Interview with the Legendary Tommy Labeija

The Legendary Tommy Labeija is the Grandfather and Historian of the House of Labeija. In this phone conversation, Tommy Labeija discusses the history of the House of Labeija.

Tommy Labeija (TL):    Hello.

Victor UltraOmni (VUO): Hello. Is that a little bit better? Hi, I’m sorry.

TL:    Yeah. [crosstalk 00:00:06].

VUO:    I guess [inaudible 00:00:14].

TL:    Your phone is really going in and out.

VUO:    I’m so sorry. I’m in the dorm at school the connection isn’t the best. Is this better? [inaudible 00:00:25] before where you said you could hear me a little bit clearer.

TL:    Yeah. Now I can hear you clearly.

VUO:    Okay, hopefully … I’m going to sit down right here. I just don’t think that my generation would be able to have this conversation without the pioneers and without you folks. I really, really appreciate your time and I just want you to be able to just say anything that you feel comfortable with. This article is going to be dedicated to all of you. I’m not getting paid for it. It’s kind just like when you’re an undergrad, you just kind of present something. My hope is that [inaudible 00:00:58] because when I was a first year in college, I [inaudible 00:01:03] my classes, but I was looking in books and I didn’t see the stories of our community and I really want someday for someone to be able to read those stories and be able to talk about them and be like, “Yeah. They really did that and it really changed the world.” Just thank you a lot. It really is an honor to get to talk to you.

TL:    No problem. It’s an honor to be even asked to be quite honest. I’m a student as well so I definitely understand kind of scholastic achievement. I just received my masters and am currently working on my doctorate.

VUO:    Wow. Congratulations.

TL:    Thank you. Just got married so yeah, life is [crosstalk 00:01:46].

VUO:    That is so beautiful.

TL:    There’s really no questions that’s off limits to me. Knowledge is power so whatever you feel the need to ask go ahead and ask.

VUO:    Well thank you so much. I guess my first question kind of … I don’t want this to be an anthropological interview or anything like that. I just kind of want to ask when did you first … Just some open questions and just answer in any way that you feel comfortable.

TL:    Okay. Not a problem.

VUO:    Yeah. Feel free to talk as much as you want. I’m tired of my voice already. When did you first get involved with the scene in New York City? How old were you? What year was it and yeah, just how did your journey begin with this?

TL:    Well, I basically just finished college, my first year in college, receiving an associates degree at Monroe College and I was actually trying to seek myself out as far as identity. I didn’t see many people like myself or know many people like myself and I met someone and they took me to the Village and I kind of found my footing at that point. You know, oh wow, there’s people like me. This is home. This is where I need to be, blah, blah, blah. Met a few people. Eventually found my way to [Tracks 00:03:22]. Went to [Tracks 00:03:23] every once in a while. One particular day I was [Tracks 00:03:27] and I was kind of drunk out of mind. I was just learning to drink because I had a lover and I wasn’t a drinker because my father was an alcoholic so I didn’t want to become an alcoholic. I thought drinking would turn me into an alcoholic. Friends took me out to the clubs to teach me how to drink and be a man. You know that macho shit, got to put some hair on your chest.

    One particular day I was in a club and I was really, really stoned, couldn’t really handle the liquor and I was sitting there and here comes this androgynous person and it happened to have been Pepper. I didn’t know who she was, but I knew she was someone important because it was like the music stopped and all eyes was on her and they gathered around her and you know, adorned her and it was like, “Who the hell is this?”

    She actually made her way over to my area where I was standing, where I was sitting actually. I guess to greet one of her friends. After she made her way through the crowd over to that section my cousin came to check on me to see if I was alright and I kind of made the mistake and said, “Yeah, it would be fine if this bitch’s coat wasn’t shedding all up in my nose.” It was kind of winter and she had this fox tail, black fox tail coat. It was all made of fox tails and so she turns around and says, “Excuse me. Is my coat bothering you?” I said, “Well, it’s not really bothering me. It’s just shedding all over the place and I just have to keep picking hair up my nose.”

    She said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I will remove it.” She removes it and she had on this leather top and this leather skirt and some little boots and she introduced herself to me and said, “Hi. My name is Pepper [inaudible 00:05:16].” At that point I was like oh my God. We’re not going to get out of this club alive. We kind of heard you know, stories about the ballroom children and I mean pretty much they were considered to be gay. They really weren’t, but when you hear stories you think they’re gay, whatever they were.

    I just figured we were not getting out of this club alive because all she has to do is wave her magic wand and we were finished, but it just so happened that me and Pepper talked. She really, really liked me. I guess I was different breed of person because I was in the club. I was young. I was a little southern boy from Bronx. She in real life said I was 25 years old. Well, she [inaudible 00:06:09] of course through conversation she learned I was 25 years old and just finished college. I was making my way and I didn’t know anything about ballroom and I think the reason why me and Pepper connected so well is because I wasn’t enamored with ballroom. I didn’t know anything about it. I was oblivious to ballroom and I already was on a different journey. The ballroom children back then were considered bums and drug addicts and all kinds of other negative things, which was not always the case, but the majority of the time it was the case.

    I think our connection was the fact that I was an older guy. I didn’t know anything about ballroom so it wasn’t a fact that I was using her for her fame and her title. It was just someone … you know she can have an intellectual conversation with other than the ones she was having with Paris and Avis and [Dorian 00:07:04] and Angie. We hung out a few times. It took me awhile to really get comfortable with the fact that she was inviting me over and inviting me over and had friends who were uppity, uppity and it was like, “Oh, you know that’s the ballroom children. You don’t want to get involved with that. Blah, blah, blah.” You know, as a scholar like yourself, you know you want to research stuff for yourself and see what it’s really about.

    I went over to her house and we just talked and it was pretty nice. I felt a little intimidating because I just was like, okay I’m waiting for the touches or the … You’re just waiting for them to lower the boom and for everything … all the negative things you heard about ballroom children to make itself available by way of touching me or coming on to me or someone else coming through the door while you’re getting molested or whatever the hell. I mean I was 25 so I couldn’t of been molested, but you know what I mean?

VUO:    Yeah.

TL:    It was a refreshing conversation. We kept in touch throughout phone calls and she actually invited me to a ball one day and she wanted me to accompany her to the ball that they were having somewhere in Philly. Philly was actually on the rise then and I said, “Yes.” I showed up to her house and I was [inaudible 00:08:34] down. I had on my little Polo jacket, my little jeans, my little sneakers and she was all dolled up and she said, “Oh Boo, that will never do.” I’m like, “Oh God. She’s about to put me in dress.” I’m like, “Okay, what do you mean this will never do?” She’s like, “I’m all glamorous and you look like …” She said, [“Bangy 00:08:54].” I wouldn’t say, “Son,” but that wasn’t the terms they were using there. She said, [“Bangy 00:08:59]. Like we’re not going to match. We’re not going to look well. You’re going to look like my son,” which she did have. She went in her closet and she pulled out this nice little lemon Perry Ellis or somebody. I don’t know. Some crocodile shoes and pretty much brushed me up and off to the ball we went and that was pretty much my introduction to ballroom.

VUO:    What year was this?

TL:    I’m going to say around ’80 … late ’84, beginning ’85 because I finished college in ’84. I’m going to say end of ’84, rolling over into ’85.

VUO:    Okay, okay. What are some of the dynamics that you saw within the House of Labeija in this period?

TL:    At that particular time in ballroom, ballroom was a really fantastic place to meet. It was a place of wonderment and it really catered to the transgender or the ladies who dressed in drag primarily. You know, when you went to the ball and those kind of galas, you really went to see the women and the ladies in their transition and how beautiful it was, whether they were a butch queen in drag, they were beautiful. Whether they fully transitioned, they were beautiful and they were really protected by the community, if that makes sense. No one could disrespect because not only the House of [Labasa 00:10:42] would attack you, the ballroom would attack you and that was same for any of the mothers in ballroom. They were revered as kind of gods to us and mentors to the younger generation because they really … At that time when you were found out, you were ostracized from your family. Pepper, Dorian and [Avis 00:11:07] and those ladies became your parents. It was a whole different dynamic than it is now.

    These days you don’t really cherish the ladies of [inaudible 00:11:22] or the transgender. Back then people came to see that. That was what was beautiful about ballroom. Personally, I don’t see no wonderment in going to a ball to see a bunch of boys do anything: voguing, runway … I want to see the ladies do that.

VUO:    [inaudible 00:11:48] I’ve also been really curios. I think my biggest question from an interview is just like what practices of survival did you see in the ’80s happening sort of around the ballroom. You said they tested [inaudible 00:12:02] There’s so much that you were … That all of the community was facing at that moment, particularly [inaudible 00:12:12] in the middle of the AIDS crisis in the middle of policing and just harassment from maybe other straight counterparts. How did houses work? Did you see any best practices of survival if any?

TL:    Actually I would say that back in those days, we really didn’t have much problems out of the straight community as a single unit. In other words, if you were in your neighborhood and people know you to be gay, they may pick on you individually, but like if we were out and about and because we all went in kind of groups because we were families and it didn’t even matter if you were in the House of Labeija or the House of Ebony or the House of Xtravaganza, outside of ballroom, you were a ballroom family. We were a community within your community.

    The only time that rivalry came into play was in the ballroom. That’s when the separation came because you’re now a Labeija or you’re an Ebony or you’re a, whatever you were at that point, but because balls were far and few between back then, we were still a ballroom family so when the children went out … I mean there were times when the boys or the trade would try it on the children, but they were in for a rude awakening because these weren’t punk children. They fought their way through the ranks. They fought together. They battled together. They didn’t sit there and watch their girlfriend get beat and film in for YouTube.

VUO:    Yeah.

TL:    No one was going to have a camera because everyone was going to be thumping the boy and the boy quickly learned that particular generation of the gay children were not having it because those children either had a hammer in their bag. We didn’t do mace and all that. You may of had a bottle of [inaudible 00:14:18] and a Coke bottle. The boys learned really quickly don’t mess with … Unfortunately they used to call us fags, but they learned quite early, don’t fuck with the fags because those bitches are crazy.

VUO:    I guess something that keeps coming up is language has changed so much, but that language wouldn’t have changed without the ballroom community. How do you think you saw different transgender women or just people who opted to transition in some ways navigate their identity in the ballroom scene and in everyday life outside of the ballroom?

TL:    I’ve actually seen some success stories in regards to transitioning and I’ve actually witnessed some not so much. Basically the girls that were usually successful, they worked in [inaudible 00:15:20]. Even if they were butch queen in drag for example because most of them were at the time. We didn’t really have many girls transitioning. We had a few. You know, the ballroom scene was Pepper, girls that were transitioning, but for the most part they were really butch queen in drag and so they would go to someone’s house who was established. Sometimes it would be Pepper Dorian or Avis or sometimes it was one of the older girls in the community aside from Pepper and Dorian and those girls and they would go to their house and they would get their selves together, butch queen in drag wise.

    I really think a detriment came in or some of the girls were forced to transition if that’s going to make sense because of ballroom and when I say that I say that because some of the girls were comfortable being in drag where they would go and sneak off and they would change their identity, not their gender, just change their identity for the evening or for the weekend depending on what they were up to and if they came … Maybe more importantly for a ball because you know … because the balls were far and few between, you would really have to go get yourself together. Instead of having on a wig you have a sew in or a glue in or whatever they was doing back then. You definitely could come home with all that hair because you can’t take it out.

    I really feel they changed their identity, but then when they went to ballroom and they started competing and they were losing to a girl who was prettier or lighter or had better structure or whatever the dynamics was, now these girls were forced to transition in terms of okay, I need to go get me some titties. Oh, I need to go get my checks hit or I need get my nose cracked or you know, they started transitioning in order to be accepted by ballroom because I think a lot of the girls would of taken their time had they had the proper guidance and the ballroom was a little bit more accepting in terms of okay, it’s not your night, but you’re not going to bash the girl down. Oh, you lost because you need your nose done or girl, you lost because you haven’t got no titties. That’s forced the girls to go into sex work and try and work on their transition at this point because first it was identity crisis you know?

VUO:    Yeah.

