateful for it.
Shelby: You were born and raised in Nebraska?
Wyn: Born and raised middle of nowhere, cornfield America but love it so much.
Shelby: Wyn is a photographer. When we were doing our little photoshoot today, I just let you take over and it was so amazing.
Wyn: I feel so bad about that.
Shelby: It was great. I'm here to podcast but we need to sound like it's a video and, obviously, photos of this and I let you direct it. It was really fun to watch you. You've obviously done this before. I've worked with all sorts of photographers and production in my old job doing marketing and you definitely have some skills as a producer and a photographer. You've worked with Disney. Who's Wyn as a photographer? You're pretty young so how do you have all this experience?
Wyn: I've been really lucky to just get to work with great people no matter what that is on the company side or on the more personal portrait wedding side. I shoot a mix of everything. Yes, I shoot for Disney. Yes, I've shot for Adidas. Yes, I've done the damn things but nothing has felt better than making photos for friends or for non-profits that I work with. I spend my time shooting everything from friends' weddings to senior pictures still. I still do the thing that I did when I first started out in my photography career.
Shelby: Seniors are so awkward and awesome.
Wyn: They're so great. It's, oftentimes, the kids that I get to work with at the different summer camps that I volunteer with, I get to take their senior pictures so it's super special to me.
Shelby: I love that age.
Wyn: I love that age too. I was just finding out the beginnings of who I was at that age. It's super cool to me. I love shooting a mix of everything. If I shot this one thing, I would hate my life and I'm really just thankful to get to make work with people in different places that I just love. In that way, I get to feel like I'm always at home no matter where I am. I feel like I can be as at home in LA with my LA crew of friends as I do back in Nebraska because we've built those communities there, so it's fun. It keeps me on my toes and my real life and then Pattie keeps me on toes in fucking boots.
Shelby: Pattie was born in fall of 2018?
Wyn: Yes. Five months ago now.
Shelby: Only five months ago?
Wyn: Yes. Crazy.
Shelby: Please tell me the origin story of Pattie Gonia.
Wyn: Okay. I feel like I have to backtrack a little bit. If we want to talk the birth of Pattie, we have to talk last year. About this time last year, I birthed Ginger Snap because I am a redhead and I am a photographer in my life outside of Pattie so I was like I'm going to be so original and be Ginger Snap and it was great but I dragged for the first time a year ago. It was so beautiful and so crazy to look in the mirror and see the other gender. It took me by surprise. Never thought I'd ever drag so it really was pushing me out of my comfort zone.
Shelby: What does that mean to drag?
Wyn: Drag is when people basically dress as the opposite gender or when they gender bend. Pattie's drag is pretty unique. It's not really traditional in the sense. When I put on the boots, I'm Pattie, but normally for drag, it requires where just is a lot more it's hair, makeup, costuming, comedy, performance. These girls do it all.
I just have such a mad freaking respect for drag because it's those girls doing all of those things and then managing themselves often and making a career out of it. I can't do my makeup to save my life alone. I can't make my own outfits. I've never performed in front of a crowd bigger than three of my friends on the trails or this morning when I was around four people on a beach, but I do me, and I do a drag in a way that I do it. I love celebrating myself through that and figuring myself out through that. It's a really fun self expression playground.
Shelby: I want to dive deeper into this, but going back to Ginger Snap, what did Ginger Snap wear?
Wyn: Ginger Snap was like a bad girl. We were wearing leather studded gloves with a heart cut out that I got off Amazon and fish nets and had dark red hair. It was ridiculous. We didn't feel emotionally connected to her. Pattie feels way more like me. It was fun for a night, but I left that experience feeling like, "This is a lot." It wasn't something I was really prepared for. I put the boots back into my closet for the next few months and then just randomly decided to pack them in my backpack when I hiked on the Continental Divide trail and my life changed for forever.
Shelby: Wait, when you say we, you're talking about you and all your amazing facets?
Shelby: Ginger Snap was fun. It was like, "Okay, that was fun."
Wyn: Yes. She was a nightclub girl. We love a nightclub girl occasionally. I will drop it so low when the whistle blows, but me in my everyday life, Pattie feels way more like me.
Shelby: I really like dancing with Ginger Snap. That sounds like a good time. So Pattie was born on-- What a great place to be born. On the Continental Divide. This is 2018 of the fall. You're how old?
Wyn: Yes. I just went on a backpacking trip with a few of my friends and decided to pack the boots at the bottom of my bag. No one knew I had packed them. I honestly forgot that I packed them, and then when we were up on the Continental Divide, which we were only up for a portion of the trip, but when we're up there, it was so stunning and I was just like, "Hey, Charlie, why don't you take some photos me in these boots?" He was like, "What?" I took out the boots and that turned into shooting some video clips, which turned into more video clips. We just got so into it. It was so much fun. It was so great to get to play in the outdoors and not take yourself so seriously.
We shot the rest of the video the whole entire hike down, and then I edit it on the couch with my mom when I got home. I was visiting my mom and she helped me edit the first video. She was giving me actually pretty good artistic critiques, and then I woke up the next day and see a few million views on the video and said, "Well, this is a thing that I was not expecting." I was like, "If 300 of my friends just follow this account, I will love it. We'll have fun."
Shelby: You started the Instagram account that day?
Wyn: Yes. Right when I got back from the trip, so about a week later.
