References to the ballroom scene have long cropped up in RuPaul's Drag Race over the show's 13 seasons. And it makes sense: the ballroom community broke off from drag pageants in a much-discussed origin story but the two reference one another often. In Drag Race that turns up in Maxi Challenges like the long-running ball challenge, as well as in choreography — you don't have to look too closely to see that more than a few of Denali Fox's go-to lip sync moves are lifts of the five elements of voguing. There was also Mariah Paris Balenciaga, who is a legend for drag face in ballroom as well a two-time contestant on Drag Race. But in tonight's episode, ahead of the Bag Ball, Tamisha Iman gives her season 13 competitors a taste of what a real ball might feel like.
"I've never been part of the ballroom scene but I have admired ballroom forever," she tells Out in a phone interview saying that not only did she used to watch VHS tapes of balls when she was younger but that she's competed in categories like runway and drag's face. "I was young and we were hearing about a lot of young people with the voguing thing going on in New York like Willi Ninja."
In a clip from the episode, debuting exclusively on Out, Iman namechecks people like ballroom Icon Gorgeous Jack Gucci, Icon Amazon Leiomy, and Ninja, who was the founding mother of the House of Ninja. "He had a dream that this particular style of dance could transcend countries," Iman said of Ninja saying that when she was younger she learned to vogue in the style that has now been come to know as Old Way. "He wanted the world to see gay people express themselves, however"
In the clip, after Utica says that she never experienced a ball but has always wanted to, Iman gives her best take on Jack Mizrahi, now known as Jack Gucci. Jack is a well-known commentator and ball emcee, having served as the executive producer of HBO Legendary as well as a writer, consultant, and onscreen talent for FX's Pose. She also explains that it's the all-inclusive nature of ballroom that piqued her interest.
"Coming from pageants, the pageant community limits people being a part because it's looking for a particular form where ballroom allows every unique type of person," Iman tells Out. "They introduced new categories to fit the people instead of the people fitting the category."
But there are certainly other differences as well. during her time competing on the floor walking drag face she realized that a key difference between pageantry and ballroom is that in pageants you present yourself while at balls you have to sell it. She also mentioned Stasha Sanchez, a former Miss Continental in the pageant community as well as an icon in ballroom who is a part of the House of Garcon, as one of her "drag babies."
"I've always admired ballroom and will always admire it."