The candid Kitchener queen and social media star explains how math can be used as force for social change
Kitchener queen Kyne had a short, memorable and rocky run on the inaugural season of Canada’s Drag Race.
The second contestant to sashay away, Kyne was pegged by the early on judges as a social media queen brimming with “overconfidence.” (She has 679,000 followers on TikTok and 76,000 on Instagram.)
She won the first mini-challenge and her unfiltered attitude afforded her ample screen time, but also harsh critiques from judges Brooke Lynn Hytes, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and Stacey McKenzie. After the premiere episode aired, she also had to contend with nasty messages on on social media.
In episode two, the panel was not taken in by her performance in the HER-Itage Moments acting challenge or runway look harkening back to her first time doing drag. She landed in the bottom two, lip synching for her life against an emotional Tynomi Banks – one of Toronto’s most respected drag performers – to Stars On 54’s disco-fied Gordon Lightfoot cover If You Could Read My Mind.
But she also did what good reality TV contestants do: gave us moments of comedy, drama, vulnerability and candor. The day after her elimination aired on Crave, we spoke with Kyne about getting the “villain edit,” the pitfalls of opening up on reality TV and mixing drag with math as force for social change.
How did you become a drag queen?
I started out more as a YouTuber/makeup gay. I started experimenting with makeup back when I was in high school and documented it all on YouTube. I really fell in love with the artistry of it all and started slowly going from concealer here and there to eye shadow to face paint. When I first discovered RuPaul’s Drag Race, that opened my eyes to the world of drag. I had a very stereotypical idea of what drag was.
What was your stereotypical idea of drag?
I just thought that drag was this very odd thing of men dressing up as women and I didn’t understand why they did it. I saw it more as an art form when I took a closer look. I saw the humour and the fun and the irreverence.
You’re a math student. There’s one line of thought that would say art is similar to science and math and others that might say they’re opposing fields. What’s your view?
I like how math is a field where things are binary. Statement is either true or false. An object is either inside a set or isn’t. I do like the objectivity. In that sense, I would be on the side of people who say that math and art are very opposed. I think lots of mathematicians and people within that subject do have an artistic side to them. I like how I can do both because I do have a creativity side to me as well as an analytical side.
And drag lets you break the binary.
Your time on Canada’s Drag Race was short but memorable. How would you characterize it?
It was fun. It was chaotic. It was good TV. I’m glad that I got to make an impression on people. I was very confident – at some points too confident. I’m glad by the second episode viewers got to see more of my personality and got to see the cheekiness of it all.
When you left you you said in your voice-over that the show was a humbling experience. What was humbling about it and do you feel similarly today?
What was humbling was the knowledge that you’re not always going to get everything you want in life. You can try your hardest to impress people and people won’t like your sense of humour. You can give people the prettiest, juiciest peach and maybe they just don’t like peaches. I think the judges just didn’t like me. They were looking for something else. It was the lesson that not everything is going to work out for you and that’s okay.
It’s a weird time because Drag Race is a launch pad for the contestants, but we’re in a pandemic. How do you take your time on the show forward in the context we’re in?
Out of all the queens on the show, I was always going to be in my basement filming videos in front of the camera anyway. This is now the world we’re living in, but this has always been my comfort zone. I’m pursuing that lane of social media. I’ve been really loving doing my math videos. So many people hate math because of school – because of the way it’s taught to them. I think they just need to see it in a different light, see it in a different context, and understand the beauty and the elegance behind it.
They just need a drag queen teaching it to them.
Exactly. The drag draws them in and that’s when I teach them the math.
On Instagram you combine math, drag and the politics of the moment. You’ve used math to debunk crime statistics. Can you talk about how you use math to talk about anti-Black racism protests and became part of that conversation on social media?
This is the why people should be learning math: math is used not only to create our GPS and our computers, and make the banking system work; math is also used in media to manipulate people and drive political agendas. People need a stronger mathematical literacy in order to process these things. Many people see things like “crime rates are up five per cent from last year” and they have no idea what that means. Five per cent seems abstract to them. People need to be better equipped with the tools to understand statistics so it can’t be used for evil anymore.
Even though you were on the show for only a short time it seems like you got the “villain edit.” Do you agree with that? You had a beautiful moment with Tynomi at the end of the episode so there was this redemption arc. What’s your take on the way you were edited?
When I said to Tynomi “This is my moment,” that was the same spirit that I said everything in. Everything I said was meant to be in jest. There was that moment in Untucked with BOA that I did lose my cool. It seemed like it was the perfect storm of me thinking I was in the top for a sewing challenge. I do sewing tutorials so I felt the pressure. And I felt the embarrassment and the shame when I was in the bottom. I did snap there but I’m only human. That’s totally my sense of humour. I think it came across as arrogance to some people. I’m glad that people got to see that it was just lighthearted by the end of the second episode.
So far both eliminations have been very emotional. This week, Tynomi was the more emotional one and you really held it together even though you went home. How intense was the elimination experience?
It’s super intense. At that point I had really accepted my fate. When the judges were telling me that they did not like me in the acting challenge – even though they admitted I was very prepared and knew all my lines – that’s when I knew this was a competition that is not going to be successful for me. Clearly they’re looking for something that I don’t have. I didn’t want to embarrass myself anymore so I accepted my fate. Tynomi and BOA had the will to fight that I didn’t have and I could tell the judges really liked them more. I knew that it was my time to go.
I find the critiques on Canada’s Drag Race to be pretty harsh. I feel like they’re more diplomatic on the American version even though they can also be tough. How do you feel the show compares to the American version?
I wonder if maybe the judges felt like they had to be a little bit extra harsh to establish themselves and show people they’re serious. It definitely made me feel defeated because I applied all my critiques, I never talked back to them, I was more humble, I worked on my walk. I did everything they wanted in the challenge and for them to not even give me any positive [feedback], it felt like, how am I supposed to believe that they want me to succeed?
What was it like lip-synching against Tynomi Banks?
If I had to go home I’m glad it was against a queen that I really look up to. I was really at peace with the whole thing. I wanted to lip-synch to keep some dignity but I felt I was being her backup dancer in that moment. [laughs]
This. Please stop with the hate. You have NO IDEA how hard it is. Just because you don’t like how someone acts on a television show does not give you the right to send that person hate. This girl is so talented and helped make that first episode gold ❤️? https://t.co/eMNyvM064A— Brooke Lynn Hytes (@Bhytes1) July 7, 2020
You opened up about your family on the show. What was it like watching that and what are your family’s thoughts on your time on Drag Race?
My family’s been liking it. My mom has been finding it a little hard to watch. To tell you the truth, I wish I hadn’t opened up and been that intimate about it because I’ve had a lot of nasty messages over the last week and I’m like, they don’t deserve to know me like that. It shouldn’t take trauma for people to see me as a human being.
On the one hand you’re unfiltered, which is great for reality TV, but it makes you vulnerable to things that some of the more buttoned-up queens won’t have to deal with.
If it humanized me I guess it’s a good thing. I was very scared coming into the second episode because the entire week leading up to it, I felt all the nerves. Episode one was really horrible for me. I really felt like I had to do damage control because so many people were just being very mean to me and I never had the chance to celebrate the premier. I never had a chance to be optimistic like the other queens were. For me, it felt like in both episodes I totally just felt flat on my face. I felt like my career was at stake, but if people found I was redeemed then I’m happy for that.