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Pose's Marie Antoinette Scene Was Inspired by a Real Ballroom Moment

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Pose packs a hell of a lot of content into its episodes. A ton of context, history, and facts. Just last week in the premiere episode of season 2, they recreated a pivotal ACT UP demonstration, included information about HIV medication recycling programs, and even gave a mention of the origins of the house-ballroom culture. That’s not even mentioning the subtle nods they gave to Paris Is Burning via Angel Evangelista’s modeling storyline. But there was a moment — honestly a stand out moment from the episode — that gave nod to a lesser known part of history.

In the episode, at one of many high points, a ball hosts an “as a house” category. Pray Tell, as played by Billy Porter, calls on contestants to “Bring it like a French revolution.” And while the House of Ferocity “ain’t so ferocious,” as always, Elektra (then Evangelista) brings the fire — well the guillotine.

In a production giving you opulence and narrative, she serves up Marie Antoinette. She eats a bit of cake, has her skirt that doubles as a carousel put into motion, and then is beheaded on a makeshift guillotine. Narrative I tell you, narrative! And the effects (ballroom jargon for the outfits) were absolutely perfect. Though on its surface, the scene was about how people dealt with the ongoing AIDS epidemic, with Pray Tell demanding that Elektra, played by Dominique Jackson, become politically active and get involved with organizations like ACT UP, its aesthetics looked back to a ballroom moment.

“If an all-pink Marie Antoinette-themed ballroom house production looks familiar …” the House of Xtravaganza wrote in an Instagram post featuring photos of the house winning Grand Prize at a 1991 ball. The images came from the "Think Pink" Ball put on by Anthony Pendavis and Cesar L'amour at the Marc Ballroom in Union Square. Billed as a special tribute to Audrey Hepburn — "Think Pink" is the title of a musical number from Funny Face — the event awarded $1,000 cash and a trophy to the winning house, according to a flier sent to Out by Cesar, who now goes by Cesar Valentino. And the house of Xtravaganza has good reason to know the inspirations of the scene: father of the house Jose Xtravaganza is a consultant on the show, as was Grandfather Hector Xtravaganza before he died. 

Pose has many times embedded moments and figures in ballroom history into its writing, whether called by name or not. In season 1, Blanca Evangelista (Mj Rodriguez) seemed most similar to the story of Angie Xtravaganza, while Angel Evangelista (Indya Moore) seemed like a recreation of Venus Xtravaganza. Even Elektra seemed to channel Crystal LaBeija.

It’ll be interesting to see what other moments we come across this season, but this one was one for the history books.

This post has been updated with more details about "Think Pink" after a short interview with organizer Cesar Valentino. 

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