relive nyc’s most infamous vogue balls in new short documentary
Tracey Africa and Kia LaBeija feature in Nicolas Jenkins new film about the ballroom community.
Since its birth in the streets and ballrooms of Harlem in the late 80s — and its appropriation by the Queen of Pop just a couple of years later — vogue performance has undeniably crossed over into the mainstream. It's true that the scene's trajectory is similar to that of many subcultures that have historically provided a vehicle of affirmation for marginalized people. But as artist Rashaad Newsome recently explained, it's vital that the story continue to be told by those inside the community. Filmmaker Nicolas Jenkins has given some of them a voice in a new short documentary Walk! that tracks the scene from the late 80s through to today.
"In the past few years the voguing and ballroom scene has seen a resurgence in its popularity spreading across the globe," Jenkins says on his website. "No longer limited to members of American urban black and Latino gay communities it can be found as far away as Russia now. Historically the ballroom scene included society's most marginalized: minorities within minorities within minorities. In a world where they have been rejected, ballroom not only accepted these people for who they were, it celebrated them!"
Mixing new and archival footage, the film includes a range of perspectives from the mostly poor, gay, trans, black and/or Latino community it thrived in. "Being transgender already, I felt like it was a world where we were exalted and appreciated and understood and loved," says Gisele Xtravaganza, Mother of the House of Xtravaganza. At one point pioneering model Tracey Africa is shown strutting her stuff at the House of Chanel Ball at Marc Ballroom in 1990. It's a far more appropriate eulogy to the transgender trailblazer than that awful Times Fashion story last week.
Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Vimeo