Gold crowns inserted with emeralds, fur-covered capes and dresses adorned with glittering diamonds and pearls, clad the House of Abundance when they made their last-minute entrance to a New York ballroom and their first entrance on our television screens in the premiere episode of Pose in June 2018, which aired its latest episode on Sunday.
The brilliant opening scene set the tone for what the Stephen Canals-created drama came to present to the black and Latino LGBTQ community during its three groundbreaking seasons. The series includes the largest number of trance actors in regular roles on any television screenplay in history – centering the stories of blacks, Afro-Latino and Latino trance and the strange people who gave birth to and brought up ball culture in the 80s and 90s. .
“If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more,” Blanca Evangelista, played by Mj Rodriguez, told Angel Evangelista (Indya Moore) as they prepared to snatch their lavish ball gowns from a museum exhibit at the behest of their then-mother, Elektra Abundance. The Evangelist (Dominic Jackson).
But the risks to their lives exist beyond the loot they picked up from the museum mannequins who won their house with an exciting chorus of 10 of the ballroom judges.
Despite the glamor and jubilation of the underground ballroom scene of the 1980s and 1990s, where blacks and Latinos trance and strange people can safely present themselves as they choose, there is still danger in their daily lives as they face a wide range of transphobia, homophobia and biphobia aimed at limiting the visibility and social impact of the LGBTQ community.
But even with the looming threat of physical violence, discrimination and social exclusion, the ballroom community created a distinctive culture and fashionable dance style while leading social justice movements that embodied their freedom, creativity and confidence in who they were.
“Pose does a great thing by giving the community this restored story that we were there. We were part of the creation of the current world we live in, whether you are credited with it or not, “Pose ballroom coordinator and activist Jonovia Chase told the Guardian. “You experienced it.” You were breathing it. You contributed to that. And just because you have an additional remark on your existence — perhaps this blackness, perhaps this ballroom — these things do not allow culture to be seen as a value to the evolution of where we are in society today. “
Pose’s fictional characters honor the trials and triumphs of real life faced by countless members of the trance and queer community of Blacks and Latino. These pioneers did not pray to be seen, but instead spoke according to their own terms.
“There were so many people in the ballroom connected to Pose’s [creative and storytelling process] to inspire and give a human reach around the ballroom community and its dualities, ”Chase said. “Twiggy Pucci Garçon, Michael Roberson, Jack Mizrahi, Leiomy Maldonado, Hector Xtravaganza, Sol Pendavis and so many consultants helped give life to the understanding that these ballroom arts are not just a performance – they are activism in themselves. The ball itself is not just a space for fun, but it is actually the epicenter of people’s healing and a place for people to discover themselves. This is the place to cultivate sustainability in the community. “
Candy Ferocity, played by Angelica Ross, does her best, although she is not the best dancer, and never shy away from expressing her opinion. Elektra delivers a spectacular read to a transphobic customer who confronts Pose women during a group dinner. Blanca, meanwhile, risks her physical safety after encountering transphobic and racist patrons at a popular gay bar, defending herself and Lulu Ferositi (Hailey Sahar) when they are denied service.
Even in moments of great discouragement or doubt, the characters of Pose always find the strength to show themselves. Their tenacity, as they face societal and personal challenges, offers a shocking reminder that they have infinite strength in self-defense. This message is particularly encouraging for blacks and Latinos in the LGBTQ community, who continue to face discrimination, racism, phobias, denial of rights, and threats of physical violence four decades after the stories portrayed in Pose.
“The gay rights movement did not start as a parade. It started as a rebellion and a struggle for justice and equality, “said Ryan Jamaal Swain, who plays Damon the Evangelist on the show. “As blacks and Latinos, I think that’s why we are selected and eavesdropped on with different frequencies. We have experienced so many traumas on our bodies, spirits and hearts from unconscious factors and just social ideas about us. But then we end up showing our best selves and we are still curators of culture.
“Everywhere in American history, you can find a black or brown man leading the prosecution or being part of a civil rights movement. Pose is made for television transmission of this authenticity. “
Beyond the need to constantly show ourselves, at the core of Pose is our mandate to show ourselves to others.
As the trance and queer community faces the insecurity of the HIV and AIDS health crisis and the attack on their social rights, the ballroom offers a safe space for happiness, creative inspiration and communication. But this connection continued long after the lights in the hall dimmed into the night.
“The ballroom community consists not only of houses, but people literally grow up together and depend on each other outside of these families. “People sometimes come from backgrounds where you grew up together in a shelter or grew up on the streets, just doing what you can to survive together,” Chase said. “So in earlier years and even today, people are recruiting people [for houses] in this type of ways of personal exchange. But I think to a large extent the ball community is socially connected. This is literally a community. This is literally culture. “
In times of need the Pose community of black and latino trance and queer characters come together to help their own.
Although Electra fails to bite, Blanca greets her warmly at the Evangelist’s House, when the ball legend falls in difficult times and is left homeless. They all come together to help Blanca fight the eviction from her nail salon by her ruthless landlord, Frederica Norman. And as they fight the HIV and AIDS epidemic and witness their community destroyed by the disease, heroes in poses capable of using hope try their best to encourage others to be depressed and frightened after so many losses. .
In one of the show’s most memorable episodes, directed by Pose executive producer Janet Mock, trans women from the community come to Elektra’s aid when faced with a terrible crisis following the death of an overdose of one of her Hellfire customers.
They are members of a larger select family, bound by their creative pursuits in the ballroom and the shared battle against the daily denial of their dignity as trance and strange colored people. And their commitment to the rise of their marginalized community, despite the struggles they all face, proves that when we defend our community, we in turn cover ourselves.
“I think Pose sometimes realizes the idea that there is always beef between the houses. Sometimes it’s not beef at all. It’s just a race. “It’s just for the floor,” Chase said. “Of course, things are heating up outside this arena. But at the end of the day, we all know that we are the ones who are on the margins. We have only ourselves and [the ballroom community] to behave and know that we can feel comfortable in ourselves and in peace.
“It’s literally a space where people can find and create their own sense of belonging. And that’s very nice. This connection, which is built and grown through the community, is never taken away. “
At the heart of the series, Pose is rooted in community and self-pride.
Pose’s characters are not victims of their circumstances. They use their talents, knowledge and determination to find solutions to the inevitable obstacles in life, to fight for their dreams and to proudly exclaim their humanity in a society often threatened by their freedom. In their darkest moments, the show’s characters find a way to take advantage of optimism, never completely giving up their joy to the personal pain or collective heartache their community faces.
“Take this group of marginalized people. Those people whom society said did not deserve love and did not need love. Then you teach the world how to love each of them. This is a really powerful moment, “Swain said. “[Pose] is such a good show to such an extent that you can bring blue, black, green, yellow people to the screen and they tell this very specific story and are able to touch everyone universally. This is the cycle of great television, the great storytelling and just humanity.
“I am so grateful to have been elected [for Pose] because he set me free. This made my walk a little higher. I turned out to be even more and I am more aware and informed. I am also very honored and privileged to be part of this community. “
The posture showed us that love of self and love of others is the basis of our heritage in this unpredictable world.
Although many factors are beyond our control, how we influence others is entirely at our discretion. And we can constantly use Pose as a guide in the unwritten reality of our own lives – following her example to stand boldly in our truth, to work to elevate others as we ascend, and to always pose proudly for our purpose.