POSE Episode 1: Royalty

POSE Episode 1: Royalty

Disclaimer: Black queer and trans individuals have been influential over the decades enhacing the cultural influence and generations.

It is said, "Queerness is magic⚡️ for those brave enough to make use of it, but it can feel poisonous for those who have yet to give in to its power." (Darnell Moore, 'No Ashes In The Fire')

Ryan Murphy's 'POSE', is an FX original series paying homage to the ballroom culture and history that we see widely broadcast, so much today in recent years on, 💃🏽RuPaul's Drag Race🏁.

(I'm still saying that Shangela was robbed BTW)

Though at times the show may be a 🎯hit or miss when it comes to the essence of ballroom... I would recommend shows and films that are "authentically geared" towards ballroom culture like My House (Viceland) and films Kiki (Hulu) and Saturday Church (Amazon Prime), which feature some familiar faces from the series, POSE.

In truth these shows are of recent years, but the Pose-era takes you back into time where it all orginated, the year was 1987, New York City.

🗼Paris Is Burning🔥, serves as the Bible🙏🏾 on everything ballroom culture including category explanation and house history. We learned of lingo, shade throwing, "How to get a real good read going", to even embarking on a journey of womanhood and femininity.

Black lives did not matter much at the time, so you could imagine Queer black lives let alone black trans lives?!

"Heartbeat" sets the tone with ✋🏾hand performance🤚🏾, ballroom preparations and passive agressive "passable" communication spearheaded by Elektra, Legendary Mother of the House of Abundance, played by ballroom's very own model/actress Dominique R. Jackson.

The silhoutte of a Saks Fifth Ave strut👠👠 yet dressed like the days of Dapper Dan to Dynasty, in furs and gold, Elektra's ora simply is nothing less than glamour and pure OVAHNESS✨ head-to-toe!

Three minutes in and you're already pulled into the process of a ballroom competitor as creativity is key by any means necessary as in this case taking "Everything!", as Elektra instructed the house children to do from the museum. TBH there is a history of "crafting" or "mopping", to execute the right image for a chance at that trophy, but I won't be spilling that 🍵.

Just know that.. I... 🙇🏾‍♂️!

"🤴🏾👸🏾Royalty... the category is.. bring it like Royalty.", says Pray Tell, played by award winning actor Billy Porter. His character in particular is signifcant to the ballroom scene as a conductor would be to its Orchestra, as they lead and we follow.

The 🎤commentator is the audience's "hypeman", mastering the ceremony with extravanganza and pizzaz💥.

Announcing the categories along with some shady commentary, the commentator is bascially a truth🔮teller granting constructive criticism unless you played the fools then that's a read on👉🏾👉🏾 you.

The goal per category is to first gain your 🔟’s, which is the entry key to the battle zone. Once you've gained your 🔟’s from all the judges then you move forward to battle other competitors in your catergory until only one is remaining as winner.

In the matter of Pose-era scores were tallied ranging 1️⃣-🔟, as compared to the 1990's to the present where only the 🔟’s matter, but CHOPS🔨 have always remained the same.

(👨🏾‍⚖️👩🏽‍⚖️CHOP - HIYAH❗️; unable to move forward in the first round of competition due to lack of creative look or effect, realness and/or performance.)

And as we see the House of Abundance was "🔟’s Across The Board" and Grand Prize for their Royalty looks, but little that they DID know VERA, SHELIA and them (👮🏼‍♀️👮🏻‍♂️👮🏼‍♀️) were on theee 🚓🚓💨 way as they entered to a room of celebration 🎉 .

The opening scene ends in the most "BITCH DID YA'LL REALLY JUST TURN IT LIKE THAT!", deemed a very JAW DROPPING moment when MUVA ELEKTRA uses the officers as opportunist props to bring even more DRAMA🎭 to the scene. Elongating her modelesque 🙌🏾 arms, she sashays with such elegance towards the blue collard men, she then lends them her 🤲🏾 wrist bending to surrender🏳️. 

I 🗣SCREAMED AT THE 📺

Communities of ✊🏿Black and ✊🏾brown families have a historical struggle for centuries on religion⛪️, health💉 and homosexuality👬. 

" Homophobia is the strong hand that 🤛🏾strangles the desires of those too vunerable to undo its firm grasp." (Darnell Moore, 'No Ashes In The Fire')

Queer black lives aren't welcomed in 🏡 that they were once housed in when homosexuality comes to 💡.

