What many from the coasts of New York City to Los Angeles don’t know, is that the Atlanta LGBTQ/POC community and their ballroom scene – which is “yas”, very real – has been thriving for almost three decades, just as it once did during the times of Jenni Livingston’s 1991 documentary film, Paris is Burning. My experience of the ballroom scene growing up was nothing different from what I saw in the movie, along with Ryan Murphy’s modern-day FX series, Pose. This groundbreaking series reflects the very real-life experiences of being queer and a trans person of color, who others, among myself (being 19, black, and very androgynistic-ly queer) watch with no remorse, but only love!
In July 2018, I had a talk with my close friend Jay Levy aka JSPORT about his early preparation for Red Bull Music: ATL Is Burning Ball, “I want nothing more but to give the real of what’s always been here.” Atlanta collective Morph – which consists of JSPORT alongside Dj Leonce – curated the event collaboratively with Taylor Alxndr, founder of Southern Fried Queer Pride (SFQP). “This is half of what I’d imagine,” Jay told me, shouting to me backstage of the venue that hosted over 1,600 people, “This is all destiny!” Everyone was in such happy, high spirits getting to dance to DJ’s including Cakes Da Killa, MikeQ, Byrell The Great, while artists such Quest?Onmarc, Divoli S’vere and Ripparachie (who is also home to the Atlanta Ballroom Community) put on incredible performances.
One special moment of the night myself was getting to be alongside Leikeli47 before she hit the stage for her performance that hosted an impromptu fashion show. While we held hands walking and sipping on Red Bull and tequila she said to me, “I’m so grateful to experience something so important to us. I’ve always felt more at home doing this, than anything else in life or any other industry.” She then got on stage and started picking best dressed Queens out from the crowd to join her on the makeshift catwalk in full liberation! Getting to experience my first ball, and even having the chance to walk in a category myself for best dressed, up until the moment I got the “CHOP” sign – I felt so welcomed, so loved in full Atlanta southern hospitality. Atlanta needed this and deserved a moment in time for all Queers to feel righteous in their Queer.
Writer: Aries Tyler @aries.tyler
Photographer: Millen Dang @32×30
Thanks to @redbullmusic