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Four months after bursting onto Instagram, hiking drag queen Pattie Gonia made her first public appearance at the 2019 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver, Colorado. Statuesque in a flowing platinum wig, an elegant white gown, and a pair of knee-high boots with six-inch heels, she strutted down the aisles with the pride of a runway diva.
When she’s not working it, Pattie Gonia is Wyn Wiley, a professional photographer from Lincoln, Nebraska. Though he identifies as a gay male, he adopted his female persona as a unique way of paying homage to his love of the outdoors.
It all started on a backpacking trip along the Continental Divide Trail in October of last year. Wiley packed in a pair of those six-inch heeled boots and posed for a few photographs, then a video, then another. When he posted the images to Instagram, Patti Gonia was born. Today, her Instagram following numbers more than 117,000 users.
Wiley said the name of his alter-ego has nothing to do with the popular outdoor brand. “I was sitting around a table with a few of my friends thinking up funny drag queen names,” he said. “One of my friends was about to hike in Patagonia for a few months and the name just kind of happened.”
As Pattie Gonia, Wiley wants to encourage everyone, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, to discover the joy and beauty of the world outside without ever doubting that they belong there.
“As cheesy as it sounds, Mother Nature doesn’t care who we are,” Wiley said. “I love the outdoors so I’m going to be out there. But I just want everyone to be where they feel they can be their true self.”