- “Anna Lytical,” the drag queen persona of Google engineer Billy Jacobson, has a YouTube channel teaching beginners how to code.
- The aim of the channel is to make coding inclusive:“If we do not take part in building the technology around us then we will not be represented in it,” Anna Lytical said.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
A Google engineer is using his drag persona to teach novices how to code on YouTube.
The engineer, Billy Jacobson, began performing as “Anna Lytical” almost two years ago, but only launched the YouTube channel four months ago. The name Anna Lytical is a nod to his personality. “I’ll always be analytical even if I’m not Anna Lytical,” Jacobson said in an interview with Megan Friedman for Google’s Passion Projects series about employees.
“I’m a drag queen and a software engineer, and I want you – queer person, feminine person, woman, anyone who supports this – I want you to learn how to code,” Anna Lytical says in a January video titled “ATTENTION QUEENS: learn to code & take over the world w/ me.”
“Technology is all around us, the websites we use, the apps we use. If we do not take part in building the technology around us then we will not be represented in it,” Anna Lytical continues.
Anna Lytical goes on to outline the lack of representation we’re already seeing in technology, like getting on a dating app and then finding that it doesn’t fit your needs correctly, or filling out a form that only gives you two gender options. This exclusivity of technology can be ameliorated by code, and having diverse coders to program it, Anna Lytical says.
“We’re going to build websites together, we’re going to build apps together. For now, I’ll be your representation: I’ll build the kinds of apps we want to see in the world, I’ll use the references we know,” Anna Lytical concludes.
The genesis of Anna Lytical
“A few years ago, I was feeling kind of lost in New York City, a city I’d grown up in and, at one point, felt so connected to,” Jacobson said in an interview with Business Insider. “One way I’d felt connected to New York was through performances.”
Around the same time, he began re-watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and consequently attending drag shows in the city.
“There’s something about it that really drew me in,” Jacobson said. “I saw a place where I’d get to have a queer, LGBT audience, and get to do whatever I wanted.”
And so Anna Lytical was conceived.
Anna Lytical appeared in around 10 performances, first doing traditional drag acts, à la lip sync, but then beginning to mix in skills Jacobson acquired through his day job as an engineer.
On Halloween at one of Anna Lytical’s haunts, Pieces gay bar in Greenwich Village, Anna Lytical did a performance mashing up “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and the song “Blue” by Marina and the Diamonds. Anna Lytical made a blue dress with an explosive baking soda and vinegar mix that would inflate the outfit when she removed her belt, just like the Willy Wonka character of Violet Beauregarde, who physically swells into a giant blueberry when she eats a three-course dinner chewing gum with a blueberry pie dessert.
Anna Lytical eventually went on hiatus, as Jacobson found drag competitions to be physically taxing – before even hitting the stage, it takes two hours for Anna Lytical to do makeup, hair, and clothes – but work soon sparked an idea for Anna Lytical’s next venture.
“I work in developer relations at Google, so it’s our job to explain to other engineers how to use our tech, and that inspired me a little,” Jacobson explained. “People on my team make videos to show how to use the Google Cloud products, so (I thought) maybe there’s something here to do with my drag.”
Enter Anna Lytical, the queen of code.
“I look at drag queens, and they are problem solvers.”
Anna Lytical think of the YouTube channel, which currently has more than 1,400 subscribers, as a college for coding, with each video series serving as a class. The current series, “Beyond Binary: Intro to Computer Science,” launched on Wednesday. In it, Anna Lytical teaches in a self-described Suze Orman-meets-Rachel Maddow look, blazer and all. The series will be all about creative problem solving with code.
Anna Lytical’s videos marry drag culture and queer culture with coding concepts: “Show off your sickening MUG: Adding images to your site,” “As queer people, we get to choose our family…our font-family: Intro to Google fonts,” and “Programming is a construct, TEAR IS APART: Is HTML Programming?” are just some of the tutorial titles.
Inclusivity and representation are the ultimate goals of Anna Lytical’s videos, with the intended audience being folks who are often at the periphery of computer science.
“The people I’m trying to target are young queer artists,” Anna Lytical said. “I see these people who might be doing drag as their art – makeup, sewing, styling wigs – or LGBT people who are making fan art for their favourite diva. The skills that they need, that they (already) have to do all these things, translate so well into those skills you need to be a good engineer.”
“I look at drag queens, and they are problem solvers. They have $US5 and they want to make an outfit, they’re going to make something gorgeous,” Anna Lytical continued. “Creative problem solving is what makes a good engineer, so if I can show that to someone who is already doing that kind creative problem solving, hopefully I can get some of them into the world of tech.”
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