Becoming Velicity: A journey into drag

By Kat Lonsdorf

Matt Kyle moved to Chicago from South Dakota about a decade ago. Six years earlier he started performing in drag.

“I was drawn to all the glam, the rhinestones, the sequins, the glitter,” said Kyle as he sat in a dressing room in the basement of Hamburger Mary’s in Andersonville, one of his regular performance spots.

In his daily life, he goes by Matt, but among friends and other drag queens, he’s Velicity Metropolis, a character with big hair and an even bigger personality.

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It takes Velicity Metropolis nearly two hours to get ready for a performance, from showering and shaving to make-up to donning layers of sparkling costumes. (Kat Lonsdorf/MEDILL)

“Moving to the big city and seeing a variety of more things has helped my character—and me as a person—grow,” he said.

Meeting new people can sometimes be confusing because they want to use feminine pronouns.

“I’m like, no, no, no. Tell them to use him,” he said. He thought for a second and then added, “Well, then they usually find out I do drag, and then I guess it’s a little more fluid.”

Chicago is more accepting than South Dakota, he said, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t confronted with stereotypes and ignorance.

“A lot of people think that because I dress as a woman that I’m less masculine than anybody else,” he said while carefully applying a coat of mascara. “But here’s the thing: it takes a lot of balls to put on a wig and dress.”

Photo at top: Velicity Metropolis (Matt Kyle) puts on finishing touches backstage before heading out to perform in Andersonville on April 10. (Kat Lonsdorf/MEDILL)