Mac Coronel is happiest when he’s Taylor Sheesh 2
Mac Coronel, a Swiftie since 2009; (right) Mac as Taylor Sheesh. Photo by Yzelle Espinosa courtesy of Mac Coronel
Culture

Interview with a star Swiftie: Why this call center agent is happiest when he’s Taylor Sheesh

The persona behind the famed impersonator on coming out, being body shamed, and the joy of being TayTay. “Pag hindi ako si Taylor, nagkakaroon ako ng inner saboteur sa life.”
RHIA GRANA | Jul 11 2023

“Yes, I did the Eras Tour. I performed for almost one hour and 24 mins. I’m that Swiftie,” Filipino drag performer Taylor Sheesh, or Mac Coronel in real life, proudly declared on Twitter last May after a successful mall performance. The 28-year-old Taylor Swift impersonator has performed in various venues, and is willing to do more mall shows all over the country—if only to help convince the American pop country superstar and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter he idolizes to include the Philippines as one of the stops in her ongoing Eras tour. 

For the amazing turnout in his past events, Mac got featured in international publications, among them RollingstoneMashableThe GuardianPhiladelphia Inquirer, and Barron’s. “Hindi pa ako nare-recognize ni Taylor,” Mac says, “pero mina-manifest ko yun.”

We don’t see Taylor Sheesh on the monitor when we meet our interviewee via Zoom this early Monday morning. We meet the guy who plays her. Mac just got off work at a call center in BGC. His face shows no touch of makeup and he’s garbed only in a white jacket over a grey polo shirt. 

Mac used to hate wearing makeup, wigs, women’s outfits. “Medyo naiirita ako kasi ang kati-kati. Hindi ako comfortable,” he says laughing. But after years of impersonating Taylor, Mac’s gotten used to putting it all on: the fake hair, the dress, the nails, and the face.

His career as a drag performer started in 2017 when he and his besties attended Nectar Nightclub’s Poison Wednesdays Drag Cartel. Joining the club’s lip sync battle was unplanned, says Mac. But since he was dressed and his BFFs knew he’s game for anything, they pushed Mac to, as RuPaul would say, lip sync for his life.

“Siguro sobrang lakas lang ng stage presence ko that night at alam [ng mga friends ko na] masayahin ako kaya pinush nila ako,” she says. “Ako naman, sinubukan ko lang. Andun na rin lang e.” One of the contenders that night was Drag Race Season 1 cast member Viñas Deluxe but Mac was the crowd favorite. He came out as the evening’s top prize winner.

That same night, Nectar’s manager invited Mac to audition for a drag group who will perform at the club every Friday and Saturday. He got through the audition and from then on became a regular artist at Nectar, usually performing alongside the Drag Race queens from the US. Since he’s already a die-hard Swiftie, Mac naturally decided his act will be to impersonate Taylor Swift. And thus was born Taylor Sheesh.

When bars closed over the pandemic, Mac had no choice but to focus on his office job. But when the live entertainment scene began to reawaken, she went back to performing at Nectar. These days, however, Taylor Sheesh has been busy with her mall tours. Her July is fully booked. “Until now marami pa ring nag-i-inquire. Padagdag nang padagdag,” says Mac, obviously thrilled with the Filipino Swifties’ reception.

Since the guy still maintains his call center job, he only accepts gigs scheduled before his shift, which starts at 11PM. “Yung ibang shows natatapat ng 6pm to 8pm, so kahit paano may time to rest pa before work. Yung iba naman natatapat sa rest day ko, Thursday and Friday.”

Mac Coronel's Taylor Swift album collection
Mac's Taylor Swift album collection. Photo courtesy of Mac Coronel

Swiftie since 2009

Mac’s intro to the world of Taylor Swift was thru the song “Fifteen,” a song about the innocence of young love. At that time, he was, well, 15 and in junior high school. “May crush ako nun e,” he says, blushing at the recollection, “kaya super relate ako sa song na yun.”

The more he listened to Taylor’s songs, the more he got hooked. “Naging fan niya ako lalo nung ni-release ang Speak Now in 2010,” he tells us. His most favorite song by the award-winning singer is “Last Kiss,” which is about the end of a relationship. 

Mac’s very own Eras Tour started when he attended a Swifties’ listening party at Market! Market! October of last year. “It was the very first listening party I attended. Pumunta ako dun na naka-drag costume as Taylor. Gusto ko lang siya ma-experience as an audience member,” he says. Then someone from Ayala Malls approached Mac and asked if he’d be game to perform onstage. Mac said yes. Being a performer,  he came prepared. Photos and videos of the performance went viral on social media.  

What was it like performing as Taylor in front of so many people? “Noong una nakakakaba talaga,” says Mac. “Nakakakaba kasi what if ma-disappoint sila. Ganoon ang pumapasok sa isipan ko. Minsan talaga may self-doubt. Then nakita ko ang reaction ng mga Swifties. Mukhang worth it naman.”

Mac also got invited to perform at the release launch party of Taylor’s Midnights album at the SM Mall of Asia. That exploded on TikTok and other social media platforms and Taylor Sheesh’s popularity skyrocketed. Last Saturday, she was back at Market! Market! performing in front of a massive and energetic crowd. 

