Portland’s “Naked Athena” Speaks for the First Time to a Local Podcast

“I just wanted them to see what they’re shooting at.”

IMAGE: Alex Wittwer.

Over the past two weeks, Portland's demonstrations against the police killings of Black people have swelled to numbers equal to or surpassing those when protests began two months ago, in large part due to President Trump's deployment of federal officers to the city.

As the crowds have grown, individuals have emerged from the masses to grip the public imagination.

There's the Wall of Moms, who now have their own theme song. The Navy vet who absorbed several swings of a baton seemingly without flinching. Hip-hop veteran Mac Smiff, who had a moment last week when he was filmed speaking with Mayor Ted Wheeler in the midst of the protests.

No one, however, has received as much national attention as "Naked Athena," the protester who was photographed facing down officers while wearing only a beanie and a face mask.

Related: Federal Officers and Portland Police Simultaneously Dispersed Protesters Last Night.

Media outlets from the Los Angeles Times to the New York Post to London's Daily Mail wrote about it. Movie director Adam McKay tweeted about his obsession with the image. Op-eds have appeared in The Washington Post and The New York Times criticizing the action as a product of light-skinned privilege. At least two copycat Athenas have arrived in the buff this week at a fence surrounding Portland's federal courthouse.

And that's all without anyone knowing the protester's identity.

We now know—more than before, anyway.

The anonymous woman widely referred to as Naked Athena granted her first, and so far only, interview to the Portland-based podcast Unrefined Sophisticates.

In a two-hour conversation released yesterday, the protester, who identifies herself as "Jen," divulges only a few pertinent biographical details. She is a sex worker. She's in her 30s. And contrary to assumptions, she is not white but a non-Black person of color.

She says the decision to undress and confront the phalanx of officers happened on the spur of the moment but that being nude in public is nothing new to her: "I am notoriously naked," she says. She describes the moments leading up to the altercation and what happened during the standoff—she reveals that her "yoga poses" were in part the result of being shot in the foot by a crowd control munition.

While WW has not been able to independently confirm that Jen is Naked Athena, the personal details she shares on the podcast match how friends of the protester described her to this newspaper.

She also discusses the aftermath, including the criticisms, the media attention (she says news outlets offered money to her friends to put them in touch with her), and the surreality of being talked about by the likes of Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert.

"My message," she says, "other than my feminine response of wanting to show them what my version of vulnerability looks like,…was we're all out here, these protesters, [and] the only thing we have in common is, we have masks on and we're out here at night. None of these people have weapons. Empty their pockets, take off their clothes—nobody has weapons here. I just wanted them to see what they're shooting at."

Listen to the full interview below:

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