Legends of Ballroom

Crystal LaBeija was a prominent drag queen and the founding mother of the House of LaBeija.  She appeared in the documentary The Queen (1968), where she notably challenged the racist practices of drag pageants which favored white queens.  At the suggestion of friend and fellow drag queen Lottie, she became mother of the House of LaBeija,  which insipred a wave of  black Houses across New York and eventually the world.  (Lawrence, 2011, p.4)

Crystal LaBeija

Crystal LaBeija

Crystal LaBeija and Lottie at a pageant

Dorian Corey was a renowned drag queen, costume designer, and the mother of the House of Corey.  She co-founded the House of Corey in 1972 along with Father Chipper Corey.   She attended the Parsons School of Design and as a seamtress and entertainer,  was known for her elaborate costumes and performances.   She toured and made an album with the Pearl Box Revue, a drag cabaret act.  She also hosted the annual Harlem Fantasy Ball with Pepper LaBeija.  She went on to design a clothing label called Corey Design and was cherished for her mentorship to many children in the balls including the late Mother Angie Xtravaganza and the late Grandfather Hector Xtravaganza.  (Hector Xtravaganza, 2011, pp. 33-34)

Paris Dupree was a pioneer in the ballroom scene.  Known as a mother's-mother, she formed the first Brooklyn house, the House of Dupree, with Father Burger Dupree.   Her leadership encouraged the formation of other houses including the House of Ebony, House of Revlon, House of Princess, the House Milan, which were formed under her.   (Faces, 2006)  Her balls and elaborate costumes were revered by many and inspired the title of the documentary Paris is Burning.   She is also credited as the innovator of voguing.  

Avis Pendavis was the mother of the House of Pendavis and a prominent entertainer.   She co-founded the House of Pendavis in 1979 with Father Kirk Pendavis.   She was a seamtress, costume designer, and a famous drag performer.  In her house, education and stability were equally important as performance.  She had a tremendous impact on her children providing advice on life, education, and their well-being.  She loved to see her children progress in and outside of the balls.  (The Luna Show, 2011)  She was a Grand Prize Winner of Ballroom categories such as "Ethnic,” “Space Age Illusion,” and “Designer Delight Haute Couture Eveningwear.”  (Legends Magazine, 2003)

Pepper LaBeija was a legend in the ballroom community for 30 years.  As the second mother of the House of LaBeija, she was a prominent figure in the scene who won numerous trophy awards for her performance and costumes.  Father Tommie LaBeija described Pepper as a mother who loved her kids and the House of LaBeija as a family where gay children came for refuge.   In an effort to create an inclusive environment for black and brown LGBTQ performers, Pepper began hosting her own balls a long with Paris Dupree, Dorian Corey, Crystal LaBeija, etc.  Her balls, which originally began as pageants,  eventually became inclusive of butch queens (gay men) where numerous categories were implemented.  Her Grand Prize wins included “Grand Prize Winner Ethnic Effect", “Punk Rock",  and “Doing Your Own Thing.”  She notably received standing ovations each time she entered a ballroom.  (Legends Magazine, 2005)

Marcel Chrisitan was an artist, writer, historian, and legend in the ballroom community.   In 1962,  he was one of the first to host an all-black ball in New York in response to the discrimination faced by black queens.  As a grand-prize winner and Grandfather of the House of Christian, he was responsible for creating Idle Sheets, which documented the history, background of the houses, and legendary people in the balls.  As an artist and writer, he founded Widow Nails Media and Widow Nails Press in 1978, which designed and published "exquisitely crafted, couture programs, flyers, posters, booklets and ebooks by underserved black writers and artists whose lives and work transgress traditional gender norms."  (Widow Nails Media, n.d.)  In 1994, his poem "Fair Prejudice" was featured in the book Aloud : voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

Willi Ninja was the father of the House of Ninja, and he was also known as a the Grandfather of Vogue. The iconic dance form contributed to the popularization of New York club scence in the 80's. Willi Ninja started vogueing in drag balls in Harlem and has led him to a sucessful career. He worked with fashion designers, choreographers, models, and other celebrities (Ogunnaike, 2006).

