Lee Daniels and Drag Balls
Madonna’s “Vogue” and Jenny Livingston’s documentary Paris is Burning first introduced mainstream culture to underground drag balls. But that could soon change thanks to a new project with a hometown connection.
Philly native Lee Daniels says he’s teaming up with W. Merritt Johnson (screenwriter for Temple Grandin) to create an original drama series inspired by urban drag balls for Showtime – a network in need of some fresh, new LGBT-friendly programming to fill the void left by once popular series like Queer as Folk and The L Word.
It’s already being reported that the drama will be set in New York City, focusing on a multicultural cast of young characters involved in the ball culture, including many transgender youths seldom seen on network or cable television these days.
Today, this real-life drag scene attracts many performers who compete for prizes from different “houses” or “drag families,” like the House of Blahnik here in Philly. And while it’s debated about how drag balls first got started – some say it was among white men in gay bars by the 1930s and others say it first flourished in Harlem – the new show is certain to tap into underrepresented voices among black, Latino and transgender performers within the LGBT community.
Here’s a clip from 1990’s Paris is Burning showcasing some of the people and dance moves that have made the ball culture famous: