More than a “moment”: How Legendary celebrates ballroom’s longevity and looks to the future

In the world of ballroom, talent speaks for itself. That holds true on HBO Max’s Legendary, the eye-popping, boundary-breaking competition series built around ball culture. Legendary challenges representatives from different houses (the central social structures in the ballroom community) to leave it all on the floor in weekly categories that test their skill in voguing, runway, and more. Now in its second season, the series has been a remarkable platform for Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ performers, shining a spotlight on their artistry without forcing a narrative on them. Sure, there’s drama—that’s what happens when you have 50 people vying for a $100,000 cash prize—but Legendary stands out in the world of reality television because it gives its competitors space to tell their story, and the story of their celebrated houses, on their terms.

In the not-too-distant past of 2009, ball culture made significant advances into mainstream media in the form of Vogue Evolution, the first team of “openly gay and trans dancers” on MTV’s hit America’s Best Dance Crew. Though the crew ultimately placed fifth in season four, Vogue Evolution was an undeniable crowd favorite and a trailblazer for the queer community, bringing the eponymous dance form to the national stage. And while its members—which included future Legendary MC Dashaun Wesley and judge Leiomy Maldonado, the “Wonder Woman Of Vogue”—were clear on their intent to educate and legitimize the art of vogue in the eyes of the masses, they also found themselves pressured to act and perform a certain way. As Maldonado recalls, “They felt like, ‘Okay, the world knows the gay—or LGBT—community to be a specific thing, so you need to be that.’” Though Vogue Evolution’s run on America’s Best Dance Crew was a groundbreaking win for inclusivity, it showed just how far the media landscape had yet to go.

Over a decade later, Dashaun Wesley and Leiomy Maldonado are proud that Legendary has created a space where queer people of color can be their authentic selves and instead focus on, in the immortal words of fellow judge Law Roach, doing “what needed to be done” in the competition. As Legendary’s thrilling second season comes to a close this week, it coincides with the finale of FX’s acclaimed drama, Pose (which both Wesley and Maldonado have been involved with throughout its run), capping off another milestone moment for ballroom’s ascendancy in pop culture. But Wesley and Maldonado are quick to point out this is not just a moment, not just a fad—the ball has been around for decades, and will be around for many more to come. The A.V. Club spoke with the pair about their evolution after Vogue Evolution, and how they hope Legendary will help bring ballroom into the future without forgetting its past.

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