Kevin Omni is the father and founder of the House of UltraOmni, one of the famous NY houses known for voguing. Kevin founded the house in 1979 along with Tommy "Dimples" Baker. As a father, Kevin Omni has guided his "children" and provided support, teaching them the history of Harlem drag shows, ball culture, and more.  Additionally, Kevin Omni is also an producer, educator, activist, event coordinator, and much more.   At the balls, he won 178 trophies for categories including, “Legendary-Hi Fashion Executive,” “Realness,” “Face” “Face Over 25,” “Face Over 30,” “Face Over 40,” and “Legendary Face.” He made ballroom history for his first trophy as “BQ in Drag” then later as “Realness Unspookable/Unclockable.”  (Legends Magazine, n.d.)

Octavia St. Laurent who has also gone by the name Heavenly Angel Octavia St Laurent Manolo Blahnik made her debut in balls in 1982 in the Harlem drag scene.  She  joined the House of St  Laurent in 1990, a house founded by Robbie St. Laurent in 1982.  Octavia was a part of the "Paris is Burning" documentary and took advantage of the opportunity to advance her career as an entertainer.  She was a singer, actress, drag performer, and an activist.  Octavia battled with drug addiction for many years and struggled with AIDS along with cancer later in life. Despite Octavia's many hardships, she kept a positive attitude.  She passed away on May 17, 2009 (Maglott, 2018).

Angie Xtravaganza was a founding mother of the House of Xtravaganza, and she was the mother for many, one being Hector Xtravaganza. She was emmersed in the of New York's ball scene at a vey young age, and was a popular performer.  Angie was a part of the documentary flim "Paris is Burining," and unfortunately, she was not able to enjoy much of the success of the documentary. Angie passed away on March 31, 1993 at the age of 28 after developing liver disease related to AIDS. Although she lived a short life, she made an impact on the many lives of childern she took under wing (Green, 1993).

Carmen Xtravaganza is a transgender woman who started off in the House of St. Laurent as Carmen St. Laurent. Known for her pretty face and walking the 'face' and 'model' categories at balls, Carmen became an icon. She eventually left the House of St. Laurent and joined the House of Xtravaganza. Her dramatic exit from the House of St. Laurent during the House of Omni's ball to join the House of Xtravaganza turned heads. She later became the mother of the House of Xtravaganza (Xtravaganza, 2013). 

Tracey "Africa" Norman is an African American model who is an important figure in balls. Tracey was the first African-American trans women to be on the the box of the Clairol and she has modeled for Vogue Italia and Essence. After a few years looking for more modeling jobs, she joined the House of Africa. She later became a mother of the house. Tracey strived to use her experience in modeling to teach her children and other memebers of the House of Africa to walk. In 2001, Tracey was elected in to the Ballroom Hall of Fame (Zagaria, 2019).

Hector Xtravaganza was a part of the House of Xtravaganza. He was the father of the house at different times of his life and eventually became a grandfather. Hector was a prominent figure in New York City's ballroom scene. Because of this, he went on to become a fashion stylist for celebrities and a consultant for FX show Pose (2018). This icon was also a HIV/AIDS awareness advocate, and in 1990,  he co-founded the House of Latex which works with Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) (National Museum of African American History & Culture, n.d.).

Erskine Christian is the father and founder of the House of Christian.   He founded the House of Christian in 1977 with Andy Christian, which was the first house for Butch Queens.  As a Grand Prize Winner, he was the first to walk the Butch Queen category in the 1970s, making him a pioneer of the Butch Queen category.  (Learn Your History, 2017)

David Ultima Xtravaganza is  a costume designer, the founder of the House of Ultima, and the former father of the House of Xtravaganza.   As the second father of the House of Xtravaganza, he and Angie Xtravaganza mentored their children, who went on to led careers in dance, modelling, music production, acting, etc.  As a costume designer, he has worked with numerous designers such as Oscar de la Renta  and Arnold Skavi.   His Grand Prize wins included "Face" and "High Fashion Evening Wear".   (Swerve Magazine, 2013, p.25)