One hour, 24 minutes 

Doing a mall show entails serious preparation. Mac has a trusted mananahi who makes all of his Taylor costumes. But Mac’s the one who personally takes care of all other requirements—from the wig and makeup to the audio-video needs.

When Taylor Swift released the dates of the US leg of her Eras Tour, the admin of Swifties Philippines fan group invited Mac to perform at Ayala Malls Manila Bay. For that show, he had a silver swimsuit made. She also prepared a 30-minute show to the delight of local Taylor Swift fans.

Two months later, the same group hired his services again. They wanted to organize a bigger event, in the hopes that Taylor Swift would add a Philippine stop to her Eras Tour. The guys from Swifties Philippines suggested Mac do a costume change in their next mall event, the way TayTay does in her shows. So Mac requested her mananahi to make five costumes. “Pikit mata akong nagbayad para sa five outfits na yun,” Mac recalls with a laugh.

He studied all the lyrics, the hand gestures, the costume changes. That show was the much-talked about Taylor Sheesh Eras Tour at TriNoma. The show lasted an hour and 24 minutes. “Ang pahinga ko lang nun quick change. Two minutes lang kailangan para makapagpalit na ako ng damit. Yung ibang damit pa dun ball gown.”

Mac even had a show at Nectar the night before the TriNoma gig. He left the club at 6AM and was at the Quezon City mall around 7AM to rehearse the choreography and blocking with the dancers. By 10AM, he was done with rehearsals and spent the next two hours catching up on sleep.  

By lunch time, he was up and busy prepping. Without a glam team to get him dolled up; it took him two hours to finish makeup. “Tinry kong kapalan ang makeup para kahit pagpawisan hindi kaagad siya huhulas.”

The show proved very tiring but, says Mac, it was all worth it: with the mileage it got, the Filipino Swifties got the international recognition they deserve.

The real Mac

Mac comes from a middle class family in Antipolo. His father is an auto electrician who runs a repair shop with his siblings, while his mother runs the Coronel household. Mac, a graduate of Computer Technology, is the eldest among three children.

We ask about his coming out story. “Actually hindi pa ako nag-come out ever [sa family ko],” Mac says, his tone turning serious. While he already knew he’s gay since his grade school years, there were no formal talks about it at home.

The first family member who found out was his youngest sister. She discovered a clip of her brother’s performance at Nectar on photographer and Drag Race Philippines judge BJ Pascual’s IG stories. “Bigla akong tinanong ng kapatid ko. Ako daw ba yun? At first, nag-deny muna ako. Noong una natakot talaga ako.”

Mac later got a message from a cousin, which surprised him. “Ang saya-saya niya kasi ang galing ko daw. Na-IG stories ako ni BJ.” 

After that, Mac would sometimes wear a wig around the house, in front of his parents. “Hindi naman sila nagtatanong. Siguro aware na sila,” he says. 

His TriNoma show in May was the first time his younger brother saw Mac perform in full drag. “After ng show, nung photo op na, lumapit ang kapatid ko. Magpapa-picture daw ang GF niya with me. [I had] mixed emotions. Hindi ko alam ang mararamdaman ko.”

When his performances went viral and articles were written about it, he just assumed his parents have seen them for sure. “Pero parang deadma pa rin,” he says. “Hindi ako nag-o-open talaga. If they ask me about it, then go. Pero yung mga kapatid ko, pinsan ko, accepted nila.”

Mac Coronel
At first, Mac would respond to the bashing, but he realized the haters will never stop. Nakakapagod din, so dinededma ko na lang,” he says. Photo courtesy of Mac Coronel

Sheesh the one

What Mac considers one of the toughest struggles he had to deal with as a drag performer is the body shaming. “Yun ang pinaka nakakapag-trigger sa akin,” says the 5-ft, 7-inch-tall Mac who cuts quite a skinny figure. “Minsan nagsuot ako ng swimsuit costume at pinost ko sa social media, dun na nag-start ang body shaming.” He says he tried everything he could to gain weight, but the guy’s just naturally on the thin side. “Inaatake ako ng anxiety at insecurity when it comes to that.”

At first, Mac would respond to the bashing, but he realized the haters will never stop. So he simply blocks or ignores them on social media. “Nakakapagod din, so dinededma ko na lang,” he says.

Mac says he’s happiest when he’s playing Taylor Sheesh. “Pag hindi ako si Taylor, nagkakaroon ako ng inner saboteur sa life. Palaging may self-doubt,” she says. “Unlike pag naka-drag ako, parang tumataas ang confidence level ko. Lalo na pag maraming crowd, parang may ibang energy na sumasanib sa akin.” He laughs.

The die-hard Swiftie is thrilled to share he was able to secure a VIP ticket to one of Swift’s Singapore shows. This is first time he‘ll be able to watch her idol perform live. The last time Swift visited the Philippines in 2014, he just didn’t have the money for a ticket. “College pa lang ako nun. So ang mahal na sa akin ng P2,000. Nakanuod ako noon dahil may nag-livestream sa Twitter.”

Mac’s VIP ticket, which includes a hotel accommodation, turned out to cost P68,000. “Nung nakita ko ang price ng ticket, sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘Okey, kailangan kumayod,’” he says. “Kasi once in a lifetime experience ito e. Money will return but Taylor won’t.”