Shelby: That's amazing. First of all, I think what your videos do, and for anybody listening who's seen them, they bring me so much joy, because you're so unapologetically you and you're having fun and you're like, "I don't give a fuck." It's fun, and it's cool, and it's beautiful. I've never seen a video like that. Like someone in big go-go boots. I'd never seen someone walking with a surfboard and using their leash the way you did today in go-go boots. The boots.
Shelby: The boots have a little story too.
Wyn: Yes. Right before I ever dragged as Ginger Snap, I had to go buy a pair of boots, so I went to West Hollywood.
Shelby: All right. WeHo.
Wyn: WeHo. There's this really amazing shop full of thousands of pairs of boots for drag queens and for performers and for everyone in between dancers and very interesting crowd in there. I hopped in and I was like, "Oh, this is a world I want to spend some time in." Walked around the store just trying to find the pair of boots, try them on, checked out. What's interesting is that the stores on Hollywood Boulevard, there's all the stars outside on the street, on the sidewalk, on the concrete.
Basically in some way shape or form my family has yet to clarify this for me, but it's a thing that's talked about often is that we have a famous distant relative. That person's name is Fred Waring and he was an orchestra conductor and had a TV show way back when. I look down on the sidewalk, and I see his Hollywood star and I'm actually named after him. My full name is ridiculous but it's Waring Windham Wiley, so Wyn's short for Windham but Waring is my real first name. It was like okay universe here we go. That just caught me by surprise.
Shelby: That's a good story. Fred Waring, there's a lot of streets named after Fred in Palm Desert, Palm Springs.
Wyn: I should go check them out.
Shelby: You need to go to Palm Springs. My mother moved from WeHo to Palm Desert.
Wyn: Love it.
Shelby: Which is also equally, just fun. Well, it's not WeHo but it's pretty fun.
Wyn: Yes, it's an interesting place. There's lots of variety of culture and people on one area and also WeHo, which is fun too.
Shelby: Your mom sounds really open minded. I come from a really open-minded family and I'm lucky as heck. Your mom also just sounds like one the fact that she sat down and was giving you critiques on your video. That's pretty badass.
Wyn: Yes, my mom, my dad were both, to my surprise, very accepting when I came out.
Shelby: How old were you?
Wyn: I was 18. Something that I've had to, for lack of a better word unpack since that point is that my mom, my dad's kind of perspective when I came out was that I could be gay. They had no problem with that, but I couldn't be one of those gays. I think they didn't have the terminology for it and they were just afraid of the world for me. I said emotionally with them in that moment, but that really scarred me in a way or really changed the direction I feel of my gayness in a way. I felt like I had to stay in the straight gay lane or I told myself the story for way too long that the biggest effect I could have on people would be if I was straight passing in every way.
Much so that it literally changed my voice. My voice before I came out was way more feminine. It was way more higher pitched. I police that every day and I change that every day so that my voice could be more straight passing. Living in Nebraska I wanted to be out and wanted to be gay but also wanted to have or I felt at the time lucky for the ability to put on a straight-passing clothes and just blend in, not stand out. Pattie's rewriting that story in big ways? I think that in my life Pattie is so important because it checks at the door everything I thought I knew about the world, everything I thought I knew about who I am and it's bringing unbelievably beautiful and diverse people into my life.
I need that. I think that not only do I need that but I'm literally so thankful for that because seriously I can't imagine life before Pattie now. I can discredit it very easily and be like it's just an Instagram account or it's just 100,000 people which I know it sounds crazy saying that but, I get caught up in rhythms and rotations of the comparison game and don't be so full of yourself but don't think so much about yourself game. So much so that I can just discredit Pattie or the community that's there but then I sit there and I'm like, No, this is a badass community of people that actually give a shit about the outdoors and the queer community and where those intersect.
I think that's really powerful and I think that that's really needed. I think I'm stepping onto the scene in a way sight unseen. I didn't know the state of affairs in the state of culture in the outdoor world, really, because even though I skied and backpacked in rock climbs, I was never really a person that followed sponsored athletes or that ever went to any competition events or anything. I think I'm popping into an interesting world. I am discovering some very interesting things about the outdoor community and I just think it's so silly, what some of the outdoor community does to be so hetero and so flannel and-
Shelby: So flannel and bearded.
Wyn: So flannel so bearded and to be so athletic-driven instead of advocate-driven. I think that there's nothing but opportunity there for the outdoor industry. I think the times now because outdoors literally is a place where I feel like I can be myself and find myself and challenge myself and also mess up a lot and learn that outdoors doesn't judge you. It's an important place for me and I want it to be important for others, especially for the LGBTQ community.
Shelby: Thank you so much. We've talked about a little before and Rue Mapp said it once on my podcast. She said, "The trees do not care if you're black, you're white, you're fat, you're skinny, you got money, you don't have much money. She said it better than that, but the waves don't care. They're going to give you a beating no matter what." It's been so refreshing. Even in my notes, my producer from REI wrote something about why is it important that people who aren't bearded in flannel see a place for themselves in the outdoors and how Pattie is showing that there's a place for everyone outside.
Wyn: Yes. I didn't know that it was my place either. For real. I don't think that a lot of people do. I think that people think that you have to have x amount of dollars of gear or spend x amount of days camping or backpacking until you can be legit and that you're a poser or you're just a wannabe. If that's people's definition that I'm a total poser and total wannabe, still, because I love going outdoors but there's nothing I love more about the outdoors and getting in my bed after I'm out backpacking for a few days.
