Paris Is Burning

Uploaded by paunpaira on 06.04.2012

(man) I remember my dad say, "You have three strikes against you in this world. "
"Every black man has two - that they're just black and they're male. "
"But you're black and you're male and you're gay. "
"You're gonna have a hard fucking time. " Then he said, "If you're gonna do this,
you're gonna have to be stronger than you ever imagined. "
You have to open the door. You all have to open that door, too.
(man) Get off the floor. Get off the floor.
Learn it, and learn it well.
All right, Miss epper. All right!
Girl, look at those velveteen heels!
Do you want me to say who I am and all of that?
- (woman) I'm Pepper LaBeija... - Oh.
I am Pepper LaBeija, the legendary mother of the House of LaBeija.
Not the founder. Crystal was the founder.
I'm... I just rule it now.
With a soft glove.
And it's important to me to be the mother
'cause there's so many little kids that I have to look out for.
Although they don't listen to me and they buck my authoriry,
I still think I rule it pretty well. They like me.
I'm one of the more popular ones, and l've been around for two decades.
Reigning, that is. You know, l've got more grand prixes than all the rest.
(man) Gay peole - men - gather together under one roof
and decide to have a competition amongst themselves.
I went to a ball, I got a trophy and now everybody wants to know me.
This movie is about the ball circuit and the gay crew that's involved in it,
and how each person's life brought them to this circuit.
It's like crossing into the looking glass in Wonderland.
You go in there and you feel... you feel a hundred percent right as being gay.
- And that's not what it's like in the world. - That's not what it's like in the world.
That's not what it's like in the world. You know, it should be like that in the world.
This society - going to a football game, basketball - that's their entertainment.
You know, a ball is ours. We prepare for a ball.
We may spend more time preparing for a ball
than anybody would spend preparing for anything else.
You know, a ball is like our world.
A ball, to us, is as close to reality
as we're gonna get to all of that fame and fortune and stardom and spotlights.
(Pepper) I'd always see the way that rich people lived
and I'd feel it more, you know.
It would slap me in the face. I'd say, "I have to have that. "
Because I never felt comfortable being poor. I just don't.
Or even middle-class doesn't suit me.
Seeing the riches,
seeing the way people on "Dynasty" lived, these huge houses.
And I would think,"these people have 42 rooms in their house!"
"Oh, my God, what kind of a house is that?" And we've got three.
So why is it that they can have it and I didn't? I always felt cheated.
I always felt cheated out of things like that.
(man) You have space to do all that you intend to.
Now, the categories are: Butch Queen, one through 17.
And for the girls, 18 through 30.
As far as all of you all not walking, please realixe that we all,
at one time or another, have lusted to walk a ballroom floor.
So give the patrons and the contestants, you know,
a round of applause for nerve,
'cause with you all vicious motherfuckers, it do take nerves.
Believe me. We're not going to be shady, just fierce.
Those balls are more or less like our fantasy of being a superstar.
You know, like the Oscars, or whatever, or being on a runway as a model.
You know, a lot of those kids that are in the balls, they don't have two of nothing.
Some of them don't even eat.
They come to balls starving.
And they sleep in the Under 21, or they sleep on the pier, or wherever.
They don't have a home to go to, but they'll make...
They'll go out, they'll steal something, get dressed up
and come to a ball for that one night and live the fantasy.
A ball is the very word.
Whatever you want to be, you be.
So at a ball, you have a chance to display your elegance,
your seductiveness, your beauty, your wit, your charm, your knowledge.
You can become anything and do anything right here,
right now, and it won't be questioned.
I came, I saw, I conquered. That's a ball.
(man) Give her what she want! She bring it to you every ball.
Why you all gagging so?
I guess I like the excitement.
You know, some cheering and screaming, if you were good.
And that's what got me. I like the competition.
Makes me stronger. Makes me think more.
Makes me want to come back and get them.
It's not just the winning, it's... it's the giving, too.
'Cause I feel that I give a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people that go to balls.
And they enjoy to see it and I enjoy to walk for them,
so that's my philosophy, as I should say.
To be legendary is, like, their goals. To be legendary.
You know, let you know l'm legendary and you're not. That's...
- You know, it feels good to them. - (woman) Like in...?
- An Oscar. - An Oscar, right.
You become a legend, you have an Oscar. It's the same thing.
I don't really consider myself a real legend.
I've been at the balls with the legendary children
and l've stamped myself with the legendary children.
But l'm really... I'm one of the top, upcoming children. Legendary.
We have legendary children and upcoming legendary children.
We're the upcoming ones. We've been out longer than the ones that are here now.
And we done had our... We have our status in the ballroom.
How long did it take you to do the tank top?
- An hour. - An hour?
You don't do that.
It usually doesn't take you an hour to do a shirt, especially a tank top. Mm-mm.
That's not your speed.
(MX) Kim Pendavis.
Statement, ''Future legend.''
Kim and me have... We've been together...
And it's more or less me. I'm the one that's Kim's protégé.
Because I go with Kim to the balls, help him out, help him iron.