The show leads with Damon, a black boy filled with dreams of dance and Blanca, a trans woman of color and 💅🏾nail technician, who has been given news of her diagnosis (HIV). Two separate worlds facing adversitites of 💪🏾hypermasculinity, opression and seeking a way out, I started to see myself in the storylines instantly as others of my kind (QBL) and community (ballroom).

QBL = Queer Black Lives

#HouseLivesMatter

Dysfunction arrives for Damon, as many black queer youth are thrown from homes in an excommunication style from families. He is met with 🥊physical and 🗣verbal abuse from the hands of his own parents alike many whom have suffered in their 🏡 under the rulings and religion. 

Blanca begins to start a voyage of growth by taking matters in her own hand to acquire a place opposed to sitting “second 🍌 ” in the House of Abundance’s nest. 

Electra becomes quite 😤 bitter at the sense of Blanca’s self establishment choosing to banish her without well wishes, but a read on passability defining her superior realness.

Queer lives collide when Blanca extends an offer of housing to a homeless Damon, as well as, joining her house with a ballroom invite later that evening.

  • House - is an alternative family and safe space: chosen family; support system.
  • Most house names are in homage to all things fashion and beauty like Lanvin, Garcon, Ebony, Balenciaga and Mugler.

He refuses the offer yet Blanca convinces him to accompany her for the experience.

“Balls are a gathering of people who are not welcome to gather anywhere else a celebration of a life that rest of the world does not deem worth celebrating.”

I still remember the first time I attended a ball, I actually had walked and won. 

  • Walk - Participate; engage in competition. 

I had 👣’d the category Butch Queen Face, which is a beauty based category. The requirements are the elements of skin, teeth, nose, eyes, structure in addition to the art of "selling it". 

Prior to the event, my brothers had showed me videos of runway and performance clips via 💽💽DVDs and 💻YouTube. I was sure I was ready to attend even though the clips were not according to my category. When my category was called I strutted down the runway, remember I said I watched runway clips, so apparently they felt if I watched I would learn. I came to the table of 👨🏾‍⚖️👩🏽‍⚖️ with a 😁 smile as they greeted me with wands that were lit up before me. I literally remember jumping back in confusion like WTF does that means?! 

The commentator ask, “Are you in a house?” I reply “No”... “007 🔟’s across the board, stand to the side.”

  • 007 - No house affiliation; no last name

The time came to battle, I waited a second not knowing it was time for me to battle. 

“😁SMILE AND 🚶🏾‍♂️WALK TF AROUND!” yelled my brother as I did among the other competitors each round to be granted the victory. 🏆🥇

After my win, we decided to go to an 🍳🥞🥓🥤🍽eatery to celebrate while still in our effects.

  • Effects - Costume; look for the category 

It was that moment I would meet my gay mother, a transgender women, Bambi Rodeo. She would recuse me from homelessness taking me in from Champaign, IL to East Saint Louis, IL., a time I was finding myself at age 18.

We lived in a single bedroom unit.

It was a tiny bit of space, but we made it work! 😂😂

Bambi Rode’o, her ballroom name, was a chocolate beauty with a shape and presence that exudes the embodiment of realness. Very much like Elektra she had an expensive taste for the finer things and did not mind having to flex her many hustles to have it.

She had legal employment which surprised me, but still had ways of scheduled exits in the night. It was through her I was educated on the harsh realities trans women of color have from welfare, healthcare to employment. They use this source of income as a “quick-fix” to gain access to large amounts of money for a minimal time as to working biweekly. 

I recall nights of her leaving in a black vehicle very late or waking up to note of “I’ll be back”, meaning she would be away for a day or two. Early on I did not know much however I soon understand the sacrifices she made for her family and myself.

“Those are mother’s rules, if you can’t follow them... you can go!”

Blanca tells the children of the house her only demands similar to how my mother would speak when when laying down the law on curfews, expectations and lastly sex.

I never had the talk with my biological father, but did with my step father.

The conversation was of heterosexuality and sexual relationships between male and female. 

When I had the talk with my gay mother, it was very much similar to Damon and the one Blanca had with him. The conversation was intense yet relaxed knowing sex could potentially be involved in the attractions of others. Words were very much no filter as herself being a black, a trans, a women... she had already been filtered out in the world. 