TL:    Now it’s gender crisis because now you’re trying to change your gender because although you’re not the prettiest looking girl in drag yet and maybe that’s the route you’re eventually going to take and you’re playing with it to get used to it and get comfortable with it and you know, spring it not only on the community, spring it on the real world and see how you’re accepted before you actually fully commit to it because once you actually get your bag or you get … Back then they didn’t even get all that. They got all that fake silicon and all that crap that’s ruining their lives now, but I think it was more of a identity crisis at first and then ballroom in my opinion, forced a lot of the girls to actual transition and get work done that they probably should of waited a few more years or been guided and navigated through the process through someone a little older.

    Unfortunately what then happens is because of economics, they can’t just go to the doctor and say, “I want my nose done” or “I want my checks done” or “I want a shot in my butt to shape out my boy pockets.” Now they have to go into sex work in order to gather the coins to get this and that done. First they’ll get little shots to fill in their boy pockets. That was the big thing back then, got to fill in your boy pockets. After you fill in your boy pockets now you want to get some breasts. I think back then it … Although it was survival mode, I think that ballroom forced a lot of girls to transition when they were happy being in drag. They were happy being in drag because I would think and as a psychologist, I would think that you would be able to back then be able to navigate through life a little better because you can always come out of drag.

VUO:    Yeah.

TL:    You know what I mean? You can get in drag and play with it even if you’re going to take it serious. You can spring it on the world and see how you’re received, catch your little critique while you’re getting spooked and then fix those things if you feel they need to be fixed, but just find your flaws. Let other people tell you what the flaws are, not ballroom.

VUO:    Yeah.

TL:    If you listen to ballroom, you’ll be looking like madame. Oh, you don’t have enough titties. Oh, your nose is too big. Oh, your nose is too small. By the time you’re finished you’re going to look like a man because ballroom is never going to accept you. It’s not very much an accepting place. Only a few girls and I’m pretty sure you know the names of some, really get that kid of adulation. The other girls not so much.

VUO:    Okay. I had a technical question. I kind of noticed that sometimes the only places that we find the ballroom [inaudible 00:21:24] written about [inaudible 00:21:30] who judge the competition and-

TL:    Your phone is breaking up. Your phone is braking up.

VUO:    I’m sorry. [inaudible 00:21:39] that sort of judge the competition sometimes like Keith Harring and then way later you had Jennifer Livingston come in, how do you feel the way art scene started to meet the house and ball scene in New York in this time?

TL:    I mean I think Jenny Livingston got a really bad wrap to a degree. Jenny Livenston was a film student and so what was important to her was images. I’ve actually worked with her on Paris is Burning although no one really knows that because I don’t publicize it. She was in film school or art school or something and I came … I met Pepper at the end of the project. It was already in wraps by the time … I think a year after I met Pepper and Jenny Livingston came to Doreen and Cory’s house with the finished product or somewhat of the finished product because she didn’t really have the rights to the music. When people seen it was … She wanted to make it a movie, but the only way she could really get the rights to the music was if it was [inaudible 00:22:44].

VUO:    Yeah.

TL:    If she said it was a movie, she would of had to pay all the people that was used in the film, but as a documentary piece, that was avoided. A lot of people don’t know that little history about that, but anyway-

VUO:    Thank you.

TL:    She came to village and she’d seen people voguing and seen all this and she actually found her way to a ball eventually and of course it was wonderment. This would be a dream for anybody who was a film student because you get to see all these images and movement and colors. That’s a film … That’s a dream for someone. She didn’t even know what she had and it took her a long time to navigate through the community because no one trusted her. Of course she was a white woman with a camera. What is she doing here and what is she doing and no one knew her so of course, once she made alliances with Pepper and Dorian, she was a little bit more accepted by the community and interviews were granted as you can see from the film.

    She didn’t really know what she had until she went to school and started showing it to her professor and at first she didn’t have interviews, she just had images of the ballroom children walking balls and the different terminologies, which was fascinating because it was an underground culture. As a faculty member, I would be fascinated too because it’s an untapped resource. Probably not one of the better resources, but it’s an untapped resource and you never know what you have, but her faculty member told her that she needs to get interviews with these people. We need to know who they are, why are they doing this. You need more. That’s when she navigated through and go the Octavia and Angie’s and the Pepper and the Dorians and all that stuff. Once they actually put it together it started winning awards. It started getting recognition. It was pretty much her thesis and it just go so much critical acclaim that it just took off and she didn’t know and then when money started rolling in, who’s going to turn down money?

