What the Kiki Ballroom Scene Looks Like Now: A Family Photo Album
W magazine Featured Editorial
Ryan Murphy's latest project Pose is a flashy and vigorous take on the 1980s ballroom scene, featuring the largest trans cast on television. This is Murphy, so there is plenty of dramatization, but in its nevertheless historically accurate retelling of 1987 New York the show is doing something that has yet to be done on a major cable network: preserving the ballroom scene decades after its rise. There are more straightforward documentations of the culture bubbling to the surface now, too: Viceland has its new docu-series My House, and, with the support of the IWMF (International Women in Media Fund), the photographer Anja Matthes has captured the contemporary ball scene in her forthcoming publication, The Kiki Yearbook, a “coming of age milestone” that celebrates the lives of queer and transgender people of color as they carve out their niche in the Kiki subset of ball culture. In the various ballroom Houses of New York, teens and young adults—many of whom are members of the LGBTQ community who have been abandoned by their families—join Houses, which provide community, safety, and guidance, and compete for trophies in walking and voguing competitions. Ballroom culture can be traced back to Harlem in the '20s, where drag balls explored both racial taboos and gender nonconformity, and the House system's roots can traced to the late 1980s, where Houses emerged as a call to action for HIV/AIDS and STD prevention. The Kiki scene was born in 2003, as a collaboration between members of the larger ballroom scene and HIV and STD prevention workers—many of whom are also House members—and still flourishes today. Before Pose, there was of course Jennie Livingston’s famous 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning, and the ballroom scene has influenced and been ripped off by pop culture in countless ways—Madonna’s “Vogue” video is an oft-cited example—but rarely do the young black and Latino members of the scene get proper representation or acknowledgement in mainstream media. With The Kiki Yearbook, Matthes celebrates and illuminates those lives and families. Meet them here.
by Brooke Marine
June 5, 2018 12:59 pm