In one of her first posts on TikTok, Rhode Island State Senator Tiara Mack slowly pans the camera, showing off a lemon-yellow cropped top.
“I’m just trying to go viral,” she says. “I’m trying to go viral so I can tell you more about abortion. And also to talk more about the state of politics in Rhode Island.
“And maybe,” she adds, “to bless your For You page with thirst traps.”
This is exactly what happened the weekend of the 4th of July. She posted a video wearing a bikini, doing handstands and twerking, a regular activity in her free time. It then cuts to a photo of her standing on the beach, smiling at the camera and saying, “Vote Senator Mack!”
“There you go, I found the key to going viral,” she told GBH. morning edition this week. The video has over 200,000 views.
Mack’s video has been dissected and decried by conservatives and liberals alike. Comments on the post ranged from expressing embarrassment and shame at Mack to one user saying “I never want to hear you complain that’s why women are not respected in this country after posting this. ”
She also received hate mail and death threats.
“It’s been wild,” she said. “I have seen and heard it all. I have a 9 to 5 job that I do daily. I also canvassed my neighbors and was able to talk to many of my constituents. I watched a 10 month old baby last night. So my life went on normally. But this idea of Tiara Mack, same feeling, I guess, has, like, really exploded.
Some people objected to Mack posting a video of herself twerking to an account that identifies her as a state senator, instead of a private or personal page. But Mack said she wants to stay true to who she is.
“I think the way someone could be too open about their personal and private life lives exclusively on social media,” Mack said. “I haven’t used this platform to address my mental health or seek advice or get approval. I haven’t used this platform to share the struggles of trying to hold down a full-time job. while being a part-time legislator.
The internet, she said, “is about creating a distinct personality in some way, while being able to say, I want people to see at least a part of me in them. I want the next generation of leaders to see that they can live authentic lives and engage people in their message, in their platforms. It’s about showing imperfections when you need them. It’s about showing failures when you need to, then having fun when you need to.
She described twerking as something she does to let loose and have fun. Mack noted a list of people who have made twerking a part of their professional life, many of whom are still dealing with serious issues on their platforms: musicians Big Freedia, Lizzo and Meghan Thee Stallion among them.
“Some people might sexualize it,” she said. “I don’t know. There may be a cultural difference and an age difference for a lot of people. But dancing for me is a joy, it’s an expression. And so for people to try to take me away That, well, don’t you want me to dance? You don’t want me to move my body in a way that makes me feel good and empowered and empowered? You want me to feel small, you want me to be ashamed. I won’t allow that.
“Dancing for me is a joy, it’s an expression.”
– Tiara Mack, Rhode Island State Senator
Some people who responded to his TikTok agree, but others push back, insisting the video isn’t respectable or has ‘set the race back for years’, or that it could cost Mack a seat. that the people it serves cannot afford to lose.
“I made a lot of people uncomfortable with my freedom,” Mack said. She said she had “done everything in the respectability playbook”.
“I grew up with people saying I spoke ‘white’,” she said. “I went to an Ivy League institution. I’m a state senator. And still in those spaces, I was disrespected for being young, for being black, for being queer. I’m going to be the same person that I am in my daily life because I have seen politicians trying to put up a front, or leading inauthentically.”
“I said it so many times to people at the gates when they said, ‘you’ve lost our respect’… They didn’t respect me before that.”
– Tiara Mack, Rhode Island State Senator
Mack is re-elected this fall. Its platform includes access to reproductive health care and sex education that incorporates gender, sexual orientation and pleasure – which has not been without controversy either. But Senator Mack has also received plenty of encouragement and support for her actions, both online and in person.
“My constituents on the gates laughed. They’re like, ‘Oh my God, we have to meet you,’ or like, ‘I don’t understand why this is happening,'” she said.
“I was talking to a group of older black men today, born in the 50s and they said, ‘please don’t apologize.’ They saw the power in that,” she continued. “And those are the people who vote for me. I’ve never been here to lead a global audience, a national audience, or a regional audience. I leads for the people I show up for every day at State House, trying to make their lives in Rhode Island better.
Mack said she plans to continue posting videos — and yes, maybe even more Thirst Traps. She already has a series of graphics on her Instagram with the hashtag #TwerkFor issues, like a green new deal, an end to evictions or police accountability.