As a member of the LGBTQ community I am ashamed to admit that I have never been to a Ball.
For those who are not familiar with the ballroom scene, a Ball is an event in which LGBTQ individuals walk and compete for trophies and prizes. There are many categories such as Butch Queen Vogue, Best Dressed, and Sex Siren to name a few. Balls are largely attended by Houses which are groups of individuals lead by house mothers and fathers. The House system was designed to give a sense of family to those who have been outclassed or abandoned by society/biological family for their sexuality. Houses are rooted in history and carry the titles of Legendary, Iconic and etc. as recognition of status.
This past weekend Marquis Facey (Photographer) and I were invited on behalf of Qwear to attended the 26th annual Latex Ball powered by GMHC. This year’s ball was held at Terminal Five in Manhattan and had over 3,000 attendees. The theme was Viva La Glam and boy was it glamorous! People from all over the world attended in their best fashions and faces including myself.
Upon arriving to the venue, we were shocked by the long line of patrons waiting to get it in. Although it was raining, the crowd was alive and ready. We were then greeted by GMHC staff who I must say were an absolute pleasure. They signed us in and gave us a tour of the venue; which featured an impressive selection of information and health services such as free HIV/AIDS screenings. We were then directed to the press/media area on the stage. From there, it was lights, camera, action!
The event started with a lovely lip sync performance from the legendary Karen Covergirl in which she celebrated her survival of cancer by snatching her wig off. She spoke on the tradition and legacy of the ballroom scene and why it is important to keep the movement going. You could tell by her grace (and tips) that she is an OG on the scene. There was nothing but respect and love in the audience for her. Awards were then presented to people who exhibited excellence in the community. We were then introduced to the legendary judges for the night.
Gallery of Marquis Facey's original images
If you thought watching vogue ball clips online were amazing, I am here to tell you that they don’t do the actual events justice. Watching people of all ethnicities and ages ascend the long stage and perform to their best ability took my breath away. Being up close to the action, I was able to witness the pure athleticism that is voguing. Watching those people contort their body, spin, dip, and repeat all while wearing glamour inspired drags literally left me speechless. Now, I can do a little two step like the best of them, but the art form I witnessed at the latex ball forever changed my life.
All the awesome fashions aside, learning the history of my LGBTQ people of color was inspiring. It was like going to a family reunion and meeting all my distant cousins, aunties, and uncles for the first time. Learning the family’s history, and purpose; feeling that sense of family which has been the base of the Latex Ball for the last 26 years. A lot of us in the LGBTQ community do not know our history because our predecessors had to live in secrecy and/or are dead. It felt good to hear, see, and laugh with those who have blazed the trail for me to live my life. It felt good to bridge that gap. It felt good to be home.
Mojo Disco is an artist, writer, culture coach, and event curator from NYC. Creator of the popular underground event Paint and Poetry and MUA at MojoDiscoNYC. Mojo's motto is "Too Proud, Too Free" symbolizing the ideology of challenging society's norms through queer fashion, knowledge, and love.
IG: @mojodisco / Twitter: @mojodisco / FB: @mojothemogul