From Harlem, New York to St. Petersburg, Russia, voguing is taking over the world. In Vogue, Detroit--a documentary short produced in conjunction with Dazed Digital--filmmaker Mollie Mills explores the positive ways in which the unique dance tradition founded in Harlem in the 1980s is affecting young, queer lives in the desolate climate of inner city Detroit.
"Detroit was recently called one of the most dangerous places for LGBTQ youth in America," Mollie told Dazed. "There are over 13,000 youth in the states given foster care at any given time and a significant percentage identify as LGBTQ. Whether you're homeless or not, the hate crime statistics are phenomenal."
[Ed. note: Although sexual orientation is included in data collection about hate crimes, there is no hate crime law in Michigan covering sexual orientation or gender identity.]
Detroit's crippled economy--it was recently ranked as the most impoverished major city in America with nearly 40% of the population living below the poverty line--only serves to exacerbate its terrifying level of violence--as of 2015, it had the second highest murder rate in America. Couple that with the Motor City's cult of masculinity and being a queer youth of color in Detroit is one of the realest struggles in this country today.
Detroit's Ruth Ellis Center provides resources and a safe space for LGBT youth, and a few years ago began holding Vogue Nights. Around that time, Mills visited Detroit for the first time and used Instagram to explore the city's rich, cultural underbelly. She eventually found a vibrant voguing scene that she had "heavily associated" with New York:
In New York, there's heavy competition and a sense of hierarchy. In Detroit, it's about the release. It was a family.
Michael, aka Mike Chanel, was teaching some 11-year-old girls to vogue at a dance studio when he met Mills. Michael was drawn to voguing after he lost his two-year-old niece in a hate crime-related house fire. The House of Chanel became his surrogate family, providing the acceptance and support he needed and had always sought.
Mills went back to visit Michael twice before he invited her out to a voguing club with his House of Chanel family and the result is Vogue, Detroit.