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Canada's Drag Race's Kyne Is Making STEM More Inclusive With A Fun Pi Day Event

The Canada Drag Race contestant is helping break stereotypes in non-queer spaces…

Kitchener-based drag queen Kyne (aka Kyne Santos) had a short, but incredibly memorable run on the inaugural season of Canada’s Drag Race last year. She won the first mini-challenge and stole a few scenes, but ultimately was the second contestant to sashay away. But, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been busy!

Kyne has been posting videos on YouTube for years on sewing, wig styling and makeup, but really started to grab people’s attention when she began treating to her incredibly witty math videos in full drag (Kyne is a mathematician, as well as being a drag queen). Now she’s taking her love of math and drag a step further in an effort to help make the STEM space (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) a little more inclusive and friendly toward queer people and queer people of colour (which it often is not, sadly).

Kyne has partnered up with Toronto-based math educator Vanessa Vakharia for a special virtual event for Pi Day on March 14. The two will celebrate and talk about the meaning of Pi, all while Kyne is in her full drag! Fun fact: This is the first time that there has been a math/drag event – EVER!

We caught up with both Kyne and Vanessa to find out a little bit more on the upcoming event

Kyne, how did you first get into drag?
Kyne: It started off because of my love of makeup. I was documenting my experiments with makeup on YouTube while in high school. I loved the artistry of makeup! That’s what originally drew me to drag: the artistry of the makeup, the clothes and the hair. Then through watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and then seeing my first drag show, I was totally inspired to try it out for myself.

Your time on Canada’s Drag Race was short but memorable. Looking back… How would you describe it?
Kyne: It was chaotic and fun and I learned a lot. It was definitely a bucket list experience for me, and having the opportunity to reach so many people was a great blessing and for that I’m super grateful.

And, you’re also a math student. Tell us a little bit about what’s going on with your studies.
Kyne: I’ve just finished my Bachelors of Math from the University of Waterloo, where I majored in Mathematical Finance! It’s a lot of pure math, with a focus on the theory and modelling behind financial markets.

Vanessa, tell us about yourself?
Vanessa: My mission in life is to prove that EVERYONE is a math person! I myself failed grade 11 math twice, so I totally get why people feel that they can’t do math, but I want to show them that they can. I do this through a few things. Mainly, through the math and tutoring studio I founded and own in Toronto, The Math Guru. But I also host the podcast, “Math Therapy,” where I work through adults’ math traumas one problem at a time, and I write math books for kids! I’m also the founding member of an indie-rock band Goodnight, Sunrise (we opened for Bon Jovi!) and am completely in love with Keanu Reeves (waiting on that proposal).

A big thing for me is just showing people, through all the different things I do, that you don’t need to LOOK a certain way or sacrifice parts of your identity to enjoy math! You can be in a rock band AND love math, you can be a drag queen AND a mathematician. You can do all the things AND like math at the same time!

How did the two of you meet?
Vanessa: Someone had sent me one of Kyne’s TikToks in the summer, and I was hooked! Drag and math all in one place?! Sign me up! As soon as I saw those videos, I was like: “My goal for is to have Kyne on the next season of ‘Math Therapy.’” So when it came time to record season three of the podcast, I reached out to Kyne to come on, and she said yes! We had an amazing interview and I can’t wait for you to hear it soon. Subscribe to the pod so you don’t miss it!
Kyne: Vanessa had messaged me a few times on Instagram. She had me as a guest on her podcast and we hit it off! And now we’re doing this Pi Day event together!

Why do you think the STEM space has traditionally been less inclusive toward queer people and queer people of colour?
Kyne: When I was young, my family had a lot of prejudice against gay men, especially flamboyant gay men. Gayness is often reduced to the punchline of a joke. I felt like people would never take me seriously as an academic if I was flouncy and flamboyant. Perhaps because queer representation in the media is often limited to artists, entertainers, choreographers, and other creatives. It leads us to believe that academia and gayness are incompatible.
Vanessa: Whenever I see math depicted in movies, it’s always by some white, straight, cis guy prodigy, like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting!  Like have you ever seen a movie where the cheerleader also loves math? No! Math is never depicted as a cool, dynamic thing. It’s seen as lame and only for geniuses, a.k.a. white men. So I think because of this homogenous representation in the media, queer people and queer people of colour don’t feel like they belong there – even though that’s, of course, totally untrue!

For those of us that don’t know… what is Pi Day!?
Vanessa: Pi Day is March 14 (03/14, like 3.14 – get it?!).
Kyne: Pi Day is basically a day for fun and nerdy celebrations for math lovers. As Vanessa put it, March 14th (03/14)  represents the first 3 digits of pi! Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, but it’s culturally much more than that. It’s come to be known as almost the mascot of mathematics, because of our very long history of being fascinated with this number!

Where did the idea for the upcoming Pi Day event come from?
Kyne: I put out a question to my Twitter followers, asking if they’d be interested in learning math with me. Vanessa got in touch with me and we started spitballing ideas about how we could work together, and Pi Day came out of this!
Vanessa: It worked out so well that Kyne was looking for math teaching opportunities, and I’m always looking for cool ways to talk about math and making it more accessible to people. When I interviewed Kyne for “Math Therapy,” she talked a lot about how queer people are often left out of math representation, so I also wanted to create a space to make queer people feel comfortable in a math space.

Tell us a little bit about what we can expect from the event?
Vanessa: It’s a one-hour workshop, packed with magical tales of how pi and circles came to be! Plus, we’ll be eating pies – pizza pies, baked pies, any kind of pie you can think of.
Kyne: We’ll be giving a presentation all about pi, what it is, how we discovered it, and its many interesting properties and stories, followed by a Q&A at the end! We’re hoping people will leave with a better understanding of this number, but more importantly a better appreciation for the spirit of mathematics.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Kyne: This event is open to all ages and all math backgrounds, and all the proceeds will be going to Rainbow Railroad, an organization that helps LGBT people escape persecution and violence.
Vanessa: Kyne is the coolest ever and I am SO excited for everyone to learn math from this dope queen!

Quick! Share a fun math joke!
Kyne: …and it was delicious!
Vanessa: Why do teenagers always hang out in groups of threes? BECAUSE THEY CAN’T EVEN!!!

Kyne and Vanessa will be hosting a one-hour virtual Pi Day brunch and workshop on Sunday, March 14 (a.k.a. Pi Day) from 11:00am – 12:00pm EST that will be packed with fun facts and magical tales of how pi and circles came to be in the first place. You will walk away understanding why pi is so important and special, how it even got discovered in the first place, and some crazy cool ways we use it IRL!

BYOP (bring your own pie) and learn about the magic of pi!
Cost: $10. All proceeds go to Rainbow Railroad
Register for the event on Eventbrite.

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