    The unfortunate part of it is that she didn’t really come back and give back to the community of which they felt raped. You made millions of dollars once it went to Miramax, why didn’t you buy a building to house the homeless children that you’ve actually filmed at these balls? Why didn’t you fund some programs, which there weren’t many, but why didn’t you … and springboard a program that would help the community that actually was ultimately responsible for putting you in the position financially that you are? I mean you actually have children in Paris is Burning stealing from a burger joint.

VUO:    Yeah.

TL:    Wasn’t that a clue to you that maybe some of these children are hungry? Why didn’t you come back to the community and just give a big old dinner? Like, you did nothing for the community.

VUO:    [crosstalk 00:26:10] Sorry. Just keep going.

TL:    She did of course … You know, rub elbows with the right people and started helping a different community. Yeah, she fights for the community, but not our community if that makes sense? The ballroom community is where you got your start, where you got your fame, where your name went in the history books and now you’re rubbing elbows with … I would say the right people if you want to use that term and you’re working for LBGTQ rights, but you forgot about the people that got you in that position in the first place. Why not come back to us and say, “Hey, let me help you here. Let me … The winner of this category, I will pay your rent for one year.”

VUO:    Yeah.

TL:    Why did you not come back? That’s why the community feels a little slighted by her and with all honesty, unfortunately and fortunately, when you’re a young, gay child, those children who are not even born yet who are going to be gay, when they find out about the ballroom community, ballroom 101 is going to be Paris is Burning.

VUO:    Yeah.

TL:    If you want to know about ballroom, you need to watch Paris … Everyone is going to tell you. You have to go watch Paris is Burning. Although it will be 1,000s and 1,000s and 1,000s of years old at a certain point, it’s still going to be ballroom 101 because this is going to be the beginning. I can understand the children’s frustration with her not coming back and servicing the community. I do know that she paid Dorian a couple of dollars. I do know that she paid a few of the children some money, but you made millions of dollars. I mean that movie outsold Madonna, what is that? What Jose and them were in.

VUO:    Psycho Killers?

TL:    No, not that one. The movie before that. When she was on tour.

VUO:    Oh, I know what you’re talking about. Her little documentary that was in the movies.

TL:    Exactly. It outranked and outsold that.

VUO:    Yeah.

TL:    That shows you how powerful that Parish is Burning is. Jenny Livingston could of very well came back. I can’t say that she hasn’t because … No, I can say. She hasn’t and Paris actually wanted to sue her because she used the name of her balls.

VUO:    Yeah.

TL:    She couldn’t really sue her because she didn’t have the name copy written. She kind of lost there and that made Paris hate her forever. Paris hated her until the day she died.

VUO:    How do you feel that before Paris died-

TL:    Your phone is breaking up again.

VUO:    Okay. Prior to Paris coming out, there was a lot of straight folks at the balls?

TL:    There are a lot … I personally feel that a lot of people are at the balls now because we’re now … We’re now embedded in pop culture. What was an underground entity that no one wanted to deal with aside from Paris is Burning was pretty much enough of them. Okay, we see those bum niggers in Puerto Ricans. They steal burgers and they flap around on the floor and they dress up and they do this, that and the other. Okay, cutesy, cutesy. Once the vogue evolution came about, it kind of … It kind of catapulted us into main stream. There was no way around it. Everybody in the world wanted to vogue. When back then Madonna was doing it, you were a faggot if you vogued. Nobody wanted to do that faggot dance. Straight boys, I’ve been to Russia twice to judge balls. Straight boys are voguing and voguing better than they do here in the States I might add. All from watching YouTube clips.

    I think it’s a good thing. The only thing that I think is bad about it is that ballroom is not in a good place right now. Unfortunately we’ve reversed ourselves to being those bums in Paris is Burning and what I mean by that, you would like to see some progression or movement of the needle. You still see images of bums and broken down children. That’s not to say that all the children are bums or anything like that, but that would be the perception. In other words, if you see a cute little voguing child, you know you could say, “Hey, I want you to be in my video. I’m going to give you $300” and that would be enough for them. In actuality, they’re worth more than that, but because you view then as bums, you’re going to pay them scale.

