MOUNT GREENWOOD — Kelly Leahy has two distinct loves: Hello Kitty and heavy metal.
Leahy has managed to combine her two seemingly dissimilar passions into a weekly radio show. Hello Metal airs from 9-11 p.m. on Wednesdays on St. Xavier University's campus radio station, WXAV (88.3 FM).
DJ Kelly, 25, of Mount Greenwood, hosts Hello Metal with her pal since high school Lena Asfour, 24, of Lakeview. The two met in 2002 during freshman orientation at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School and fell in love with heavy metal around the same time.
"Our tagline is, 'Welcome metal into your life. Say hi to it, like it is your dear friend,'" DJ Kelly said.
DJ Lena isn't into Hello Kitty, but she's as equally smitten with heavy metal as her on-air counterpart. She's been co-hosting Hello Metal with DJ Kelly since May 2011. The show debuted with DJ Kelly and another female disc jockey in fall 2007.
At certain times, the two-hour radio show can only be described as "metal." For example, the tandem last week reviewed a live show by the black death metal band Immortal Bird. DJ Kelly described the woman-fronted band as having a "methodical approach" and followed her critique by playing the band's song, "Spitting Teeth."
Equally metal was DJ Lena's on-air description of the events that led to a hairline fracture in her foot. The accident occurred on Feb. 20 in a mosh pit at Beat Kitchen in North Center. DJ Lena was the only woman in the pit at the time, colliding with fellow fans of Comeback Kid.
DJ Lena and DJ Kelly are fixtures at these Chicago area metal shows — like Wayne and Garth. Admittedly, they don't have the same amount of notoriety as the hosts of "Wayne's World," but DJ Kelly and DJ Lena tend to be among the few women at most metal concerts.
"We joke that metal shows are the only time it's great to be a girl and go to the bathroom," DJ Kelly said of the short lines for the ladies' room.
But DJ Kelly and DJ Lena aren't all metal all the time. DJ Lena said she also enjoys baking and makes room in her iPod for Mariah Carey. DJ Kelly was a Girl Scout for a dozen years and frequently commutes to work listening to urban radio station WGCI (107.5 FM).
"All the stereotypes aren't necessary," said DJ Kelly, who has long pink hair and lip piercings.
It's a combination of playful conversation and a deep knowledge of heavy metal that makes Hello Metal so successful, said Peter Kreten, director of student media at St. Xavier.
"I love Hello Metal. The music is not my particular style, but the selling point of the show is Lena and Kelly. Their personalities and their on-air bits draw you in. It’s old-school radio at its best. You hear music you can’t hear anywhere else, and the show is completely personality-driven," Kreten said.
The university at 3700 W. 103rd St. has no way to know how many people are listening to its over-the-air broadcast. But online listeners can be tracked, and the numbers indicate that Hello Metal is one of the college station's most popular shows, Kreten said.
"Commercial radio doesn't touch metal music with a 10-foot pole. Yet there is a large audience of metal fans that are dying to hear their music played. So for WXAV, it's great have a true, authentic metal show on our station," he said.
DJ Lena and DJ Kelly credit one of the last over-the-air stations to play heavy metal in Chicago for their ongoing love affair with the music genre. While in high school, the pair were ardent fans of The Zone, which was broadcast on 94.7 FM.
These sounds were in sharp contrast to DJ Lena's upbringing in suburban Oak Lawn. Her family largely played classical Arabic music at home. DJ Kelly was raised in Mount Greenwood with a steady diet of classic rock and some alternative rock.
"I remember the exact moment when [The Zone] went off the air," DJ Lena said.
DJ Kelly said it was then that she decided that if she ever attended St. Xavier (next door to Mother McAuley), she'd host her own metal show. She did just that and has continued to host Hello Metal since graduating from the Southwest Side university in 2011.
DJ Lena graduated from Loyola University in Rogers Park that same year.
Hello Metal took an eight-month hiatus when DJ Lena and DJ Kelly both landed jobs at Victory Records, a hard rock label based in the West Loop. But they've been back in the radio studio every Wednesday evening since January.
"Kelly and I are obviously inseparable," DJ Lena said.