This weekend in Atlanta, Red Bull Music's ATL is Burning Ball celebrated the city's thriving black queer underground with a night for the ages. Half dance party, half ball, the event brought together the Atlanta's ballroom legends --both established and in the making -- and musicians like Byrell the Great, Leonce, Leikeli47, MikeQ and the good sis Cakes Da Killa. OUT caught up with Cakes backstage at the ball to get the tea on how this subculture has become a cornerstone of Atlanta' s queer community.
OUT: First of all, when did you get so tradey?
Cakes Da Killa: Oh my god! Bitch, I grow a beard and all the queers say I'm tradey. I don't know, I'm just evolving. You know what I give. It's always gonna be Bette Midler, cunty stage presence.
Which Bette Midler?
I'm definitely Bette Midler in Beaches, obviously.
Why is tonight so important to you, personally?
Because it's black people putting on a show for other black people and doing something for visibility in Atlanta for queer, trans and gay people. That's always important.
How has the ballroom scene impacted you as an artist?
The ballroom scene taught me how to rap, watching balls in high school and the commentators being on beat, that's what got me into rapping with a fast cadence. Ballroom influenced my style and courage and nerve to just not give a fuck. Even if you're bombing, the show must go on.
What it does it mean that the ballroom scene is becoming more recognized by the mainstream?
It means that there's a lot of money being pumped into the ballroom scene but there's a lot of misconceptions and things getting whitewashed. It's a give and a take when it's done the right way but I hate when it's done the wrong way.
What is the right way for people outside the scene to participate in it and affirm it?
Any subculture that is getting funding from a sponsor or a corporation, it's about people doing their research and not chasing something that they think is hot. At the end of the day, the ballroom scene is always gonna be the ballroom scene. A subculture is always gonna be a subculture, so it's deeper than that. These are kids lives, these are sweat blood and tears. People need to appreciate that.
Are these balls an escape for people who are traditionally marginalized?
Nightlife is an escapism, gay clubs are an escapism. if you come from a disenfranchised community, yes we drink our alcohol, we get up in our drags, we get up in our makeup, we need this because life is hard. But that's why I love the ballroom community, because even with the shade and the cattiness, there's still a central form of community and family. And that's that on that.
Can you leave us with something shady?
I'm hungover, American Airlines legitimately needs to make bigger seats, and that's that on that.
Is your ass too big for their seats?
The face is trade but the ass is still fat