We had conversations of condoms, oral pleasures, and the infamous top or bottom scenario. It was that talk I became aware of things outside “heterosexual” stigmas like STDs and pregnancies to HIV among other concerns with gay health matters.

I am very thankful for that conversation as it saved me more than once.

At the pier, which is a sanctuary for the birth place of vogue and battle dance styles. Black and brown youth gathered around using their bodies similar to ‘breakin’ yet deeper then rap to make a statement. Damon is amazed at the battle grounds watching what it takes to be on top... though I must ask how Damon learn to vogue in 2 days sis?! I’m asking for myself... 🙋🏾‍♂️I know she had on her dancing 👟👟, but DAMN❗️😩😂

“Realness, to fit in the straight white world, to embody the American🇺🇸 Dream💭.”

 

"...American dream dictated: Obtain a high school diploma. Go to college. Graduate. Leave home. And never return. Marry a woman. Have kids. Work. Pay off student loans. Buy a home. Buy a car. Repeat. Take vacations. Encourage my children to follow in my footsteps. Be declared successful." (Darnell Moore, 'No Ashes In The Fire') 

Stan Bowes, played by Evan Peters, is a middle class working man and husband, with aspirations of obtaining the American Dream 💰🏦🚘👔💼👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 for himself and family. Working in the times of white male supremacy and post Trump-era, the dream is lived through expensive dinners, lavish homes and foreign clothing unable to pronounce.

“What’s better the dream or reality?”

If I could answer that inquisitive question from Mr. Bowes to Mrs.Bowes at the dinner table that night, my only answer would be: Angel.

Indya Moore’s Angel, sheds a 🔦light on lives that are merely seen to be sought out until after dark nights for secret fetishes and foul play at the expense of their livelihoods. ⚰️

Beyond the beauty, you realize the life story instantly, as Trans Women of Color aren’t allowed the possibilities due to the existence of being. The yearn for stability is rare yet obtainable as Angel navigates her way to have dreams become reality.

“I’m his mother!”, this scene resonated with me flashing back to memories of my mother literally dragging me into schools I felt less qualified for due to lack of higher degree or experience. She had a pressured presence that pushed me to go forth gain experience I never knew I could acquire being my first teaching position. 

In many ways I realized how she took on my struggles over her own in order for a goal to be accomplished. I see this in the ways the trans community primarily trans women of color have fight for equality and liberation from Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera at Stonewall to activist Miss Major and now, Pose writer/director Janet Mock and Angelica Ross, who plays Candy.

“We just wanna see you dance”, says the Dean of dance among the panelist. Damon’s song of choice “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, by none other then “The Voice”, herself Whitney Houston. 

Watching his body leap, spin and sway to the music giving an contemprary praise of passion to “dance with somebody” he evoked a message.

Excuse me while I go deep...

I took this as in the dance being his life and dance partners as somebodies being his dream of dance or Blanca and his new family. It was amazing to see the Dean walk up to Damon at the end and hug him as he caved into chest as if, she knew the passion and past of the episodes' earlier events that led to this moment.

The Royalty episode ends with Stan in search of Angel to satisfy a thirst of something he feels forbidden yet fortunate 💵 to take in, the two possess something the other has.

(Remember the question of dreams and reality 😉)

Their exchange is one of business. 

It’s usually sexual however can vary from casual conversation to kinky pleasures depending on “level”. They drive off in to the night, street lights as long as the lives of women whom had to seek the streets for life to suffice.

I have some “pre-life ending” outcomes on the lives of Elektra and Angel, but want to wait until I see more episodes before casting those. 

I do want to say that the show has done a great job in being pure to the essence of ballroom and it’s culture. While watching I’ve noticed some familiar ballroom faces such as Icons and Legends Hector, Rose and Londyn De Richelieu. Even crediting Twiggy Garçon, Michael Roberson and Leiomy Maldonado as consultants and choreographer. 

The writing and filming process seem to have their hands involved to make sure the ballroom scene is capsuled in the times.

By a show of hands 👈🏾👆🏾👉🏾👇🏾who else when publications📰 were first released felt some type of way like 🙄🙎🏾‍♂️ I know white America is not about to tell the story of ballroom when they still consider a fucking DIP a death drop... I still ain’t letting that down! 

I can only look forward at what’s to come with future episodes as I am eager to see, so until we meet again on the runway!

-JUSTIN MICHAEL HENDRIX