I love the indoors too. I love a good Netflix moment.
Shelby: Pattie Gonia started out as a fun persona but it's become something much larger. Pattie posts thoughtful, sometimes very funny and poignant pose that are challenging the idea of who belongs in the outdoors and what we need to do to protect the only planet we have. She shares information about plastic pollution and stories of people in the LGBTQ+ community and people of color who are advocating not only for inclusivity in the outdoors but also for mother nature.
Why do you think, I know why I think but why do you think you resonated so well with the internet?
Wyn: I think about the internet a lot probably more than I ever wanted. If there's something I probably don't even know about me is how much time I spend thinking about the internet or about social media because it's so much a part of-- I've grown up with it. Literally, I've known it my whole life and I think we all have an addiction to it. I think that we all sit there and just feel shit about our lives as we scroll by people, especially in the LGBTQ community, it's just shirtless guy after shirtless guy after shirtless guy, at least for me as a gay male.
I think that Pattie just was there to have fun and to just be one little thing in your scroll that can be saying, "Hey, I'm not trying to have you compare yourself to me. What can I give you? What can you take away from this? Can you smile? Sweet. I'm there for that." That's all I want because I also don't want to be an overstater of the work that I do. There are so many people in the outdoor community and in the LGBTQ community that are really putting in the work. I've really tried to educate myself over the past few months and do everything I can do get to know the community and get to know people in the community but they are the ones putting in the work.
My work in quotes is like someone can smile. I'm there for it. If someone can send this video to someone else and feel like the outdoor spaces is space that can just be more fun than more serious, I'm there for it. If someone can watch a video of mine and can be like, "The outdoor space isn't this masculine-driven thing. It's actually seriously 100% feminine, if anything then I'm there for that too." I think that Pattie just challenges even my own beliefs and is just there to dance on whatever bridge exists between whatever worlds I wanna dance on and it's fun. I love doing it. It's a long answer to your question.
Shelby: We love what you do. Pattie's taught me so much. I didn't know someone like Pattie existed. You made me see your world in a completely different-- I just think you've got to light a community as well in a whole new light and shown the outdoor industry that it can be so much fun. You recently did this video to the theme of Frozen in Aspen. That would look so fun. You dressed up like the ice queen.
Wyn: Yes. Snow queen moment. Yes, I did.
Shelby: The makeup took three hours.
Wyn: It took forever but the makeup artist that did my makeup Katie. She's the actual queen. She's unbelievable. She paints some freaking art on my face. We started off the morning with three hours of makeup and then hit up the slopes.
Shelby: You said you were also at Aspen to actually help talk about LGBTQ issues.
Wyn: Yes. I was more there just to present on me and the journey of me. I think to be honest, I'm not the best person to talk about so much of this stuff. Again, because there's so many people that their life work is this. I think that it was really just, I guess a chance for me to just share my story. Then just to share that my only goal with Pattie is just to be like a lifelong learner and to fuck up a lot along the way and to learn from those mistakes or those things? I'm learning so much.
Shelby: What have you learned? Tell me more.
Wyn: What have I learned? I've learned there are crazy beautiful communities for people that would be considered more unlikely and outdoors people online. So many. Everything from Unlikely hikers to Outdoor Afro, to Queer Nature, to Melanin Basecamp, to just so many different things. I had no idea this existed. Just a week and a half ago I was getting breakfast with the founder of Native Women’s Wilderness, Jaylyn. It's a whole entire online community that's promoting knowing what land you are enjoying in the outdoors.
About making that a space where women, especially native women can be as well. I just think that's so freaking bad ass and so cool. I'm just trying to soak it all up. Going to Outdoor Retailer was a really interesting experience for me. Just to learn where everything stands at least in the outdoor industry. Was so interesting to me, because there's like the upper floor of OR which is where like where the outdoor industry is.
Then there's like this second floor below. That's like, the smaller brands but then also where basically everyone from these nonprofits and communities hangs out and is. I was like, "This is where the party's at. This is where the difference makers are." This is the only place where I saw diversity actually represented. Even at that it was like little to none compared to the whole entire thing. It was really powerful to see that in front of my face, to just see people's reactions especially the upper floor when I went the first day as gay male me and then the next day when I went in full drag. There were just a lot of differences. Of course, if you see somebody in full drag, it's going to be strike up a little bit different.
Shelby: This is a trade show where people are trying to write orders for their gear.
Wyn: Millions of dollars of shit. Seriously and I'm like-
Shelby: -this is my job where I spend all the time interviewing these CEOs of these companies. Interesting. You went in full drag. That's awesome. What did you wear?
Wyn: Thank you for asking. I wore a custom Eco-friendly designers Zero Waste dress by this designer in the city named Zero Waste Daniel. He designed the whole entire outfit out of reclaimed fabric. This is fabric that other people would otherwise throw away. He turned into this winter outfit moment. It was crazy. It was super fun.
Shelby: You got some interesting responses?
Wyn: Yes. I don't know. I think that I'm not here to dog on the outdoor industry as a whole. They're amazing people behind the scenes of some of these companies that are really pushing important things forward. Are really being inclusive and are really making amazing products that are getting more people out into the outdoors. I think what I learned so far five months out, which is no time at all, but what I've gathered is that the outdoor industry, that's not my space. The outdoor community, that's my space. That's who I want to be for. That's what I care about.
