Queer global ballroom culture


The 1990 queer documentary film: Paris is burning, directed by Jennie Livingston, pioneered acceptance and respect for the Queer ball culture.

Paris is burning had won accolades worldwide and acted as a catalyst for the fame of ball culture.

Critics consider it to be an invaluable film delving into the lives of African-American, Latino, Gay and transgender communities in New York City during the 90s.

1900s: New York And Its Gay Night Life In Underground Ballrooms

Ball culture

Ball culture refers to the LGBTQIA+ subculture of African-Americans and Latinos that originated in New York in the 1920s, in which models walk-in events known as balls.

Winners are bestowed with awards, trophies, prizes, and rewards at these balls. Events are divided into categories and involve lip-syncing, modeling, dance performance, and more.

In the 1920s, the culture mainly consisted of white men who dressed up as drag artists. Drag refers to the art of people from one gender wearing clothes typically worn by the other gender.

In the Kiki Ballroom Scene, Queer Kids of Color Can Be Themselves - The  Atlantic

With time the balls became more representative in terms of race and culture.

However, judges continued to be white who ostracised African-Americans and Latinos by not allowing them to win.

To counter this racial discrimination, they started their balls. The balls evolved to include Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and transgender African-Americans and Latinos.

What is done at balls?

Participants can do a range of performances at the underground balls. While some model, the others dance, and even others dress up and lip-sync.

Participants include minorities and houses (a stellar tradition of the LGBTQIA+ community); there is a division of categories to uplift various communities.

At competitions, house members walk in stunning dresses of silks and teals, of frills and wires. People dress according to the category they are competing in and are expected to portray an essence of reality in their costumes.

Participants are beautiful to look at and stylish to a fault. The ball culture is heavily influenced by hip-hop, and this is visible in its manifestations.

The longest ever ball lasted for 10 hours, and tens of categories were portrayed in a single event.


Houses are a popular subset of the LGBTQ+ movement and are perceived as an alternate family. Houses primarily consisting of Black and Latin LGBTQ members provide shelter, safety, solace, and emotional support similar to an actual house.

These are led by fathers and mothers who are generally older people within the ball culture. They provide guidance, support, and shelter to children who need it.

The members become each other’s brothers and sisters, and thus a family is made. Houses send in their participants at different balls, and winning more is synonymous with more recognition.


Ball culture originated as a subculture within the LGBTQ+ community. At the first blush, it mainly consisted of drag artists putting on eye-catching performances.

While the movement gained momentum, African-Americans and Latinos were sidelined by white judges; they started their balls to overcome this. These balls became icons of defiance against gendered norms and places of inclusivity for the minority races.

Attendees walk in vogue outfits and stunning looks to win prizes and awards at these balls. Underground balls have evolved to become areas of representation for the Black and Latin American lgbtq+ communities.


At its very core, Ball culture is a sort of defiance against the water-tight distinctions made by society in terms of gender, race, and sexuality.

By freely donning outfits liked by one irrespective of their gender or sexuality, they challenge gendered restrictions at the most primal levels.

Underground ball cultures have successfully defied restrictions placed on not wearing clothes of the opposite binary gender.

The ball culture and successfully and irreversibly challenged gendered restrictions to levels previously thought impossible.

Assimilation in the mainstream media

Ball culture has become a part of mainstream media through TV shows and Drag Clubs. For example, Drag Queen RuPaul is known for his award-winning show RuPaul’s Drag race, a reality show looking for the next best Drag.

The popularity of the show and the social acceptance that came with it have helped ball cultures gain a place in the mainstream media.

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