Right after coming from filming RuPaul’s Drag Race, it is a whirlwind of artistry, performing, connecting with people and traveling. A lot of things that I wasn't able to do before I had this platform I got to do, and I really enjoyed it. However, I felt there was a small component missing. I think the component, now looking back at it, was the educational/learning part of it. As artists, we’re always learning new things to better ourselves and what we put out there in the universe that will live on forever. So I found myself in an area where I was really happy traveling and connecting with people, but I still had the urge to learn and to grow.
I was an active watcher of season 1 and 2 of HBO Max’s Legendary, and I had a few friends in the ballroom scene. When I was watching Legendary, I was drawing a parallel to my experience on television, because there is a pristineness to what we were seeing with the costumes and the production elements, but I felt like I had this newly equipped lens of being able to see through all that and see the nitty gritty. I knew there was so much more and I wanted to learn.
I started to follow Instagram accounts affiliated with ballroom culture and doing my own research. That led me to having some interactions with people in the ballroom scene Arturo, the New York City father of Miyake-Mugler who led them to the win on season 2 of Legendary, and Naja Miyake-Mugler, who is very well known for drag's face and is also the New York City house mother. I will say that I’m not sure a lot of folks know this, but I had been in conversation with a lot of other houses as well.
I think the defining moment for me was when I got invited to a ballroom family gathering moment and no other house invited me to anything like that. I really appreciated that. I could instantly tell that Miyake-Mugler was all about family and community and that was something that I didn't have. I spoke a bit about not having an immediate drag family on my season. So now, kind of seeing on the horizon the possibility of me having a ballroom family, I'd never thought about that. I quickly realized that this could not only enrich my experience as an artist as a drag queen but also as a person of color finding their way in New York City. I quickly found myself under their wing and I got swept into the ballroom scene and I love every second of it.
Before I joined I did not attend a lot of balls. I did know of OTA, which is at 3 Dollar Bill in Brooklyn on Mondays. But other than that, you know, what about the larger-scale balls that everybody was talking about? I wanted something more than just “I like ballroom scene because I saw Legendary.” That is that to me is the same parallel as “I like drag because I watched RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Drag Race isn't all of drag, it’s a snapshot of drag that we all love and that we all like to connect to. And it's a really great platform to then get to know drag artists and drag communities further from there. It’s the same with Legendary. If RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13 was my undergrad, then I like to think of the ballroom scene as my graduate-level evolution — this is me in grad school.
Apparently I forgot the sound pic.twitter.com/45YhWLspqc
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In August I went to Atlanta after the Muglers asked if I wanted to join the house. There, I reconnected with LaLa Ri, another Black artist that I respect and love, and we were talking about the ballroom community. She was really excited for me, and I remember just getting ready for the induction and learning as much as I could in that period of time. At the induction, we had Zoom conference calls of house members all over the world. It was this long day of interviews and showcasing your talent. It was the first time I was really in front of everybody, but it felt like home. It felt like family. I got inducted, and then literally the next day was the Balmain ball, and I made my debut with the House of Miyake-Mugler in our all black looking chic, looking fly. It was incredible. The most amazing feeling I've ever felt. I walked a category for the first time a few months later at the Icon ball, in October.
Naja Miyake-Mugler is my ballroom mother. With anything related to ballroom, I'm constantly chatting with her about concepts and themes. It's so fun because I love makeup and I love selling face. I love giving it out there on the ballroom floor. It is a different feeling and different jush than performing a lip-sync number. Me and Naja talk about that a lot. I send her selfies of me in drag and she'll give me some notes and pointers, whether it be my eyebrows or the eye shapes that I'm creating or maybe using less glitter and trying to lean into more of a natural-looking face because I can. You know, like I don’t need glitter to get my tens.
In preparation for Coldest Winter Ever, I definitely wanted to make sure that I was pulling out all the stops for myself. I created my dress and a good friend of mine did my wig. I truly feel that when you're preparing, you have to believe in everything that you're doing, what you're putting on your face and your body. It helps you so much when you're selling the moment. When I put all of it on, for me there’s a final step in becoming that evolved Liv Miyake-Mugler. That’s interacting with my ballroom family. I put it all on and they're hyping me up, and they're telling me, Miss Thing you are giving! You are giving! Come on, sell it! Those are the moments.
It feels so supercharged when you’re battling — it feels like supernova. You get to that level where you think you're at your highest the point and then you hear your house chant and you feel literally on fire. The anxiety and the rush and all of the things that I love about theater and theatrics and putting on a show are there. You can wait there for hours for your category. You’re anticipating going out there on the floor, but also you can't have any expectation of anything because you could get chopped. That's the reality of the ballroom floor. It is that cutthroat.
When I was up there, I felt fully in the moment. And yes, the grand battle at the end with Mariah Paris Balenciaga was a moment but let's not forget the lead up to that: Me, tournament-style, annihilating all the other girls before her. For me, that was such an amazing moment because I had to believe in myself. Even afterwards, my house was just very proud that I was able to really make a name for myself.
Mariah, I mean she is an absolute icon, and since I got on Drag Race, people have been telling me that I favored her and her mug and I was so honored that people would even connect me with her. She is an icon, and not just in ballroom but in drag and the Drag Race world. So I had to put all that out the window because I was on the battleground.
Our arms interlocking was such a kismet moment because when you're in it, you're focusing so much on yourself. When I was there, I almost don't remember the locking-in the moment. Like, you kind of just do it. It wasn't choreographed, obviously. Looking back, it's almost like the hand did it organically touching elbows. It was such an organic moment. That’s when I kind of knew that I was meant to be there. A moment like that cannot be as organic as it was without the notion of all of the stars aligning. That's what that felt like for me.
The moment after they announced grand prize to Mariah, it was such a great moment to just be existing. In the video, it is so cool to look back because you see the breaking of character when we were finally able to hug each other. It felt like we created something. And according to the internet, we did.
This as told to was edited for length and clarity by Mikelle Street.