I care about 14 year old me who was sitting freshman year of high school, getting called a faggot every day. Compared to my life now getting called a faggot every day on the internet, but who has this beautiful community to call home. Who never knew that that was out there. Who never knew that the outdoors could be a space that would be for me and now it is. There's this huge notion in the LGBTQ community that if you're queer, you have to run to a city for acceptance. I think that narrative is often times true but it doesn't have to be that way.
Shelby: Before you keep going. There's a lot of members in my family who didn't even know and I'd say we're pretty progressive family. Can you just define LGBTQ+.
Wyn: I would love to and if I can remember what all the letters stand for, I will be amazed.
Shelby: I'll help you. Okay.
Wyn: LGBTQ, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and the Plus is just for ally. Queer, from my understanding, is just anyone anywhere on the sexual spectrum. It was a gray area, but that just like is anywhere on the spectrum that isn't defined by one of those other words in other acronym words. Yes, LGBTQ+. Lots of acronyms.
Shelby: Yes, I've also heard that the Q can stand for questioning and the plus, in addition to allies, it's just for anyone who's on the spectrum but doesn't identify with any of those other terms. I have a friend whose daughter is an eighth-grader and she broke it down to me one day. She was like, No, there's this and there's that and there is this whole spectrum and Shelby you have to be saying it this way. I was like, Wow, I can't believe I'm blowing it. I was and I'm so glad that an eighth-grader educated me.
Wyn: I'm glad you brought that up because, well, first of all, yes, eighth-graders be well calf. Second of all, I don't think there's any like blowing it. I am someone who when I meet someone whose pronounce they and them can so often say he-she he-girl, all that stuff. There's that but then there's also like, I don't know I think there's this like mental difference even in my mind between everyone who was LGBTQ+ and straight people.
I'm so glad that acronym in that space provides space for people but, oftentimes, I can think of myself not included in that group of people or that I not knowledgeable enough or that I don't have enough diversity in my life to know people who are all those things. Then I feel like I'm blowing it too but it's not that. It's just a mutual respect and it's a mutual, always open to learning, always open to feedback.
One of the biggest lessons that Pattie's teaching me is that there's a huge difference between hate and feedback or criticism because a lot of times there are people who just want to throw hate, especially online. Then there's also people that really do want to push back on something or offer something up to someone. That's been a really big learning lesson for me to just not to label anyone who's not just saying, "I love you, Pattie," as someone who's a hater because they're not. There for sure is hate out there. There won't be a day when my DM inbox is not full of hate, but there also isn't a day when it isn't full of really, really knowledgeable community that's just keep me accountable and that I'm learning lots of things through.
Shelby: I'm going to tell I can't believe there's haters but that's really sad.
Shelby: Really quick, when goes by the pronouns.
Wyn: Wyn, pronouns, yes, he and his and then Pattie kind of any pronoun I guess that people want to throw out there because I think that my drag I guess is very gender-bending. I would say the pronouns that I identify most as with Pattie is like she, hers, fabulous, inexperience, someone who's still figuring out who the hell they are. Yes, it's a really important space for me to just to see what happens and just to keep my mind open.
Shelby: When we come back, Wyn and I talk about the pros and cons of life on the internet. He shares some touching advice on coming out. He also talks about how you can be a supportive parent to an LGBTQ+ child.
When you spend time outside, there's things you just can't find anywhere else. Like the whistle of wet wood on a bonfire, the feeling of belonging you have just by being out there, or a river rock that surprisingly looks like the station wagon your parents drove when you were a kid. REI is here to help you find those things and more, to ask big questions and discover more answers outside wherever you are. Visit your local store or rei.com for inspiration to get outdoors and tools to make it easier, then go find out.
I've talked to a lot of guests on this show about social media, the addictive nature of it, the dangers that can pose as it encourages us all to compare our own lives to the perfect ones we see online. Pattie Gonia experiences this to an extreme degree. Instagram is the platform she uses to post her content, connect with fans and share emotionally honest and inspiring messages. It isn't always easy. I have a job that requires the internet and usage of online. I did this huge podcast in the beginning of the year on how to unplug. I had this real love but resistance to social media in particular. It's really hard for me if someone writes anything mean. I'm a human, you're a human, whatever group you belong we're humans and hate hurts. I luckily don't really get a lot of hate but I cannot believe that you get. I'm really saddened that you get hate. How do you handle it?
Wyn: It's something that's on my mind a lot because it's there all the time not just for Pattie but in my life has as win as well.
Shelby: It's awful.
Wyn: It's a really interesting thing because we can tell ourselves, it's like lie in our heads that these people would never say these things to our face. They're just behind the keyboard so they have a way to hide it. What I have experienced first hand is that no, they're not just saying it behind keyboards. They are right there in front of our faces every day. We naturally as humans go the path of the least resistance so in our daily life we don't necessarily encounter that hate face to face just because we're literally not geographically in the same location as that.
Hate's crazy, hate's online all the time for me in both worlds and it's something that I sign up for doing what I do. I am not here saying that everyone should love what I do and tell me nothing but that I'm amazing. I'm learning to take critique and to use it to transform me because there is for sure critique to be heard in everyone's actions but there's no room for hate. That's something I will not stand for in the least bit.
