WEB_OPENER_Saty+Pratha_Macleans Kyne Portrait1542

TikTok’s Reigning Math Queen

One and a half million math converts have flocked to Santos’s @onlinekyne account for camp explanations of quadratic equations and square roots
lora grady

April 2, 2024

Kyne Santos’s introduction to math was highly practical. His late father, a Filipino immigrant who worked as an engineer for Toyota in Cambridge, Ontario, told his young son that excelling in the subject would help him land a good job. By high school, math was Santos’s best mark, and he competed in contests—in his case, exams provided by the University of Waterloo. “I didn’t win often, but they exposed me to the creative side of math,” Santos says. “Like trigonometry proofs, where there weren’t right or wrong ways to do them.”

Around the same time, Santos began experimenting with makeup, wearing red lipstick and eyelashes to school—a “superhero cape,” as he explored his gender expression. By 2016, when Santos was a first-year math major at Waterloo, he saw a live performance by Kitchener queen Miss Drew, who inspired him to take to the stage. By day, Santos would complete his coursework; by night, using Kyne as a drag name, he’d perform in DIY costumes at campus pubs and nightclubs across southern Ontario. By 2020, Kyne had become something of a domestic drag icon, placing 11th on the first season of Canada’s Drag Race.

Once filming wrapped, Santos found himself in a creative rut. YouTube wig-styling tutorials were a fine-enough outlet, but then he remembered his first love. “I started posting math riddles on TikTok, dressed in drag,” Santos says. “I thought nothing would come of it.” Thousands of views and comments quickly rolled in. (“If only u had been my math teacher—I’m sure my life, grades and attendance would look extremely different,” one said.) In a viral clip, Kyne dons a purple organza top and dazzling gemstone earrings, batting her thick lashes while explaining the ins and outs of Möbius strips. It has close to 15 million views.

One and a half million math converts flocked to Santos’s @onlinekyne account for camp explanations of quadratic equations and square roots and, soon, Santos had adapted the tips into a book. This spring, Johns Hopkins University Press released Math in Drag, in which Santos explains key math concepts, like the law of averages, alongside queer history tidbits about drag balls and Marsha P. Johnson. It even explores the statistical probability of winning Drag Race.

For Santos, now 26, Kyne’s career has been instructive in a few senses. “When I was young, I thought, If I’m really flamboyant, how am I going to get a job as a mathematician or a scientist?” Santos says. “It’s important to me to undo the stereotype that a ‘math person’ can’t wear makeup or be feminine, that you have to fit in a certain box.” With the book dusted, Santos’s next goal is to establish a scholarship program and possibly a tutoring service, online or in a classroom setting. The uniforms will likely be fabulous.

Saty+Pratha_Macleans Kyne Portrait1628
Saty+Pratha_Macleans Kyne Portrait1628


Favourite equation: “I really like eiπ + 1 = 0. It incorporates numbers, like e and i, that forced mathematicians to expand their frameworks. The ‘celebrity numbers,’ as I call them.”
Go-to lip-sync song: “The Boss” by Diana Ross
Drag idol: RuPaul. “She opened the doors for queens in the mainstream, doing daytime drag shows, TV and writing books!”
Favourite author: “Aside from me, I really like Eugenia Cheng. Her book How to Bake Pi makes math approachable for the general public—and incorporates her love of baking.”
Downtime pastime: Watching Real Housewives at home in bed. “Salt Lake City is full of camp icons.”