Vogue Ball Culture: Artistry, Inclusion, and Politics Collide in an LGBTQ+ Celebration


Trying to explain the Vogue Ball to a virgin is an impossible task.

I could discuss artistry, electricity, charisma, soundtrack…any number of things. None of it would encapsulate the sheer breadth of the experience – and, yes, it is an experience. It isn’t a show. It is something more.

Before we continue, a short lesson in history and semantics; Ballroom culture began in the 1960’s in New York’s black and latinx LGBTQ+ communities, and was later popularised by the award winning documentary Paris Is Burning, Madonna’s iconic 1990 hit Vogue and, more recently, the Emmy-winning prime time series Pose. To compete, a group of artists (known as “Houses”) enter into one or more of the Ball’s categories in front of a large audience and panel of esteemed judges.

House of Suarez founder Darren Suarez opened with a choreographed tribute to his Vogue mother, Dean Murphy. He called it his “Goodbye” to his mentor, and you could feel the emotion from him before the piece began. The House of Suarez – his own vogue children – followed him onto the stage. It felt like a full circle moment. An unexpectedly emotional opening to an event that is, at its core, the best party in the city.

But, while we must remember, we musn’t dwell, and host Rikki Beadle-Blair slowly made his way on stage wearing a spacesuit, mimicking Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon – or not. For this is the Ball of Conspiracies, and you can’t always believe what you’re seeing.

This gave the individual Houses more than enough material to mine for each round, whether they were portraying mythical creatures, press corruption or – one of many highlights of the night – Princess Diana waving at everyone in her much mythologised “revenge dress” before being chased around the stage by the royal family waving a model Mercedez-Benz.

If Suarez is the brains, it really does feel like Beadle-Blair is the heart. He keeps us engaged and energised. His numerous costume changes – done off stage whilst announcing the Houses in each round, multitasking to say the least – keep us amused. He preaches love throughout, both of ourselves and for each other. It is a message that could very easily wander into the trite, but it never does. With so many queer performers on stage, and with an all black judging panel, it is a potent reminder of the danger many of us are feeling the week after the horrific rhetoric emanating from the Tory conference, and the light we must follow to survive it.

This is the power of the Vogue Ball. It can be chaos, an overload of the senses with sexy aliens strutting the runway with Marilyn Monroe whilst Prince’s Gett Off pulsates around a room that is screaming their lungs off. But that chaos works, and it never ceases to delight.

The energy and artistry coming from the stage is truly a sight to be seen. The overall winners of the night were the House of La Porta, and it was fully deserved. But, really, it could have been any of them. Competition is the format, but togetherness is the soul. So, along with the Houses of La Porta and Suarez, we must take a moment to recognise the Houses of Korrupt, LIPA, Bones, Barbital, Du Morte, Arch, Twisted Stitches, Lisbon and Somme. You all brought it.

This is the third Ball in a busy year. The Royalty Ball took place in the Euro Village on the Pier Head, the Euro Ball was a Eurovision Eve extravaganza with a fever pitch atmosphere. The Houses could be forgiven for repeating themselves, or phoning in a round or two. But nobody did. If anything, it made them raise their game. It remains fun, exciting, political, emotional and still the best party of the year.

If you have never been, follow the House of Suarez on social media immediately and keep your eyes peeled for the next Ball. It could inspire you beyond anything you would expect.

Photo Credit: Gary Lambert

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