Local nightlife entertainer Matt Strother, who performs as Matthew Jay Kelly, won the title “Entertainer of the Year” in one of three categories in late July as part of the annual competition held by the SLS Pride Foundation, Inc., in Louisville, Ky.
Kelly, who performs as a man, won the “Mr.” competition. He was one of 11 vying for the title.
Kelly, who performed elaborate stage recreations inspired by the movies “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands,” says winning was a huge thrill.
“I couldn’t stop crying,” the Alexandria, Va., resident, who qualified for the title by winning a regional pageant in Florida (D.C. doesn’t have a regional preliminary), said. “It still hasn’t fully set in.”
Kelly, 29, credits his drag mother Kristina Kelly, for much of his success. The two met at Ziegfeld’s/Secrets a few years ago and he now performs with her most Monday nights at Cobalt.
“She’s absolutely amazing,” he says. “She sat me down and said, ‘I really think you could do something like this.’ She’s been such an inspiration.”
Kelly works at Freddie’s Beach Bar and Secrets, where he won Washington Blade Best of Gay D.C. awards in 2011 and 2012.
Kelly lives with his partner, Brian Embly. He enjoys music, dance and traveling in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out since I was 12. The hardest person to tell was my father. But he has come around and he has been very accepting.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Kristina Kelly. She never ceases to amaze me. She cares for everyone even if they don’t care back. She inspires me to become a better person.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Cobalt on Monday nights! It’s a total drama-free zone and such a diverse non-judgmental crowd. But of course I love Freddie’s and Ziegfelds/Secrets almost as much. They have all become my home.
Describe your dream wedding.
Family and friends gathered in a beautiful air-conditioned building. Flowers everywhere. All white with jet black tuxes.
What nonLGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Unemployment. There are so many unemployed people that fight so hard to find a job and in our economy it is such a struggle.
What historical outcome would you change?
September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States of America.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
When George Bush declared Eminem “The biggest threat to American youth since polio.”
On what do you insist?
Equality and respect.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“I would like to take the time to wish my little sis, Katelyn Elizabeth Strother, a Happy 16th Birthday! Lord help us all haha I love you! Xoxo”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“A Journey Through My Eyes”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Stay exactly the same.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Focus on the drama that is enveloping the LGBT members. If people would just worry about themselves instead of doing everything they can to get into someone else’s business, our community would be a lot stronger.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My fiancé, Brian.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That all gay men want to sleep with all straight men.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
The customer is always right. Nope, most of them are wrong.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Mr. Cobalt. It was the first male entertainer pageant I had ever won. The feeling was something out of this world.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
How to save money.
Sometimes I ask myself the same question. In all honesty, my friends. They are what has kept me in the D.C. area. They are some of the strongest people I have ever met and I couldn’t see myself without them.