Shelby: Hate is so weak, it's the opposite of courageous.
Wyn: It's so weak but hate as words are so strong. Here's the thing, I'm almost desensitized at this point to the word fag or faggot. If you call me that literally, I'm like well, I know what you're trying to do and so I've stripped it of its power. I feel like it's going to be an ongoing cycle and it is an ongoing cycle for a lot more people than we ever know it happens to. Here's the thing about my diversity I can cover it in more "straight" clothing. I don't have a different skin color. I can walk around in my straight person drag and not be noticed or given dirty looks and I can tuck that way.
My friends that are black, my friends that are trans, they can't hide who they are. They can't cover with clothing and they get looks and they get judgment and they get hate all the time for being truly who they are. That's something that I need to consider a lot in my life too.
Shelby: The internet has been a place of awesomeness and horror but also you've been able to use it for the power of good, good on you.
Wyn: Thanks, it's been a journey [laughter]. Listen, the state of affairs is pretty freaking bleak. We all know the internet sucks, we all know the internet makes us feel like shit and yet we open something every day and scroll past things every day that make us feel absolute crap about our lives. Why do we do this? First of all, we need to admit that we are all addicted but second of all, there's a chance to have that be a really beautiful place for fun and for stepping out of the usual grind of what everyone else is doing. If I open up my Instagram discover page because I don't know how Instagram fucking knows that I am a gay male but they do because of the algorithm life thing.
All my discover pages is guys with their shirts off and I've met a lot of these Instagram famous guys and they are way more than just the masculine image they choose to project on repeat loop. That is not my criticism of them it's me saying they are really beautiful people in real life. Why don't we all just put our weird out there a little bit more? All I know is that by me putting my weird out there my life has been forever changed and I feel way more like me than ever. I can't speak for anyone else but I know that me turning something that makes me feel like shit into my playground is fun. Me putting who I am, really out there and me choosing to be vulnerable has really mattered to me, and it's taught me a lot.
Shelby: How do you say if maybe Instagram can make you feel like crap. I have made my Instagram account. It's only full of people, whose accounts I really love. When I open yours, and you're out there dancing to Frozen, I can't help but smile and laugh, or telling me, "It's okay. Have a great day." I don't know. You say something way more aspirational-
Wyn: You guys see that in 18,000 different ways, but you just judge-- [crosstalk]
Shelby: You just say, "Hey you beautiful women and men" I don't know what you say, but it's so damn positive. It makes me feel good. I think what's good is so you've used the internet to not only raise money but to talk about really important issues and to elevate other people in the outdoors and elsewhere that we might not have known otherwise.
Wyn: Thanks. I feel like I have and I haven't. There's so much more I want to do--
Shelby: Oh my God, I want to hit you right now. [laughs]
Wyn: No. I for real mean it. I feel like I haven't, there’s so much that I want to do with Pattie, but a really realistic reality of mine, which I feel, again, we're reaching into the point this conversation, what I don't want you to know about me, is that my life is not in crisis mode right now, but is in basically in a big contrast, because before Pattie, I had my photo life as a photographer and--
Shelby: You have no joke, photographer?
Wyn: I love that world so much. If I'm being honest, I don't have capacity to bring Pattie into my life. I have enough friends, I have enough community, I have enough life that I love. I think when a community ask you to step up and just to keep on doing what you're doing, I'm not saying be a leader or a culture maker. The industry just is like, "Hey, you're doing great honey."
I think your job to show up and to be vulnerable and to be yourself, and to be there for that community. Here we are as Pattie, but the reality that I'm trying to work through is, if I'm spending a weekend doing party, that's a weekend I'm not doing photo life working. How do I make a living off of something that I love so much so that I can hopefully do more and just to do it better, and to learn more for myself?
How do I do that without selling out in a sense, because since launching Pattie, I've been reached out to by -
Shelby: I can imagine.
Wyn: - every brand that I ever knew of and more in the outdoor industry. I say that very humbly, but I've said no to almost all of it, because it hasn't felt time yet or right yet and it's felt like something that, I don't know. I feel like this community is so pure right now and knows that I'm not just going to hit him with a random ad to sell them the next coat they don't need. That sounds very snarky, but that's really how I feel-
Shelby: No. I think that's great.
Wyn: -and overall. If I'm just being honest, it's like, "How do I make a living doing this, and how do I keep on remembering the original purpose, which for me is self-discovery, which for me is having fun? Those are too selfish things. Then if that outwardly can mean something to someone, I'm there for that too. That's what I'm trying to figure out.
I think that it's totally worth it and I'm working through it and there are some positive prospects. There's also just a lot of the world that just wants to move fast and not quick and make the next dollar and make the next thing. Honestly at this point, definitely, I calculated someday, over a quarter million dollars so far with Pattie, with different brand sponsorship opportunities in different things and speaking engagement things and whatever.
To know that that's there but that's something that I'm not going to be proud of. I'm really looking for a brand who wants to maybe take 5% of their budget that they normally spend on sponsored athletes, and create a team of sponsored advocates. Like, "Why are we not doing it in Outdoors Community?" What an opportunity that the outdoor industry has to really celebrate diversity and inclusion and equity, which I know those are a bunch of stupid ass buzzwords, but really putting them forward. Really putting them forward-
Shelby: Yes, if you could say that.