'Cause if I don't go to a ball with him and iron, I mean, he'll be there wrinkled.
Pr he"d be there ironing.
But, you know, it helps out when somebody else is there in your corner,
at your side to say, ''Yeah, you can do it. You're gonna be fine.''
''Just go out there and do what you usually do.''
What do I get out ofit?
Just simple, you know, joy, satisfaction.
That's it. Not... You know, I don"t really ask much.
And then from time to time, later on, I go wear the outfit.
(MX) Everyone waiting in the wings,
you know you have to make room for Pepper :aBeija.
Pepper :aBeija, Pepper :aBeija. Give her some walking music.
(man) :iz Taylor is famous.
(MX) Pepper :aBeija.
(man) So is Pepper :aBeija.
In a sense, so am I.
But a very much different quantity.
No magaxine's gonna run up to cover me if I go to a premiere.
But it's still a fame. It's a small fame.
But you absorb it, you take it.
And you like it.
You like the adulation, the applause.
The people cheering you on, the winning.
It's like a physical high, you know?
It's a good high.
It's an addictive high, like all highs, in the long run, turn out to be.
But it's a high that won't hurt you.
If everybody went to balls and did less drugs,
it'd be a fun world, wouldn't it?
I'm dressing, of course, to go to a show,
because l've always done this professionally, and I was a dancer.
And l'm trying to remember when the first time I went to a ball...
That was the early-rype ball when everybody just walked
and they gave away, like, four or five prixes in a very limited category.
And the children now, most of them,
75 percent of the children you see at the ball,
wouldn't knowwhat a ball was if it knocked them in the head.
When I first started going to balls, it was all about drag queens
and they were interested in looking like Las Vegas showgirls -
back pieces, tail pieces, feathers, beads and all that.
But as the '70s rolled around, the things started changing.
It started coming down. They just wanted to look like a gorgeous movie star -
Iike Marilyn Monroe, Elixabeth Taylor.
And now, they've went from that to trying to look like models -
Iike lman and Christie Brinkley and Maud Adams and all those children.
(Dorian) Everyone couldn"t be a :as Vegas showgirl.
Everyone couldn"t put on a stack of feathers and a big headpiece.
So they made the categories for everybody.
That's what really made the balls change. So there was more involvement.
Everyone that goes to one of these affairs now damn near participates.
Eventually, over the course of a year's balls,
they've all walked the runway in some category or another.
Either you've got a nice body, or you are very fashionable,
or you're very pretty, or you're very real-looking,
but there 's always something there for everyone.
And that's what keeps them all coming.
And it's like in nature - I"m such a nature fan -
the young ones are always bucking to move the old bulls out of the way.
That's why they change and go through all these mad categories
that I never can stay awake for.
Upcoming Pretty Girl 1 986, take it to the floor.
They're showing up for the press.
Audience, please back up and give them air.
(frantic yelling)
Next category, High Fashion Winter Sportswear.
The Poconos versus the Catskills.
- (man) Sexy body. - (MX) Is there anyone walking?
Some children were asking me what I meant by ''miss Cheesecake.''
That means you must not only have a body, but you must be sexy.
A lot of people have bodies but are not sexy.
Best body!
Body, body, body!
And curves!
(MX) A body that says, "Xome up and see me sometime, big boys. "
Going to school. School.
Elementary, high school, college.
Not here. School.
(MX) :ooking like a girl going to school.
Do she look like a girl going to school?
(MX) Town and Xountry, exclusively done.
Get into their suits. I said, the well-dressed man of the "80s,
get into the suits and get into the pumps.
(Dorian) In real life, you can't get a job as an executive
unless you have the educational background and the opportunity.
Now, the fact that you are not an executive
is merely because of the social standing of life.
That is just the pure thing. Black people have a hard time getting anywhere.
And those that do are usually straight.
In a ballroom, you can be anything you want.
You're not really an executive, but you're looking like an executive.
And therefore, you're showing the straight world that I can be an executive.
If I had the opportuniry, I could be one, because I can look like one.
And that is, like, a fulfillment.
Your peers, your friends are telling you, "Ph, you"d make a wonderful executive. "
(MX) Is this the businessmen of the "80s or what?
High Fashion Parisian, model's Yvette.
Shante, shante, shante, shante, shante, shante, shante.
Thin, streamlined, trim model!
The category is Butch Queen First Time in Drags at a Ball.
- You know what I mean! - You know what Paris means.
Exactly! Butch Queen!
- Butch Queen. - Butch Queen!
- Butch Queen. - Butch!
First Time in Drags at a Ball, that's what I wanted from you.
(*'the Star-Spangled Banner")
(man) The military scene is a basic scene.
It doesn't call for a bunch of flamboyant turkey boas
and bugle beads, rhinestones.
It's a basic category.
The more natural you are, the more credit your outfit is given.
(MX) Xome on, now. It is a known fact
that a woman do carry an evening bag at dinnertime.
There 's no getting around that!
You see it on Xhannel Seven between "All My Xhildren " and "Jeopardy!",
"Another World, " "Dallas " and the whole bit.
