After the success of last year’s first ever Sissy Ball, the underground sensation of ballroom culture and voguing was brought to Sydney’s sunny shores once more.
Curated again by Sydney LGBTQ+ icon Bhenji Ra in collaboration with Red Bull Music, this year’s Sissy Ball was graced by international superstars such as Precious, Leiomy Maldonado and Dashaun Wesley and stood again as a celebration of fearlessness, defiance and the explosive ferocity of the ballroom scene.
(FOOTAGE COURTESY OF RED BULL MUSIC)
While Sydney’s Sissy Ball is only two years young, ball culture has been around for at least five decades and has deep roots as an LGBTQ+ subculture. Not just fun and flair, ballroom culture acted as an avenue for self-expression and togetherness amongst communities that were (and still are) maligned and discriminated against based on their sexuality, gender and race. An important ballroom term to know is “houses”. Houses denotes the groups one can join when entering ball culture and have historically acted as alternate families for disenfranchised LGBTQ+ individuals. Houses would then compete against each other in balls and to wage scathing wars over attitude, walks, costumes, and realness.
The influence of New York’s ball culture since the 1980’s (when voguing was born) still rings loudly today. You probably still remember Madonna’s hit single Vogue and maybe you’ve watched Jennie Livingstone’s seminal documentary, Paris is Burning. We also still see mainstream artists like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and even Kanye West paying homage to what was once considered underground.
Which brings us to Sissy Ball 2019 – easily the biggest ball in the Southern Hemisphere. Bringing together some of the most famous houses in the Asia Pacific including House of Slé, House of Luna, House of IMAN and House of Amazon, the night was an exhilarating showcase of exuberant pageantry, raw physicality, dynamic beauty and pulsating beats. Whether it be tears of joy, tears of pain, exasperated breaths from heated screams or flamboyant costumes soaked in sweat, everyone who took the stage that night left a piece of themselves up there and basked in the shared glory that they got to be a part of something special.
While Australia has a long journey ahead of itself before fully giving the consideration and importance that marginalised communities deserve, events like Sissy Ball are shining beacons of hope.
Shout outs to all involved in putting together such an amazing night, to all the participants who each claimed the stage as their own, and to Bhenji Ra, Leiomy Maldonado, and Dashaun Wesley for appearing in this episode and sharing their knowledge and experiences! All we can say now is: See you next year at Sissy Ball 2020, BAO!