It has happened to Dianne Bruce at the Xfinity store, at a local restaurant, in a grocery line and in London: Strangers will see her and their eyes will widen as a look of recognition crosses their face. Are you the lady with the fur coat? And the wine? they ask. She always thinks to herself, "Well, should I be or shouldn't I be?"
But she is, indeed, the lady with the fur coat and the wine. Her unintended notoriety dates to a Saturday evening in April 2017. Bruce was enjoying a quiet "no makeup Saturday night" at her home in a leafy, posh area of Washington, D.C., where the 74-year-old Washington native has lived for 20 years and where, according to Zillow, home prices average $1.25 million. Among the folks who inhabit her street are Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Bruce and her neighbors were aware of a planned protest on their block that evening. They didn't know the details, but shortly after dinner, Bruce heard music blasting. She grabbed her sable coat and headed outside.
Organizers billed the event as a massive queer dance protest for climate justice at Ivanka Trump's house, and pledged to bring biodegradable glitter. "You had outrageous costumes, outrageous music, everyone dancing in the street, and everyone was a very good dancer," Bruce recalls. She had attended the Women's March months before, but this was a completely different kind of demonstration: "This was entertainment," she says.
Eventually, the ruckus died down, and Bruce headed inside. The next morning, neighbors let her know that there had been, to put it mildly, a strong online reaction to a candid photo of Bruce watching the protest. In the picture, published by the Daily Mail, Bruce is standing on her front steps, wearing her lush coat and sipping a glass of white wine as she watches the revelry happening just outside the frame.
"I started getting emails from friends who said, 'You know you've gone viral,' and I said, 'I don't even know what that means,' " Bruce recalls. Fearing the worst, she had her husband, Charles, investigate. The photo "was all over the place," he says. But he insisted that she see what people were saying about her. Strangers were posting the photo with comments like "SHE IS MY SPIRIT ANIMAL" and "The neighbor watching the LGBT protest in front of Ivanka Trump's house while drinking white wine is definitely invited to gay brunch."
"I was surprised because, to me, it had all the components for people to attack and they didn't seem to," says Bruce, adding with a smile that "there were some people who were snarky, and I can do snarky."
The photo and its reactions inspired online headlines like "Ivanka's Neighbor Gleefully Watched The Protests Against Her" (New York Magazine) and "The Internet Is Absolutely Loving Ivanka Trump's 'Petty' Neighbor" (HuffPost). For the record, Bruce describes the look on her face as "more amusement and interest than glee."
Firas Nasr, one of the lead organizers of the queer dance protest, explains that the spectacle was "a celebration of our existence, a celebration of our community, a celebration of our environment." He loves the traction Bruce's photo got. He finds it instructive, though, that an image of a well-to-do onlooker's reaction caught fire more than the action itself.
R. Eric Thomas, a senior staff writer for Elle.com who wrote a piece at the time titled "Ivanka Trump's Wine-Swilling, Fur-Wearing DC Neighbor Is Iconic," wonders if the photo would be as popular if it had been taken more recently. "Dianne was a great avatar for reflecting frustration with the administration while also having very America-in-this-moment visual imagery," he says, noting that the photo reflected a certain playfulness.
Eighteen months later - in the wake of Trump's equivocating comments about white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, his demure posture toward Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, and the intense public backlash against the forced separation of migrant children from their parents at the border - that playfulness may now feel outdated. Such an attitude is, Thomas contends, "hard to maintain for a long period of time."
As for the actual Dianne Bruce, she generally views politics through the lens of someone who has seen administrations come and go. "Every four years, people move in and they move out," she says. "You have good parties, that's fine, and then you lose power and you're out of here."
Under the Trump administration, though, she's observed a change in that attitude. "We are so toxic right now that when I have a dinner party, I can't have Republicans," she says. (Bruce, for the record, describes herself as "the most liberal Democrat you're ever going to find," even as she has gotten into shooting in the past few years, and totes her shotgun back and forth between Washington and London.) "I've never seen it like this, ever, and it doesn't do any of us any good."
Bruce says her friends pushed her to capitalize on the attention after her photo went viral, but "I never quite came up with exactly the right thing."
A few months ago, as she looked back on the moment in her living room - with a very on-brand glass of white wine in her hand - she was still flattered by the positive attention, but also a bit puzzled. "Everybody says, 'Thank you, that was so great,' " she notes. But what, exactly, are they thanking her for? "That's what I don't know."
Kurzius is the associate editor of DCist.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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