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And the Category Is.: Inside New York's Vogue, House, and Ballroom Community

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A 2023 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Nonfiction

An Electric Literature “Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Book of 2022” Selection

A love letter to the legendary Black and Latinx LGBTQ underground subculture, uncovering its abundant legacy and influence in popular culture.

What is Ballroom? Not a song, a documentary, a catchphrase, a TV show, or an individual pop star. It is an underground subculture founded over a century ago by LGBTQ African American and Latino men and women of Harlem. Arts-based and intersectional, it transcends identity, acting as a fearless response to the systemic marginalization of minority populations.

Ricky Tucker pulls from his years as a close friend of the community to reveal the complex cultural makeup and ongoing relevance of house and Ballroom, a space where trans lives are respected and applauded, and queer youth are able to find family and acceptance. With each chapter framed as a “category” (Vogue, Realness, Body, et al.), And the Category Is . . . offers an impressionistic point of entry into this subculture, its deeply integrated history, and how it’s been appropriated for mainstream audiences. Each category features an exclusive interview with fierce LGBTQ/POC Ballroom members—Lee Soulja, Benjamin Ninja, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, and more—whose lives, work, and activism drive home that very category.

At the height of public intrigue and awareness about Ballroom, thanks to TV shows like FX’s Pose, Tucker’s compelling narratives help us understand its relevance in pop culture, dance, public policy with regard to queer communities, and so much more. Welcome to the norm-defying realness of Ballroom.

ISBN-13: 9780807007327

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Beacon Press

Publication Date: 09-13-2022

Pages: 248

Product Dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Ricky Tucker is a North Carolina native, a storyteller, an educator, a lead creative, and an art critic. His work explores the imprints of art and memory on narrative, and the absurdity of most fleeting moments. He has written for the Paris Review, the Tenth Magazine, and Public Seminar, among others, and has performed for reading series including the Moth Grand SLAM, Sister Spit, Born: Free, and Spark London. In 2017, he was chosen as a Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Fellow for creative nonfiction. Connect with him at thewriterrickytucker.com.

Table of Contents

Preface: Equal Parts Sugar and Shade

CHAPTER 1
Werk—w/the Legendary Pony Zion and Benji Hart (Benji Ninja).
Paris Is Burning, America’s Best Dance Crew, Pose, and Madonna and the art of appropriation

CHAPTER 2
Memory—w/Lee Soulja
Hidden figures and the history of having a ball
VOGUE ICON: José Xtravaganza

CHAPTER 3
Vogue—w/Arturo Mugler
Learning to vogue, the five elements, and getting your life

CHAPTER 4
The Children—w/Jonovia Chase, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, Gia Love, Luna Luis Ortiz, Michael Roberson, Robert Sember, and LaLa Zannell
Mothers, fathers, LGBTQ youth, and lost and found families
VOGUE ICON: Leiomy Maldonado

CHAPTER 5
Church—w/MikeQ and Lee Soulja
Clubs and balls as hallowed ground, house music as gospel, and the Theology of Vogue’ology
VOGUE ICON: Kia Labeija

CHAPTER 6
Realness—w/Gia Love
Walking categories, trans lives, and the unexpected prevalence of gender norms within the Ballroom scene
VOGUE ICON: Pony Zion

CHAPTER 7
Body—w/Luna Luis Ortiz, LaLa Zannell, and Gia Love
Black trans bodies, body sponsorship, and resolving the trauma in our bodies

AFTERWORD
My Two Gay Dads—w/Michael Roberson and Robert Sember
The trappings of the not-for-profit industrial complex, 2020 vision, cosmology, astrology, and theology, the future of Ballroom—and giving it up to the Universe

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index