The Whole House Eats

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For queer people, family is not who you come from, but who you surround yourself around with, who you cling on to, and who clings back even tighter. Three years this week after Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized marriage equality for same sex couples, over 25 other nations around the globe have followed suit, ensuring “I do” as a fundamental right for all citizens. Yet still the world we live in today remains a tremendously dangerous place for queer persons and those close to them. A recent study from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago found that LGBTQ youth had a 120 percent higher risk for homelessness and make up 40 percent of America’s total homeless population. Abroad, it’s not much better, where LGBTQ youth make up a quarter of the U.K.’s homeless, and in Chechnya, in which a gay genocide is abetted by mothers and fathers betraying their own kin.

Historically, ballroom culture has always been a place of security and strength for not only the LGBTQ community but also people of color and other non-confirming and marginalized groups. Famously portrayed in the 1991 documentary Paris is Burning, the underground dance scene actually traces way back to the end of the 17th century in Europe, in which Portuguese fachonos (a baroque equivalent to today’s drag queens) would host over-the-top affairs in Lisbon. Two centuries later, French gays and lesbians would gather in private residences and literary salons for costumed bal de folles, where cross-dressers shimmed beside countesses in avant-garade creations. The modern ballroom scene as we know it now—where groups (“houses”) complete against each other in dance battles—materialized in Harlem, New York in the 1980s as the fruition of all this history, repression, and the need to self express. And not to mention voguing.

Founded in 1987 by Eric Christian Bazaar, the House of Milan is one of the most original houses to date. Comprised of creatives from all over the world—stylists, makeup artists, and hair stylists—the group draws artistry from the likes of Gianni Versace, Monica Bellucci, and Miucca Prada in their intricate, Milanese fashion-inspired performances that combine vogue with modern dance. “We’re the fashion leaders in the community,” Stanley DeVaughn, the group’s New York father, tells CR. “We give innovation and a lot of heart.”

Seen here in this special portfolio by Dima Hohlov, the house’s European edition opens its doors to CR on the last week of pride month for a personal revolution of strength and resistance featuring House of Milan dancers and participants of its ball. “Ballroom is first and foremost a place for the LGBT community and people of color but it is inclusive to everybody else as well,” says London father Benjamin Jonsson, who works with the likes of FKA Twigs, Madonna, and Kylie Minoque outside of the house. “Coming together with people from other marginalized communities to express unapologetically yourselves is really important—to speak up for equality but also for yourself. That is what we do with every look and performance we do.”

“Voguing is a political act in itself and that is what pride is about. To have fun but do it with a message.” —Jonsson

“We are the family we never knew we could have but always wanted.” —DeVaughn


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