July 21, 2021 4 min read
Pride is an all-encompassing feeling that influences our sense of selves from the bottom up. Queer folks have for so long been denied this basic right of self-expression. While progress is gradual, we’re coming to embrace solidarity and acceptance without caveat.
This year, members and allies of the LGBTQIA2+ BIPIOC community across the world decked out in every colour of the rainbow and celebrated the true essence of self-expression, solidarity and purpose.
We had the pleasure to sit down with Ralph Escamillan from Van Vogue Jam - a Vancouver-based organization that is creating huge waves in the Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Colour (QTBIPOC) community. Secret Location is a proud sponsor for the runway OTA category, contributing a $300 prize gift certificate for the organization, and we’re in full support of their wonderful initiatives towards the accessibility and safety of the LGBTQIA2+ BIPIOC community.
Van Vogue Jam is a champion of Ballroom culture or Ball culture, which is a menagerie of performance, lip-syncing, dance, and modelling events - all in a vibrant burst of creativity and self-expression. Holding events throughout the year, Van Vogue Jam has broken the status quo to create a cultural phenomenon of dance and competition within the QTBIPOC space.
vogue training; dance studio
Their next event is going to be one for the books! The Posh Ball on July 31st, 2021 is where the KiKi Ballroom scene takes centre stage. This is a space for young performers and up-and-comers to flex their skills, outfits and attitudes by way of practicing for mainstream balls. What can you expect? International judges, major effects and seriously cool cash prizes. Tickets are on sale now!
Without further ado, let’s get right to our candid conversation with Ralph. It was incredibly eye-opening, and we’re sure you’ll pick up some inspiring gems along the way.
Let’s dive in!
SL. What is Van Vogue Jam and what are your goals with the organization?
RE. Our goals with Van Vogue Jam are to create a safe space for QTBIPOC folk in the city to learn about Vogue and Ballroom Culture. This has manifested in complimentary and/or by-donation classes every Tuesday and our annual balls during Vancouver Pride every summer. We also integrate a strong need for continued education by inviting Legends and Icons from the Ballroom scene as guests. They bring and share their knowledge through engaging Legends and Icons from the Ballroom scene.
SL. What is Ballroom Culture? Could you touch on its history and importance to LGBTQ+ communities?
RE. Ballroom culture is a Trans, Queer, Black and Latinx community that was founded when Crystal LaBeija was denied the title “Queen of the Ball” in a time where most queer organized events only served white communities. Ballroom became a way for Trans, Queer, Black and Latinx communities to gather, shed their oppression at the door and carve a space for themselves.
SL. What were some of the challenges you encountered brought forth by the pandemic? (Specifically with the organization as a whole).
RE. Ballroom Culture, like many other cultural forms that were cultivated without resources, privilege or platform saw the pandemic as a new way to connect with the larger Ballroom community. It was intuitive to us that we could make use of technology and social media to continue Tuesday classes, not only for our community but also for whoever else in the world wanted to learn.
During this time, we’ve been able to connect with students from the Philippines, Brazil, Argentina, Thailand, France, and all over North America. Because of the online platform, we’ve been able to engage with Legends, Icons and other folks from Ballroom from a distance – using our Van Vogue Jam platforms to further educate our community.
SL. How have you adapted to these challenges? What have you learned from these experiences?
RE. The biggest challenges have been trying to keep our local community active and interested, and the best we can do as an organization is to continue forward and be there when they are ready. We’ve learned that there is never an end to learning about a culture like Ballroom, and hope that through the work we do as an organization, we can continue learning and growing together as a community.
SL. Tell us about the Posh Ball. What can spectators expect at the Posh Ball
RE. The Posh Ball is our second collaboration with partner Vancouver Pride Society, which will be happening online. Folks will compete and show what they offer on the runway for a chance to win cash prizes, gift cards and an online trophy. Spectate, walk, donate, the Ball is a way to help give back and support the amazing artistry and talent only found in Ballroom.
SL. In what way has the transition to digital events allowed for innovation or adaptation in the formatting of the event itself?
RE. Because of the immense history of Ballroom and Balls, we’ve tried to not deviate from the structure of the function – but yet adapt technology to the Ball. With the support of New Media collective, Chimerik似不像 Collective, we’ve been able to create a very streamlined way of viewing the Ball online. Live editing from screen to screen allows for a feeling like you're actually in the room with the judges, competitors, DJ and host. Due to audio delays, we’ve had to let go of the commentator position for online balls - but this will be back to normal once we return to live events again.
A HUGE thank you to Ralph for sitting down with us! We really appreciate the wonderful work you and Van Vogue Jam are doing for the community.
Pride is more than a moment. It’s a thriving, glorious movement. This new era of change heralds celebration for more than just one month a year. The notion of over-arching acceptance across all identities should be steeped into our society, our culture and our psyche.
Happy Pride - this month, the next, and all year round!