After a long (and ongoing) fight for representation, gay media has been flourishing in recent years. With "RuPaul’s Drag Race" now airing on VH1, drag is in the mainstream and at the forefront of gay culture. In 2018, the show crowned its youngest winner, 22-year-old Aquaria. Her win is just one way the spotlight in the drag world has shifted to younger up-and-coming queens.
Oakland, CA — One such queen is 20-year-old YouTuber extraordinaire OnlineKyne. When Kyne started his channel at 15, it was about mostly simpler, boy makeup looks. But as his interest in makeup widened, he began experimenting with bolder makeup, costumes and theatrics. Kyne realized that he could combine his childhood affinity for music and performance with the art he was already doing online, and thus his drag career was born. Now, five years later, Kyne's channel featuring makeup and wig-styling tutorials for "baby queens" has grown to over 88,000 subscribers.
Last year, Kyne competed in the NYX Cosmetics FACE Awards, a makeup competition for YouTubers, where he was able to showcase his skills through themed challenges, like a Machinist Marie Antoinette. Fan votes landed him in the top 12.
In this interview with YR Media reporter Emiliano Villa, Kyne talks about the magic of makeup, the role of social media in drag and the recent renaissance of the art form.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Emiliano Villa: Is drag something you’ve been interested in since you were a kid, or did your drag evolve from your earlier interest in beauty?
Kyne: My first impressions of drag were informed by TV tropes that it was a cheap form of nightlife entertainment, but I always loved the glamour and theatricality. I think every gay boy has secretly wanted to put on heels and flip their long hair, but I never pictured it as something I could do. Drag was never really on my radar until my teenage years, but the signs of a baby drag queen were definitely there since birth.
EV: What are the biggest inspirations for your drag? What other drag queens do you look up to and why?
Kyne: I think my biggest inspirations come from my beloved musical icons like Celine Dion and Diana Ross. It's the graceful, statuesque divas that I channel when I'm on stage. As far as other drag queens go, I'm a huge fan of my local [Canadian] queens, like Miss Drew and Robin Derring. They’re older legends who just have star presence when they step on the stage.
EV: Many drag queens are a lot older than you. How does it feel being a younger queen in the drag scene?
Kyne: I can’t say I’ve experienced much stigma for being a younger queen. The queens where I live are eager to welcome new talent. They are legends in our community and I have so much respect for them, especially because they don’t try to stifle competition in the business. Instead, they’re open-minded and sincerely love seeing young new queens. The stigma against younger queens really only exists online and is probably a byproduct of the hate against millennials. It’s frustrating and hypocritical because we all envision a brighter future for the next generations of LGBTQ people, but instead of lifting them up, we are casting doubt and looking down on them.
EV: Drag has become more mainstream than ever before and people are becoming more accepting of drag queens. Why do you think that is?
Kyne: It's probably a side effect of the mainstreaming of gay culture and the growing acceptance of LGBTQ people. People are hearing our stories and recognizing us as passionate, emotional artists, comedians, writers, dancers and entrepreneurs. Sure, we've sacrificed some of the mysticism by letting people behind the curtains with our cameras, but I think it's a net benefit.
EV: What role do you think social media plays in making drag so popular now?
Kyne: I think social media has everything to do with the rise of drag culture. Social media brings people into our lives and humanizes us, whereas the stage lights cast us in mystery and smoke. A queen on social media is relatable, sympathetic and real — all the things we look for in a role model. It takes more than being a fierce performer — people nowadays want to relate to us and feel like part of their lives, and it makes the bond between entertainer and fan grow much stronger.
EV: What kind of performances do you do? Out of your own performances, what’s your favorite?
Kyne: I like to dance and be a showgirl, so I tend to model my performances around the music, mainly '70s and '80s songs. I want people's jaws to drop right when the curtain opens, so my look is definitely the biggest aspect. My favorite number to do is Diana Ross's "The Boss," which requires more of a stage presence than it does dance moves. I love a number that doesn't have me out of breath by the end of it!
EV: What’s your favorite makeup product?
Kyne: Blush is an underappreciated step, but it just makes me feel like such a woman. MAC Warm Soul is one of my faves.
EV: What’s your most important drag makeup tip?
Kyne: Brows. They are a make-or-break aspect to your face. My advice when drawing on new brows is to start your new brow at the same place your real brow starts, then arch it so the bottom of your new brow’s arch meets the top of your real brow’s arch. If you just freehand draw your brow onto your forehead, you can easily just make yourself look dazed and confused.
EV: What’s your biggest piece of advice for a baby queen?
Kyne: Always remember your prime responsibility as a drag queen is to be a positive force in your community who lights up rooms and makes people smile. People will forget if your wig looked dry, if your makeup was harsh or if your pads were wonky, but if you have a smile on your face and are pleasant to be around, that will leave the most lasting impression.