When I first meet Representative Maxine Waters, she is sipping tea. It’s almost too perfect. She’s sitting, quietly, behind a curtain on-stage at the D.C. restaurant and performance venue Busboys and Poets. She doesn’t see me for a split second; her eyes are focused on some point in the middle distance, her lips graze a mug of hot tea. She seems, in this moment, turned inward, contemplative. She reminds me of the “That’s none of my business” meme.” You know the one, Kermit (or any number of other celebrities) sips from a mug after throwing a little shade, vowing not to get involved in whatever drama is going down.
But then I remember two things: Representative Maxine Waters is no one’s meme and, honey, she is here to get involved. She isn’t sipping tea, she’s spilling it. Buy shares in Lipton, everybody.
It’s odd to say that Rep. Waters isn’t a meme; since her quickly aborted press conference on James Comey and her subsequent appearances on All In with Chris Hayes in which she talked about the Kremlin Klan, the Internet has been obsessed with her. She’s shown up in videos, in GIFs, and above all, in memes. I have a shirt with her face on it, for goodness sake. You probably do, too. But despite this sudden popularity, meme-fame is not her end-game. And behind the viral videos, the over-the-glasses scowls, and the alliterative catchphrases, there is a black woman who is passionately, tirelessly fighting for the future of this country.
But that doesn’t mean she won’t let you call her Auntie.
It feels a bit like going to see the wizard, when they lead me backstage at Auntie Maxine’s Tax Day Open Mic, an event her staff has put together as part meet-and-greet, part-rally. She is larger than life in every respect; what if she turns out to be just another politician when the cameras are switched off? I step on-stage, she turns her eyes to me and lights up. Y’all, Auntie Maxine hugged me. I’m sure you heard my soul shouting all the way in Bethesda. “Where did you learn to write like that?” she asks as an introduction. I babble an answer that sounds something like “I dunno, the streets” and try to recall any of the 10,000 questions I have for her. True to form, however, she’s got more to say.
Read more at Elle.