Colorlines’ ongoing series Life Cycles of Inequity explores facets of the Black male experience in the US. This article and photo series by Kai Wright and Gerard Gaskin (first published in September 2014 on colorlines.com) take us inside the culture of house balls, underground events where gay and transgender men and women, mostly African American and Latino, come together to see and be seen. The images come from Gaskin’s 2013 book ‘Legendary. Inside the House Ballroom Scene’.
Hip-hop is not the only place where young black artists deeply influence mainstream culture and entertainment—and do so without recognition or pay. Pop artists have for decades appropriated the style, dance and sound generated inside the black and Latino LGBTQ community’s house ballroom scene. From Madonna’s 1990 “Vogue” to the Scissor Sisters’ 2012 “Let’s Have a Kiki,” the creative teams of Top 40 performers have consistently mined the scene for inspiration.