Rep. 'Auntie' Maxine Waters Getting The Spotlight

May 13, 2017
Originally published on May 13, 2017 9:43 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Hashtag #AuntyMaxine is having a real moment. For those of you who may not know what that moment is, that's Congresswoman Maxine Waters who's developed a passionate fan base as NPR's Vanessa Romo reports.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Please welcome its star Tracee Ellis Ross and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

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VANESSA ROMO, BYLINE: That roar you hear, that standing ovation you can't see, that's not for Ross, the actress on stage at the MTV Music Awards last week. It's for the 78-year-old politician in a black lace cocktail dress standing next to her, Californian House Representative Maxine Waters.

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ROMO: Still going. Waters has spent more than four decades in public service. And now kind of out of nowhere she's the political crush for the left, mostly because she's not afraid to stand in front of crowds or cameras and say in that deep raspy voice of hers things like this...

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MAXINE WATERS: I don't respect this president. I don't trust this president, and I will fight every day until he is impeached.

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ROMO: Thirty-year-old Asheya Warren is one of Waters' legions of fans.

ASHEYA WARREN: There's an innate familiarity with her as far as feeling like you have a direct family-type of connection. You can see a relative in her and in her mannerisms.

ROMO: Oh, I should mention, the congresswoman's extended family of supporters calls her Auntie Maxine. And what Waters has going for her is what starlet's fear most - her age. Warren says that buys her a speak-your-mind pass.

WARREN: You're able to say whatever you want to whenever you want to. My mom does it. Her two sisters do it. My grandmother did it. And that's why that Auntie moniker is so well received.

ROMO: So that Auntie Maxine nickname - it comes from the brain of our R. Eric Thomas, a humor columnist for Elle.com. And here's how it happened. Waters held a press conference after then FBI Director James Comey briefed Congress on the Clinton email investigation. Thomas was watching that on TV.

R. ERIC THOMAS: She goes to the podium. And she's just like...

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WATERS: Yes, can I help you? What do you want?

THOMAS: I was like, who is this person? She walks into a press conference like they're already on her last nerve.

ROMO: He wrote a hilarious send up of the 21-second event. And that article catapulted Waters into her current political rock-star status. Now there are stickers, pins, and T-shirts emblazoned with one of her many putting-you-on-blast facial expressions.

WATERS: Auntie Maxine, oh, my god. Can I take a picture?

ROMO: That's Waters, and this is the world she lives in now. She says she's surprised and honored to be so enthusiastically supported by Millennials. She's even got a catchphrase for them.

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WATERS: My Millennials, stay woke.

ROMO: Vanessa Romo, NPR News Washington.

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SIMON: And tomorrow on WEEKEND EDITION Sunday, you can hear the stories that you shared with us about your mothers on the Call In. Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks with one woman about her struggle to become a mother.

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SIMON: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.