Growing up in Baltimore, Maddi Wyda often felt the need to edit herself, toning down self-expression to fit in with the crowd. After attending Smith College in western Massachusetts, she began experimenting with different forms of fashion while studying studio art and engineering.
Arriving in Provincetown in 2015 for a summer internship, she was exposed to a town full of unabashed self-expression and felt immediately at home. Wyda, 27, is a lot of things: painter, illustrator, henna artist, pole dancer, fashionista, but just like her college majors, she does not limit herself to easy categories.
After wrapping up college and graduating, Wyda once again set her sights on Ptown for the summer, knowing there was money to be made during touristy summer months. She figured, afterward she could choose somewhere to move to. The summer came and went, the fall arrived, and she kept staying.
“I feel safe here. I love the small-town feel, I like the freedom of self-expression. I love the way people express themselves here, not only people on vacation but the people who live here. People don’t dress and act like that at home.”
Wyda is a fierce advocate of body positivity and finds liberty and joy through fashion and pole dancing. “I’m not afraid to show a little skin, and I think that’s something Ptown has taught me and something I love about this town. Whether it’s big bears in daisy-dukes or muscle queens in lace bodysuits. This is a place where you can really be you.”
If you run into Wyda at the Provincetown Brewery, where she works, or on the street where she has a henna tattoo business, you would be hard-pressed to distill her down to a single category. When asked to describe her appearance she will use terms like Queerdo and Queer Creature. “I would say that my look is drag-inspired, loud, a little leather, engaging, body-positive, and not afraid to show skin. We should celebrate the bodies that we have.”
Through fashion, make-up, dance, and art, Wyda challenges what it means to be a woman and live without shame. Her relentless exploration of self has led to an aesthetic that is truly without labels but full of significance. Incorporating elements of drag and inverting traditional stigmas around women’s bodies (such as nipples), Wyda has found utility in the umbrella term queer as flexible enough to incorporate a wide selection of body types, gender identities, sexual identities, and gender performance. The inclusivity of queerness makes Wyda feel welcomed in a town that skews demographically towards gay men.
It may be this constant experimentation in self-expression that inspired Wyda to explore art and body art that led her to Henna tattoo. You can usually find her on the benches outside town hall, offering expertly drawn handcrafted designs with no templates or stencils to be found. Unfortunately, current town regulations do not allow her to charge for her art as she works based on gratuity. Although other artists who paint on paper and canvas are allowed to charge for their service, she is limited by her street performer’s license to only solicit tips. These and other town regulations that limit housing for young people are some of the only negative remarks Wyda can be coaxed into making.
“I got really lucky with housing. It’s year-round and affordable. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t be able to be here.”
In order to afford living here, Wyda has a few side-hustles. Private art commissions, Henna tattoo, mural painting (check out the Draftivism wall at the Brewery for an example of her work), and the brewery keep her afloat and able to continue pursuing her passions.
“Ptown is my happy place. I feel like I can be myself here unabashedly. Other places I feel I have to tone myself down, but not here.”
Wyda is excited about the future of Provincetown and has begun to notice a definitive shift in the town demographics. “The new generation here to me seems more queer than gay, I’m a woman but I feel at home here. The queer expression, to me, feels like a wider celebration of humanity.”
And how does Wyda celebrate? Although she gave up drinking a while ago, you’ll often find her on the dance floors around town, using her body to joyously amplify the queerification of Provincetown, into the morning hours.