The Met's 'Battle of the Legends' Ball Gave Voguing The Platform—And Respect—It Deserves
"This will forever go down in history as a moment in New York City where the Ballroom community got to become part of the exhibit that is the Met."
The judges at The Met's 'Battle of the Legends' Ball. Courtesy of BFA.
"Wintour is coming," Jack Mizrahi, international MC and house-ballroom historian, announced to a crowd of hundreds gathered outside of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art on Tuesday evening. And there she was, the editor-in-chief of Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast, clad in Versace, stepping out behind some of ballroom's biggest icons, including fellow judges José Gutierez-Xtravaganza (Father of the House of Xtravaganza) and Twiggy Pucci Garçon (executive producer of the documentary Kiki).
For the next half hour, time stopped as six competitors faced off in pairs of two in the battle to win the title of Legend Slayer. (Spoiler alert: It went to Malik Miyake Mugler). Nobody really lost though. Instead, history was made.
"This will forever go down in history as a moment in New York City where the ballroom community got to become part of the exhibit that is the Met," Xtravaganza, a dancer and choreographer on Madonna's Blond Ambition world tour, told GARAGE immediately following the competition. "Like, I came here as a kid on school trips to come and visit these steps, and I would always see this museum as a larger-than-life place even to come visit. So, imagine for the ballroom community to be here in front of the Met—it’s going to go down in history as one of the most pivotal moments for our community, within our community, for society."
Looking around, from the judging panel to the voguers to the crowd, it was clear that the atypical pairing—one of the world's self-professed finest art museums hosting an underground movement comprised largely of LGBTQ people of color—was, in fact, the perfect match. "I’m actually happy that now it’s getting recognized and it’s not getting stolen," said Precious Ebony, a legendary ball commentator who joined Mizrahi in serving as MC for the battle, told GARAGE. "I’m glad that we’re getting the respect and the honors that we’ve been fighting for and we had ancestors fighting for, and now I feel like it’s actually being brought to light and appreciated."
Miyake Mugler agreed, saying that the event was about being able to authentically represent the community. "We see a lot of voguing in the mainstream that’s not necessarily coming form ballroom, but rather an imitation of ballroom," he told GARAGE, with sweat still dripping down his face, a reminder of the power and intensity he had manifested minutes earlier. "To be able to be on the forefront of my community has been opulent." Miyake Mugler very much looked the part, in a silver sleeveless shantung blazer paired with an embellished turtleneck comprised of silver and glass beads.
For Mizrahi, the night was about educating people—even if just a few—that having pride in the ballroom community or the LGBTQ+ community does not need to be confined to a one month out of the year.
"Voguing for us is a community thing, and we’re always going to have it," Mizrahi told GARAGE. "It doesn’t matter if we’re voguing in the bottom of a church basement or we’re voguing solely in a room that we rent, we’re going to express ourselves, we’re going to create on the spot, we’re going to catch the beat, and we’re going to just let it all out. So, being able to let that energy out amongst a bunch of people and trying to teach people and open up just a few more eyes and a few more minds is just wonderful, and that’s really the best part."