VUO:    Yeah. Do you feel that this culture in the ’80s specifically was really tied to blackness?

TL:    I need you to say that again because your phone is breaking up.

VUO:    I’m so sorry. Do you feel in the ’80s the culture was tied to blackness, like voguing in any way or do you feel that it was tied to the Puerto Rican. The community that these guys came from, but at the same time you have hip hop happening. I know so much of it started with the clubs. I just wanted to ask if you felt there were any connections to blackness in this way?

TL:    I will say that it was a test to blackness only because it started in Harlem and because it was underground, no one from other ethnic groups knew about it until they were introduced. If we start with the Hispanic culture because they kind of infiltrated and we’ll go with the Xtravaganza, yes, they gave the Xtravaganza the hard way to go, but not because of ethnicity. They gave them a hard way to go because it was kind of considered this was ours. What are you doing here? Create your own shit.

VUO:    Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

TL:    They were eventually accepted because at the end of the day they are part of the community and to be quite honest, the Spanish children when they transition, they transition a lot better than the black children. They can grow the hair down their back. They pop a couple of bones and they’re soft as a cushion. Was it culturally divided? Yes. Was it intentional or racist? No. I wouldn’t want to believe that.

VUO:    Yeah. I don’t know. Something that I’ve been interested in, have you ever seen the dances that they do in Brazil? The [Para 00:34:09] dances? The fighting dance?

TL:    Uh huh.

VUO:    It looks kind of similar to voguing sometimes in a way. I wonder if you ever felt like there was a connection there between that and just kind of the conditions that made voguing come about?

TL:    I think that everybody takes elements of vogue and use it a little differently. I was watching Dance Moms years ago and they were voguing, but they was calling the dip the death drop. It kind of made me feel bad because you got the dance from our community, call it what it is. It’s not the death drop because you don’t want to associate it with the gay dance. It’s the fucking dip. It’s not a death drop unless you do it wrong. That kind of troubled me.

VUO:    Yeah. I guess what I’m asking … I guess I’m asking it the wrong way. Some of the roots of voguing, kind of what helped bring voguing into existence. Do you have any ideas about how the roots in terms of kind of looking it as people of African decent, what they were bringing into this time voguing came out.

TL:    I mean I’m not really sure what you’re asking me. Are you asking me what is the phenomenon that everyone takes from it and other cultures and countries?

VUO:    I just kind of meant [inaudible 00:35:48] all coming about do you think this style … I think this is just kind of me wondering more than a serious question. We can move on. If you felt that the dances before vogue that inspired vogue?

TL:    I won’t say that. I won’t even say … Me personally, I’m not going to give other dances the credit for that because vogue is a dance that came from our community and is specifically our. Did it take elements from other portions of dances, eventually it did, but primarily vogue was a dance that was generated from poses on a magazine, on Vogue Magazine. The difference is if you took Vogue … If you took all … Let’s say you took about 50 Vogue covers and you just flipped through them very quickly, you would see the Vogue dance. I don’t know if that makes sense to you?

VUO:    No, it does. It does. Yeah. Thank you so much.

TL:    Look, if you actually take a couple of Vogue covers and let’s say from the ’80s and when they were doing intricate poses and stuff like that, if you just flipped through the pages really quickly and just let the pictures move in a sense, you would see elements of vogue. Eventually like I said, they did take elements of hip hop, they did take … It always had elements of ballet because you had to have clean lines. If you are asking me that, absolutely, but we just … That was just … How can I say this? Ballet has certain things that you have to do for it to be ballet. Vogue has certain elements that makes it vogue. What they are doing now to me is not vogue. It’s a mess. There’s nothing beautiful. Vogue was a beautiful dance. I used to see Ronald LaMann and Jose Xtravaganza and all these children. I would stand in the club tracks on the balcony and I could sit there and watch them vogue for hours. That’s how beautiful. It was like watching a ballet. It was the most beautiful dance I have ever seen and it didn’t even appear …

    It was only gay because it was feminite movements, but that was the only thing that made it look gay to the world. It was still the most beautiful dance I had ever seen. It rivals ballet. It rivals jazz. It’s just … If those people were alive, some of them are and we still had footage of people who really vogued, the children of today would find it boring because it’s too structured for them. It’s a discipline dance. You had to be disciplined to vogue to be taken seriously. I hope that answers your question.