Wyn: -in making that happen, because, don't get me wrong, there are athletes that are advocates as well. A lot of the people that I look up to that are athletes that are sponsored, really have an advocacy piece that's really awesome. I just think there's nothing but opportunity, and there's nothing but the chance to make the community and the industry better. Whoever hops on it first wins. That's just the truth. I'm not saying whoever hops on me. I'm saying, whoever hops truly realizing we have a lot of work to do and that things are pretty fucked up right now but there's a lot of hope, they're going to win.
Shelby: Pattie really has helped a lot of folks find their own voice in place in the outdoors and I think it's great. What people besides JVN has Pattie brought to your life that have been so exciting?
Wyn: Good question.
Shelby: Even the famous ones that were just fun that reached out to you.
Wyn: He DMed me after my first video.
Shelby: No big deal.
Wyn: I was like, "Hello mother Duchess. Is this really you or is this some like social media manager?" She was," Hahaha, it's me, honey." I was in my grave. That happened. I don't know, Lance Bass follows me. That's weird. That's like a piece of my childhood. That is just like crazy. Other than celebrities for real, the people that it's brought into my life are two other kinds of people.
One, my friends who I oftentimes I'm producing and creating with for clients, in an actual business setting. Then Pattue is our playground to have fun and get to cut loose and get to choose something with an iPhone video that is so poorly edited on a laptop and pump that out to the world. It's hilarious cause oftentimes Pattie’s content gets way more views than any of the professional content we make.
It's just a fun playground for me to get to spend more time with my friends and to bring my friends closer to me and who I am. It's also brought a really, really incredible community of people from nonprofits in the outdoor industry or just community makers in the outdoor industry into my life as well. I can't even name enough names but the founders, a lot of these outdoor communities I got to meet at after retailer and that was really special and I look forward to collaborating more with them because they are people that I think are really doing incredible things in the outdoor space.
Shelby: Advice to people who just want to own who they are.
Wyn: The moment you do the thing that you think the world won't love you for, I think the world's going to love you a lot more for it.
Shelby: That's pretty powerful.
Wyn: As my story. I don't know anyone else's but that's literally mine. I never thought I'd be here, I thought that I was going to just be a kid who just squashed their queerness and who they were every step of the way. My life isn't that, my life is full of really beautiful people because I decided that you have no other choice for real. You just have the chance to not give up on yourself.
Shelby: I going to give you a huge hug. You're so awesome. I love him. I love all of you and you're just so great. This is a hard one but-
Wyn: You won't recover from these tears. [laughs]
Shelby: No, it's great. I guess I'm nervous to ask you this but I'm going to ask you it anyway. Any advice to help people, maybe kids listening who are afraid to come out about who they are sexually or maybe they still don't know. I'm sure you get asked this a lot and what do you advise people going through this or parents?
Wyn: First of all, I don't think that the coming out experience is only for the LGBTQ community, I think that the coming out experience is for anyone in life because you know, as I look you in the eyes across this table that you have had moments in your life when you've had to come out to people in your life to be truly who you are.
Maybe that's meant quitting a job or a hard ass conversation or ending a relationship that was just so toxic.
I think when we can have more of those moments more radically and when we can put our truth out there, essentially come out of the closet in a sense that our life can be really beautiful because then we are just giving ourselves permission to be who we are.
There's a part two of the whole damn thing, which in this closet metaphor, at least for me and my life was that I had to go back to my closet and grab that thing in the closet that I also didn't want people to see. I had to zip up those things on my feet and stomp through the world and my life was completely different again. I came out again in a new sense.
I think that when we come out, there is not just that coming out, there's a million come out after and that everyone experiences that at every age. A midlife crisis is nothing but a coming out, it's all the same damn thing. It's all hard. There’s no harder. There’s just hard. This is an amazing woman, Ash Beckham who has an amazing TED Talk that talks about how there’s no comparing coming out. There's no hard and harder. It’s hard and it’s the human experience. We can lean into that and be more ourselves. The world really is at our figure tips because the people who are going to be with you afterwards, those are the people that matter. When I drugged for the first time and I posted photos on my photo account. I lost like 10,000 followers in a day.
I had messages in my inbox from so many people that I thought were in my corner that said, “Hey Wayne. Love you so much buddy, but I don’t really understand this drug thing. Is this you now? Are you like a trainee? You want to be trans? Do you want to be a woman? Or why do you feel the need to do that?” That really hurt. I had to refrain that experience from my mind. Those 10,000 people that chose to unfollow me. They really aren’t the ones that matter.
The ones that matter are people that I am with after that, and who are still there because those are the people that I’ve linked arms with even stronger and that’s my community and those are my people and that’s who matters in my life. Don’t get me wrong when you come out of your closet whenever that is. It’s not going to easy. There’s going to be a lot of your world that will be left behind. That provides nothing but space to fill it with people who actually give a shit about you.
Shelby: I think people listening here morally to the coming out about something. I did come out about something. This was sometimes after I got back from New Zealand and I’ve been struggling with depression. I had gotten diagnosed. I basically told all doctors f-off. I was unaffiliated. I Didn't need it. It ran really deep in my family.
Wyn: You can do it on your own.
