be_ixf;ym_202407 d_23; ct_50
June 4, 2024
By: TA Editorial Team

(As originally featured in the Fall / Winter 2020 Issue of Tracy Anderson Magazine)

 

When I hop on a Zoom video call with photographer Wyn Wiley, known for his drag-queen alter ego Pattie Gonia, he is making the trek to the Wind River Range in Wyoming for a monthlong hiking course in the backcountry. Despite all the changes and cancellations that COVID-19 has brought, Wyn is still committed to carving out the much-needed time and space to bask in Mother Nature’s beauty. He knows that with all the uncertainty in the world, his mental health and happiness take precedence, and hiking is something that continuously brings him peace of mind.

 

This is my first time speaking to Wyn outside of his Pattie counterpart’s wildly popular Instagram platform. I came across Pattie’s Instagram through a hiking account that I follow, and it was like love at first sight. Her page features scenic views of the great outdoors paired with high-heeled boots, striking makeup, and powerful messages of inclusivity and self-acceptance. After finding Pattie’s page, I instantly contacted my team to discuss scheduling an interview because I couldn’t wait to hear her perspective and share the impactful movement she’s creating.

 

Wyn created Pattie Gonia, a play on words for the Patagonia clothing brand, as an alternate persona, so he could freely explore both the feminine and masculine sides of his gender. Pattie is a fierce icon who lives boldly, challenges gender norms, and celebrates diversity.

 

Before our conversation begins, I ask for Wyn’s and Pattie’s preferred pronouns. “Wyn’s pronouns are he/him, and Pattie’s are she/her,” he explains. “I am completely open and feel very fluid as both.”

 

This fluidity and vulnerability is something that drew me to Pattie’s Instagram presence. So to start our chat, I ask all about when Wyn decided to create Pattie and how Wyn’s alter ego became a part of his identity.

 

Before Pattie was born, Wyn came out as gay, but he still felt compelled to conform to avoid negative criticism. “I changed my voice to be lower,” he reflects. “I wore super straight-passing clothing. I did everything I could to be a chameleon and blend in rather than stand out.” Then, Wyn toyed with the art of drag but was hit with an avalanche of backlash and ridicule, causing him to deny that part of himself for six months. “My house got egged, people distanced themselves further from me, and I heard from fewer and fewer people,” he recounts. “It changed what people thought they knew about me.” After that six-month period, Wyn became exhausted trying to please other people and desperately wanted to embrace his authentic self, which gave way to Pattie. “I’m really glad I chose to live life for me,” he says.

 

Wyn’s ability to live unapologetically and authentically is incredibly inspiring and admirable, so I ask how that self-acceptance has played a role in his health. “Since Pattie was born into my life, it’s been a radical unlearning of so much of what I thought I needed to be, including what I thought my body needed to be,” he explains. “I feel like there was so much toxic masculinity in the gay, white male experience that I lived.” By letting go of the social pressure to look a certain way in the outdoor space, Wyn has shifted his outlook on movement as something therapeutic and enjoyable rather than a way to manipulate and change his body. “For me, getting outdoors has been the most healthy environment,” Wyn says. “I don’t have a six-pack, and I don’t need a six-pack. I can hike 25 miles a day and do 6,000 feet of uphill, and that’s enough for me. That’s a great workout, and I love it.”

 

This vulnerability and courage to challenge expectations provide Wyn with the power and strength to hike mountains and spread his light across the world. Wyn explores and honors his feminine side through Pattie’s persona, and he isn’t afraid to break boundaries and step outside of the boxes that society imposes on people. “I think if we were all being more honest with ourselves, we’d realize there’s a lot more masculinity, a lot more femininity, and a lot more gray area to be found in each one of us,” he remarks.

 

A large reason why Wyn has the confidence to be himself is because he surrounds himself with positive people whose support drowns out the negativity when it gets too loud. Instead of letting others’ judgments and opinions run the show like they once did, he’s able to tune out the noise and turn inward with love from the relationships he’s fostered. “Don’t forget that you are the author of your own story, and don’t let contributors become co-authors because you’re the one who decides where you get to go, down what trail, what way, and at what pace,” Wyn expresses.

 

I switch gears in the conversation and ask how Pattie’s persona led to environmental activism. “When Pattie was born, I became an advocate for the environment and realized the most important thing for me was to share my failures, imperfections, and progress because there’s so much perfectionism in the environmental space,” Wyn discloses. Before Pattie’s existence, Wyn didn’t give much thought to how his behaviors affected the environment, but Pattie learned that striving to make better decisions every day is more sustainable and meaningful than aiming for perfection. “Waking up and being 1 percent better than you are the day before is huge,” he says.

 

Wrapping up the conversation, I ask a series of fun rapid-fire questions to get to know Pattie better. On the topic of Pattie’s sense of style, she says her favorite pair of shoes are the first pair of six-inch heels that she got, and if she had to wear one outfit for the rest of her life, she’d wear those trusty heels with leggings and a green jacket. As for her style icon, British actress and activist Bonnie Wright is someone Pattie turns to for sustainable fashion inspiration.

 

Of course, food is always an important topic of discussion. I learn Pattie loves to cook, is team dark chocolate, and would choose Joni Mitchell as her celebrity dinner guest of choice.

 

For the final round, we’re onto the media. Pattie’s go-to song is “London Bridge” by Fergie, her favorite book of quarantine is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and her favorite feeds to follow on Instagram are ones curated by Teresa Baker (@teresabaker11), Benito Skinner (@bennydrama7), and Sasha Velour (@sashavelour).

 

Toward the end of our virtual conversation, I propose the idea to embroider sayings like “Live Unapologetically,” “Perfectly Imperfect,” “Free Yourself,” and “Fall Down and Get Back Up” on athleisure and then donate all the proceeds to a charity of Pattie’s choice. She’s thrilled about the prospect and can’t wait to see a community of people wearing and living her truth.

 

I ask Wyn if there’s anything else he’d like to discuss before logging off, and he urges everyone to spend more time outdoors for their own health and the health of the planet. “You’ll realize how much it needs to be saved and how much we need to protect our environment,” he vocalizes. “You’ll give yourself more space, time, and freedom to think for yourself.” Whether it’s a walk in the park or a 10-mile hike, “do whatever feels comfortable for you,” he says.

 

Wyn and Pattie don’t just climb mountains and cross vast lands to challenge their physical fitness, but they also spend time in nature to learn about themselves, sit with their emotions, and make the world a better place. Wyn hopes everyone can have that same life-changing experience.

To read more, head to our webshop to purchase the Fall/Winter 2020 Issue of Tracy Anderson Magazine.