Ballroom culture is everywhere. It’s at the center of television shows like FX’s Pose and Viceland’s My House, music videos like Teyana Taylor’s “WTP” and Sam Smith’s “Promises,” Kim Kardashian West’s Kimoji ads, and the Cannes premiered film Port Authority. And then, of course, brands like Coach and Red Bull are sponsoring or hosting major balls — the Council of Fashion Designers of America is partnering with nightlife impresario Susanne Bartsch to put on the third Love Ball, in June.
All of this means voguing has gone mainstream for the third time. The initial ascent occurred when Madonna and Jennie Livingston brought the art form and the affiliated Ballroom community to the world via their projects “Vogue” and Paris Is Burning, respectively, in the early ‘90s. The second was the rise of Vogue Evolution, a five-member dance team that solidified voguers as true performers in season four of America’s Best Dance Crew in 2009. And now, this latest iteration is finally happening on the community’s terms. But what exactly does that mean?
Realness With A Twist
“Realness, realness with a twist. these are the boys that bend their wrists.” Malik Miyake-Mugler (left) wears Shirt by Nihl. Jeans by Off-White C/O Vigil Abloh. Boots by Alexander Wang. Bracelet by Cartier. Jelani Mizrahi (Right) Wears Blazer And Shirt By Gucci. Skirt by Repetto. Shorts by Versace. Socks by Mother. Sneakers by Converse X JW Anderson. Tie by The Tie Bar. Glasses by Moscot.
“Sexy is as sexy does.”Angie Xtravaganza wears bodysuit and corset by Agent Provocateur. Shoes by Jimmy Choo. Tights by Falke. Bracelet By Cartier. Stylist’s own gloves.
“I was in the clubs and saw [the mainstreaming] all happen the first time,” says DJ Vjuan Allure, a Ballroom staple and international DJ and producer. “MTV caught on to it, the Palladium; there were contests everywhere, and everybody was voguing—straight and gay. But this time, we have our own TV shows like My House.”
In most projects today that involve voguing, someone from the Ballroom community is involved on the backend. Pose has a team of consultants, as does Port Authority. While this funnels money into the pockets of community members, it also imbues the projects with a contextual accuracy that hasn’t always been the standard. It ensures that correct terms — a “dip” as opposed to a “death drop” — are utilized. But there are also other ways of benefitting.
For teachers like Leiomy Maldonado(known in the community as Amazon Leiomy, founding mother of the house of Amazon) and Dashaun Wesley (known as Dashaun Lanvin, West Coast father of the House of Lanvin), the additional attention also means increased attendance at their classes. “There’s a difference in demand,” says Jason Rodriguez, known in the community as Slim 007 and on Pose as Lemar Evangelista. “[The interest] was really about people connecting with the stories that they saw on screen and wanting to find some sort of expression through voguing.”
“Thank your mother, thank your father. yes, that mixture gave you carta!” Leyna Miyake-Mugler wears Bracelet By Cartier.
“Divas, Divas, Divas of Bryant Park, serving that look with a sickening strut.” Gilette Mizrahi wears jumpsuit, sunglasses, and helmet by Moncler Richard Quinn. Boots by Christian Louboutin.
What this latest resurgence of Ballroom culture has done is simple: It has provided community members with the agency to control their cultural narrative. They have become international educators, consultants, and executive producers. After giving so much to pop culture, it’s about time that they receive their 10s.
“Balls are about what you can make, not what you can acquire. how far does your bazaar go?” G Xtravaganza wears jacket and skirt By Moncler Pierpaolo Piccioli.
Gracing the ballroom floor for 29 years, Jack Mizrahi is one of the most recognized faces (and voices) in the ballroom community, lending his words as a commentator to balls around the world and to this story. Mizrahi wears jacket, shirt, pants, and trunk by Louis Vuitton. Jack’s Own Boots.
Photographed by Kia LaBeija
Styled by Yashua Simmons
Hair by Jeanie Syfu using Oribe Hair Care for Atelier Management.
Makeup by Tiffany A Lucio aka Tiffany The Artist.
Tailor: Jamie McCarty.
Photo Assistants: Rachel Cabitt, Gonzalo Ramos.
Fashion Assistant: Julian Mack
This article appears in Out's June/July 2019 issue celebrating Stonewall 50. The three covers feature the complicated candidacy of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the enduring legacy of activist Sylvia Rivera, and the triumphant star power of actress Mj Rodriguez. To read more, grab your own copy of the issue on Kindle, Nook, Zinio or (newly) Apple News+ today. Preview more of the issue here and click here to subscribe.