Shelby: I can do it on my own. Eventually, I took a pill, went of a pill. That whole dance is pretty challenging and tricky even though it was a low dose ones like natural ones. I peed myself. I just didn’t work. Then I took a western one. I had all these things. One day, I was just like, “I can’t take it anymore.” In the depths of my darkest depression. I wrote a post. I was going to throw up. I felt like I had to send it and I pressed publish. Then published it to Facebook. It was early in Facebook.
I was like, “I can’t believe I did that.” I was about hit erase. Literally, my phone started dinging and dinging and dinging and dinging. People being like, “I really like that, thank you.” So many other people have experienced something like that. I got weird comments. People thought I was suicidal. I was like no. We all have our moments. They just didn’t understand that. Yes, that moment changed me. I even wrote. I felt like I came out of the closet. I felt like it was wrong for me. Obviously, I wasn’t putting judgment on the phrase I thought only belonged to another group.
Wyn: Oh yes.
Shelby: I get it. That’s really good advice because everybody listening has had that moment where they had to come out of the closet or maybe they need to come out about something. Once you do, it is so freeing.
Wyn: Once you do, you repeat that rhythm of nope. I need to go into the closet. I need to grab the thing that I don’t want people to know and put it out there. It’s going to important.
Shelby: Thank you for sharing that. Your parents like your mom sounds like she was pretty cool.
Wyn: Yes. My mom has done a lot of growing through me coming out. My mom means well and is incredible. It wasn’t the picture-perfect story. Nor was it with my dad. That was hard. It was way harder actually with my friends. I had to rebuild a lot of my community. So thankful for the friends I had in high school, then in college. Post college, finding the people that are really going to stick by your side. It’s a different flavor.
Shelby: I think people want to keep you safe and they don’t want you to be hurt and they mean well. It’s totally different but it’s not. Coming out about depression, I had some repercussion like, “Would people hire you if they knew back then you had experienced it. Would you have it again, would you relapse.” I feel really grateful. Knowing, do I really want to minimize what it is to come out in the LGBTQ+ community. That’s brave. That’s really courageous. I think people mean well and sometimes people stick with you sometimes they go away and sometimes they come back.
Wyn: Hey. That’s okay. Me realizing that people needed to go was a hard pill for me to swallow. If they deal with hate, of course, then it's a different story but they want to go it's an open door. I have no time for anyone in my life that's not fully invested in who I am fully and who's going to give me space for me to invest in them.
Shelby: Lightning round backup name for Patagonia, if it wasn't Patagonia, what was it going to be? Or was there none?
Wyn: The North fears face.
Wyn: Maybe my Halloween costume next year, we don't know.
Shelby: Next sport Pattie’s going to try?
Wyn: That's such a good one next outdoor sport. I am going to try to rock climb outdoors in heels, I did endorse, it was great. Now it's time for outdoor.
Shelby: My jaws to the floor, that's wild. You busted your heel today, are you going to get new ones or fix those? Did you keep the piece?
Wyn: I still have the original pair of boots that I bought at that West Hollywood story. We bought some replacements since so I will probably be buying a new pair because I don't think that's all water really does a lot of good flavors in with boots that have worn in very sweaty environments. The ecosystem in those probably needs to go.
Shelby: Advice in walking in those big high heels?
Wyn: Always struck to the song inside your head that you love that's your anthem. It's like walk down a trail that's metaphorically important to you and actually important to you.
Shelby: Why not? What's that song in your head?
Wyn: I really do think it's London Bridge by Fergie, for me is a song that always plays in my head. If it's not that it's Crazy in Love or Upgrade You by Beyonce, their anthems.
Shelby: What was your favorite surf move today that you developed and learned?
Wyn: I learned the Shaka which is different than the punk rock fingers that I thought it was. I thought it was this universal thing. It's not. It's very easy. I can teach you
Shelby: Any photo tricks? You are such a good photographer, things that you like to tell aspiring photographers?
Wyn: Document the people who matter to you, document your family, you are going to be grateful then.
Shelby: Funniest comment you've received?
Wyn: Probably. Man, that's so good. People, in general, are very funny on Pattie’s account, their way wittier than I am. I'm always just like, "Why do I not ever just not caption Instagram, let people caption it for me and then rewrite that." Someone way back then wrote, "She's a queen in the streets, but a freak on the peaks." I was like, "Why are you not a copywriter? Why are you not working for an ad agency being paid a million dollars a year to write this stuff?" Then I use it on Instagram caption later so it's perfect.
Shelby: Amazing how is interaction, have you got some fun looks today?
Wyn: Interactions are always fun. My dream Pattie environment is when really I'm not affecting anyone else's outdoor experience. I love performing. In a sense for just my friends or from Mother Nature herself, best audience. Today on the beach, obviously everyone's there and it's so crazy to walk across the beach and see so many people that are just nodding their head slowly and just like smiling and then one lady asked me, she says, "Can I ask why? And I said, "Why not?" And she goes, "Touche honey." and I was like, "Thank you." Then totally got looked at by a group of six girls. The thing is, I would want to think that I'm above looking at someone in a wet suit in heels and be like, "Great job." I would also be like, "What are they doing?" I'm fine with the looks and stuff and it's always so crazy, how easily that can change as soon as, I address the people who are looking at me and just say like hey to them or whatever and they're always like, "Oh, hey, what's up?" I think we feel like that wall permission that can't be broken but as soon as we break it, then it's fine.
