Graduates to Watch

Elias Matso of Kittery is graduating from Traip Academy and plans to attend Parsons School of Design in New York City in the fall. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Elias Matso’s passion for fashion and art developed when he was a little boy.

By 6, he had created a catalog of fashion illustrations drawn on index cards, inspired by the Archie comics he loved to read. He also cross-dressed often as a child, giving it up as he grew older and became aware of social expectations.

“Then two years ago I realized I could do it in an artistic way and it was something I could do professionally,” Matso said.

And so Matso’s drag persona, Veronica T, came to be. That’s T for “teased” and the experience of creating the clothes, hair and makeup for drag performances allowed Matso to harness a wide range of creative interests.

“That’s the great thing about drag – it’s hard to get bored,” Matso said. “I think I have femininity and masculinity inside of me, and drag allows me to separate and explore them individually.”

John Drisko, principal of Traip Academy in Kittery, said Matso is “the most creative student I have met in over 40 years in education.”

On his website, Matso describes himself as a multimedia artist and performer who is driven “to realize what is going on my brain. Whether I’m working digitally, painting, sculpting, drawing or sewing, I am invested in everything I make. Art defines who I am.”

Matso, 18, credits his success so far to his parents, for being so supportive, and to Cathy Short, a family friend who taught him how to sew when he was 8 years old. His twin brother, Jonah, also is graduating from Traip this year and is president of their class.

Elias Matso as Veronica T

Elias Matso began performing in drag as Veronica T two years ago, but he’s been interested in art and fashion since he was a young boy. Photo courtesy of Elias Matso

To help ensure other students receive similar support, Matso led Traip’s civil rights team in creating a permanent art installation that promotes inclusiveness. Displayed in the school’s atrium, a brightly colored human sculpture gestures toward a banner that states, “We Welcome Everyone,” including all races, national origins, religions, disabilities, gender identities and sexual orientations.

“As one of few openly gay kids in the school, I wanted to open people’s eyes to diversity and open a window to the queer community at the school,” he said.

From 2014 to 2018, Matso attended classes each summer at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Last summer he returned to the Big Apple for an internship in the design department at Tiffany & Co.

“It was a glimpse of what my life could be like in five years,” he said. “The creative environment was so entertaining and inspiring.”

Matso plans to head back to New York in the fall to attend Parsons School of Design. He’ll likely perform there as Veronica T, but not right away. Given his trajectory so far, some people believe he will become a famous fashion designer.

“It’s a strong possibility that I’ll work in fashion, but given my short attention span, I can’t predict what the medium will be,” he said. “I just know I want to be successful at it.”

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