After months of anticipation, the House of Miyake-Mugler will celebrate 30 years of existence with its Return of Porcelain Ball this Saturday in New York City. With a historic $10,000 open to all face category sponsored by Rihanna's Fenty Beauty, the ball has already sold out of all of its seated presale tickets (there are still standing general admission tickets available) and promises to be the largest ball in America of the year.
When people think about the ballroom community, thoughts generally turn to voguing, which is known in the scene as a part of the performance category. Behind that sits the categories of realness, a type of identity performance, and runway, which is exactly what it sounds like. But though it may not get the most mainstream attention, the category of face is one of the hottest there is inside the community.
"Face is the combination of 5 elements: Eyes, nose, skin, teeth, and structure," Legendary Exotic Miyake-Mugler, overall mother of the House of Miyake-Mugler tells Out. " These elements come together to form a unique beauty that is rarely seen. Think of the judges as a modeling agency: they are looking for their star model of the night." Competitors, like Exotic, who is known for the category as well as others like Amiyah Scott, Leyna Bloom, and Trace Lysette, all who came from the ballroom and walked in the face category, draw attention to these five elements by drawing their fingers across their noses, or cheekbones, and smiling to show their teeth.
Saturday's ball will host the first ever $10,000 face for the ballroom scene. Previously, the highest prize for butch queen face (butch queens are gay men) went for $5,000 to Emery Garcon (then Evisu) in a final battle against Exotic back in 2010. For fem queen face (fem queens are trans women), the top prize previously was $7,500 and went to Dee Dee Chanel in 2009. In this weekend's event, fem queens, butch queens, and anyone else for that matter will battle for the historic grand prize.
"[When it comes to face] you either have it, or you don't," says Yusef, overall father of the House of Miyake-Mugler as well as Rihanna's longtime hairstylist.
Here, we talked to the House of Miyake Mugler leadership (Exotic, Yusef, and David, one of the founders) about the ball they've put together, what it's like being in ballroom when the scene is so injected into the mainstream at the moment, and their favorite face moments in ballroom history.
Ballroom is having a big moment in the mainstream right now, how do you all feel about the representations of the community that are out in the world?
Exotic: I feel they are doing the job to getting our real-life stories told. They are making sure that the world knows we exist. So many people who were against ballroom due to hearsay really get a look into the bigger picture to see that we have a positive purpose outside of the negative assumptions they have been led to believe. I've had countless people who thought negatively about ballroom, come back and apologize and now want to be a part.
David: I feel the individuals that are representing us in mainstream have done a good job. I would like to see more of us controlling the narrative so the message doesn't get distorted or convoluted.
Is there something that you think that people are routinely missing or not understanding about the community?
Exotic: People are missing the purpose of ballroom and where it started: Family, nurturing, guidance, and mentorship for so many that didn't have that from families that casted them away for being who they are. The people who make up the community come from all different places, backgrounds and cultures, just like those in everyday society outside of the community. The purpose of the bond can easily get lost in the stigma, competition, and the glitz and glamour of it all.
David: I feel the support system might be missed by onlookers, to understand what it feels like to be an outcast and then accepted by a world of individuals like yourself is a life changing experience that most would never adopt the true meaning.
How have you seen these misconceptions affect the community?
Exotic: I have seen it affect the community in many ways. People have been denied jobs due to being ballroom affiliated, they've also had difficulty with dating. A lot of my kids have come to me with the idea of liking someone, however they have been rejected once the person they are interested in finds out they are a part of the ballroom community.
David:The community is fine, it will always be fine because we support one another, in every situation there are challenges but we are survivors and as survivors we will overcome
It's been 30 years of Miyake-Mugler, can you tell me a little bit about how the house started?
David:It was a collaboration of four people: Eric, Myself, Raleigh and Julian, with the influence of Kenny Chanel. It was decided that we needed to bring a new element of ballroom, invoking a positive element. We wanted to change the perception of us being the dredges of society -- we also had the first heterosexual men in ballroom.
Exotic: The founders set out to start the ultimate butch queen house, full of beautiful faces and unmatched talent from all over. Mugler was the only "all butch queen" house of the scene when it first began, which lead to them having the only Butchqueen Overall Mother Stacy Miyake-Mugler during that time. This instantly set Mugler apart from the rest.
Over the years, what has the house has become known for in terms of categories?
Exotic: The House of Miyake-Mugler has been known as the premier face house of the scene. It has now become known for Face, Sex Siren, Runway, Realness, and the ultimate performance house with some of the most outstanding voguers in the scene such as Icon Arturo, Malik, Legendary Prince, Paul, Tati, Legendary Tamiyah, and ATL Mother Japan to name a few.
Yusef: The house has always been known for face and when I joined in 2007, I was a part of a shift towards fashion. It's beautiful to now see that our performance team has become an epitome of vogue.
Can you talk to me about the size of the house in terms of international chapters? Do you expect representation from these chapters at the ball?
Exotic: We have roughly 180 members in the entire house, about 25 being international. We do expect them to be present and to carry the name just like any member. We travel to their countries to ensure our support and family bonding. They also do the same, and an outstanding job as well.
David: We are global and have chapters mostly in the states and Europe and I do expect representation at our House Ball
What was the most important aspect for you when planning the upcoming ball?
David:Transforming the ballroom experience, making sure that ballroom is up front and center, and perceived in the most positive light possible. We also wanted to make sure all guests and ballroom participants are entertained.
Yusef: We wanted to make sure that it focused on being ballroom and not letting the glitz and glamour of fame and popularity take away from the integrity of what ballroom really is.
I read that you all have sold-out of presale tickets, did you anticipate this reaction?
David:Part of our strategy was to make sure that ballroom would attend and spectators could enjoy but would not make up the majority of the audience, so yes this was an anticipated response
Yusef: Never in a million years! That's just me being honest. Ballroom is a bit unpredictable but here we are, sold out tickets.
Can you give me your favorite legendary face moments in ballroom history?
Exotic: My favorite legendary face moments in ballroom history were the night of the fem queen face for $7,500 when all of the heavy hitters for fem queen face came out to play, and butch queen face $5,000 was also the next biggest moment in ballroom history when the butch queens came out to battle for the cash. Those moments were so intense.
Yusef: The return of NYC mother Leyna Miyake-Mugler at the Latex Ball 2016. And the moment that I'm sure that's about to happen at the Return of Porcelain at 12:30AM Sunday morning.
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