Shelby: There was this moment today where I went to go get another camera or something. We had a lot of, it's hard when you're shooting in salt water. I came back and you had six kids, very diverse, walking next to you, you're strutting your stuff as Pattie on the beach, and you had a freaking party and Izzy and I were laughing so hard we started crying.
Wyn: They were a surf group from a Christian College. It was amazing. It was so great.
Shelby: Five minutes you grab this posse and you found them and they all-
Wyn: They walked by and they were all like," Yes." And they were all snapping and I was like, "Y'all do you want to be in a clip." And they're like, "Yes, we have no idea what you're doing but yes." Then we all strutted our runway walk across the beach, it was great. We high-fived after. It was lovely.
Shelby: What does Pattie love to say to people?
Wyn: Pattie loves to say to people, "You're doing great and don't look back, you're not going that way."
Shelby: One of my favorite things about spending time in the outdoors is that it humbles you. As Wyn said, Mother Nature doesn't care what you look like. It doesn't care about your gender identity or your sexuality or your size, or even if you're having a crappy day. That's a big reason why I love spending so much time outside, getting hit with a blast of fresh air, a cold salty wave, or ideally a warm salty wave. Or seeing an amazing sunset or vista. To me, that's like waking up on the right side of the bed with a fresh cup of coffee already made and on my bedside table. It instills you with a sense of hope and positivity. I'm all about anyone who's trying to spread that hope and positivity a little further in our world today.
I'm also all about someone who's pushing us to be more okay with who we are no matter what. Pattie’s mission of not only getting different kinds of people outside but also encouraging everyone to take care of their planet. We need more people like her. We all need to be more okay being wildly ourselves.
Wyn, Pattie, thank you so much for being a force of nature, for sharing your journey and coming to La Jolla Shores to rock your heels in the sand and in the waves with me. Just a note, we talked about coming out, we don't want to minimize anything for anyone who's a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Coming out is no joke. It's brave and it's courageous. Wyn, Pattie, I so appreciate anyone who challenges us to think beyond what we think we know. I appreciate our conversation so much, I appreciate you and all about the love you spread and laughter you create.
Special thanks to Izzy Tehanyi and her twin sister Coco of the Surf Diva Surf school, California for letting us use your pink board and your surf school, Yassi Mesbahzadeh, my dear buddy who also helped with the shoot, and the amazing photographer, Jianca Lazarus, who took some incredibly fun shoots which you can see online at rei.com/blog/podcast or at wildideasworthliving.com, or our Instagram account at wildideasworthliving. You can follow Pattie @pattiegonia on Instagram to be wildly entertained and inspired.
This podcast is produced by REI with the help of Annie Fassler and Chelsea Davis. Tune in week after next for an interview with the previous guest who's spending time living off the land in Florida. This week I hope you remember to get outside, take a friend or two with you and spread love and kindness to anyone you see on the trails, in the waves, or even at the grocery store.
As always, I really appreciate when you subscribe, rate, and review the show wherever you listen. It takes two minutes, but it means a lot. Please, whoever you are, embrace you, be wildly you. Remember, some of the best adventures often happen when you follow your wildest ideas.
[01:03:22] [END OF AUDIO]
Here’s the Wild Idea
Pattie Gonia is the world’s first outdoor drag queen and activist. The brainchild of Wyn Wiley, a talented photographer and Eagle Scout from Nebraska, Pattie rocks her platform boots to hike, ski, and now surf her way through Mother Nature’s most beautiful settings. She’s become an example of how to be WILDLY YOU, no matter what.
When I first saw her on Instagram, I wanted to reach out. Her message was not only wild and fun, but it was thought-provoking, made me laugh, and feel good about myself. I also appreciated that she features other people in the LGBTQ+ community and people of color having an impact on the outdoors, and addresses topics like inclusion, sustainability and how we can be more accepting of ourselves and others.
I invited Pattie to come surfing with me and the Surf Divas in La Jolla, California and do her very first podcast in San Diego. After a four-hour surf session and video shoot (which you can follow along on our Instagram account), we dove into an array of topics. We covered everything from the birth of Pattie Gonia and the alternative name she had, how she’s built such a huge community so quickly, what it was like to have some serious stars reach out, how she deals with haters, coming out, and how to be wildly you, no matter what.
*Just a note, we get pretty passionate in this conversation and there is some not-so-kid-friendly language. Enjoy.
Listen to this Episode if
- You follow Pattie Gonia.
- You want to get outside and be entertained.
- You are interested in activists who make a difference and how to build community.
- You’ve had to deal with internet trolls.
- You want to know what it’s like to surf in platform boots and heels.
- You want to be more okay being wildly you, and owning who you are.
- 1:30 – What surfing for the first time was like for Pattie and Wyn.
- 9:15 – The origins of Pattie Gonia.
- 16:30 – Wyn’s coming out experience. How coming out can apply to people not just in the LGBTQ+ space.
- 22:20 – Why Pattie’s posts are resonating with the internet and on social media.
- 24:40 – Pattie experience at Outdoor Retailer and also in Aspen where she recorded a Frozen themed skiing video.
- 30:00 – Defining LGBTQ+.
- 35:50 – How both Pattie and Wyn handle internet trolls and try to make a positive impact.
- 48:30 – Wyn’s advice and experience on coming out, and how to be wildly yourself.