    I think vogue is a dance all of its own and again, does it take elements of other dances? Yes. You could say that ballet is a part of it because of the clean lines. Jazz you could say it’s about jazz because you have to have those beautiful spins. There’s certain elements in every dance because every dance could say, generated from somewhere else, but I will say that vogue is a dance all of its own created by us and there are some … There are logistics to the dance. There’s just some elements we expect to have.

    Let’s say if you went main … If it really did go main stream and let’s say it was part of the Olympics, the Olympics would ask us what are we judging? What do we need to see? We need to see clean lines. We need to see this. We need to see that. You can’t just say, “Oh, that was cute what he did. We’re going to give him 10s.” No, no, no. Just like a gymnast. You could say that vogue has some gymnast moves if that were the case as well.

    You could incorporate, but at the end of the day it’s still our dance and there’s certain elements, catwalk, duck walk, floor performance. These are things you have to see in real vogue. You have to remember that vogue did evolve. You have vogue that first it was old way, then it became performance, then it’s pop hip and spin, then you’ve got vogue femme, now you’ve got dramatics. It was never that. It evolved into that because people … That’s why they call it the old way. In other words, it’s irrelevant. No one is doing that anymore and that’s exactly the point. No one is doing that anymore, but those are the elements that you should have when you vogue.

    This new stuff, that actually took off around the world because I don’t know. It’s a phenomenon all over the world because of whatever. I don’t know. I think the old way is the best way.

VUO:    Thank you so much. I guess my last question is just is there anything else that you would want to say? Anything else about this time in the ’80s where you feel that people don’t talk about and what you would want to say?

TL:    What would I like to say? That’s like saying, “If you died tomorrow, what would you want to leave to this Earth?” I don’t know. I would really like to say that … Two things really. The first thing, I’d really wish that the younger generation would educate themselves in regards to ballroom and the real world. You really need your education to navigate through this world and education is so important and unfortunately it’s wasted on the young because they’re not taking advantage of it. As a result, that’s why we have poor educational systems because when the census come around and we fill out these censuses, education doesn’t rank high in our community so they don’t invest the money that it takes to give us the better education and then we complain about it, but we’re the reason that we’re having the problem so make education more of a priority and maybe the system will actually put better schools and better teachers in our community so that we don’t have to go outside of our community to these Ivy League schools to get a good education. That’s one.

    Two, I would like to say that we would bring the ladies back to ballroom. It’s not all about the butch queens anymore. It should never have been about the butch queen. Let the ladies have a go at it because they’re what’s beautiful about ballroom. They started ballroom and they should end ballroom and for the butch queens to push them out and make them feel unwanted, unneeded is just a travesty to me. I know the ladies are rolling over in their graves because we don’t have a bunch of femme queen or butch queen in drag categories because we don’t want to see the ladies because anything the ladies could do, they boys could do. They boys could vogue. The boys could walk runway. The boys could walk face. What do we need the girls for? That’s the sad part of ballroom to me.

VUO:    Thank you so much for your time. I can’t tell you how helpful and just amazing this has been. I hope you know that … I’m definitely going to be sending you copies of my paper. If there’s anything else that you feel an hour from now, you’re like, “I wish I had said that or [inaudible 00:44:11]” or just talk more-

TL:    [crosstalk 00:44:16]

VUO:    Please feel free to reach out. I can’t even express to you how much this means to me so thank you so much.

TL:    It’s not a problem at all and if ever you need me I’m off on Fridays. Anytime you need me or if you think of something or if you have an epiphany from speaking to others and you want to get my take on it, don’t worry. You can always call me. I’m always here for the community.

VUO:    I can definitely tell. Thank you so much. Have a great day and congratulations on your marriage and just everything that’s going great in your life.

TL:    Thank you and good luck with your piece and I look forward to reading it.

VUO:    All right. Thank you so much. All right. Bye.

TL:    Bye-bye.

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