An evening bag is a must! You have to carry something!
No lady is sure at night.
With the current children, the children that are young,
they've gone to television, you know?
I've been through several balls
and they've actually had categories - Dynasty.
You know, want you to look like Alexis or Krystle.
And I guess that's just a statement of the times.
When I grew up, you wanted to look like Marlene Dietrich, Betty Grable.
Unfortunately, I didn't know that I really wanted to look like Lena Horne.
When I grew up, of course, you know...
black stars were stigmatixed.
Nobody wanted to look like Lena Horne.
Everybody wanted to look like Marilyn Monroe.
(* "I Got To Be Real" by Xheryl :ynn)
(Pepper) When you're a man and a woman, you can do anything.
You can... you can almost have sex on the streets if you want to.
The most somebody's gonna say is, "Hey, get a hump for me, " you know.
But when you're gay, you monitor everything you do.
You monitor how you look, how you dress, how you talk, how you act.
"Do they see me? What do they think of me?"
(Dorian) To be able to blend.
That's what realness is.
If you can pass the untrained eye, or even the trained eye,
and not give away the fact that you're gay, that's when it's realness.
Banji, looking like the boy that probably robbed you
a few minutes before you came to Paris's Ball.
The idea of realness is to look as much as possible
Iike your straight counterpart.
Shake the dice and steal the rice! Right here. Come on, baby.
Yes, Daddy, I got my food stamps and card waiting. All right.
Dust coat, bay soap, Rolaids, you got it.
(Dorian) The realer you look means you look like a real woman.
Pr you look like a real man.
A straight man.
(man) Sweetheart with the cigarette, you're giving me a Banji girl effect.
This is Banji.
You know, the girls that be on the corner talking about "young man. "
Pne that can hang out with the rough and the tough...
(Pepper) It's not a takeoff or a satire, no.
It's actually being able to be this.
Brenda Xtravaganxa, looking like a Banji girl.
Banji. Banji girl realness.
You know, one that could take her little baby brother to school.
One that say, you know, like,
''Hey. I saw a bunch of those things walking down the street...''
It's really a case of going back into the closet.
T en, ten, ten, ten, ten. Are there any more?
OK, girls, now we've come to a decision.
(Dorian) They give the society that they live in what they want to see,
and they won"t be questioned.
Rather than having to go through prejudices
about your life and your lifestyle,
you can walk around comfortably, blending in with everybody else.
You've erased all the mistakes, all the flaws, all the giveaways,
to make your illusion perfect.
(Pepper) My mother knew I had trophies. I was telling her I won them for basketball.
I had won trophies for running track.
I was walking up 1 45th Street with my girlfriends.
I had on white hot pants, a chiffon blouse and a ponytail,
and my father was waiting for the light in his car and he saw me, he recognixed me.
And he went straight to my house before I could get there and told my mother,
''Your son is a woman.''
She didn't press it then,
but, like, maybe a few months later when she noticed that I had breasts,
everything started coming together.
She really was devastated.
''How could you have breasts bigger than mine?''
''You're growing nails. You're becoming a woman right before my very eyes!''
''l can't hold my head up. I'm embarrassed!''
She still loved me, but the nagging and the...
Oh, my God, about this women's clothes...
And when I had women's clothes stashed in my closet and she found them
she would destroy them. She burnt up a mink coat.
I was, oh, devastated.
She smelled the perfume in it that I liked to wear,
which was Jungle Gardenia at the time.
And she said, ''This ain't no girl's coat. This is your coat.''
She took it downstairs in the backyard of the building and burnt it.
And I stood there and cried like a baby.
As long as I have a mustache and all that, it's cute for me.
She don't want me to be in no girl's clothes. She can't take it.
(Dorian) When they're undetectable, when they can walk out of that ballroom,
into the sunlight and onto the subway,
and get home and still have all their clothes
and no blood running off their bodies,
those are the Femme Realness Queens.
And usually, it's a category for young queens.
Some of them say that we' re sick, we're craxy.
And some of them think that we are the most gorgeous, special things on Earth.
I would like to be a spoiled, rich, white girl.
They get what they want, whenever they want it.
And they don"t have to really struggle with finances
and nice things, nice clothes...
And they don't have to have that as a problem.
I don't feel that there's anything mannish about me,
except maybe what I might have between me, down there.
Which is my little personal thing, so...
I guess that's why I want my sex change - to make myself complete.
I was about 13, 14 years old
and I used to do it behind my family's back,
just dressing up, till finally they caught on with it.
And I didn't want to embarrass them, so that's when I moved away.
I"m telling you, I cannot continue doing it.
When someone has rejection from their mother and father, their family,
they - when they get out in the world - they search.
They search for someone to fill that void.
I know this for experience because l've had kids come to me
and latch hold of me like l'm their mother or like l'm their father,
'cause they can talk to me and l'm gay and they're gay.
And that's where a lot of that boldness and the mother business comes in.
Because their real parents give them such a hard way to go,
they look up to me to fill that void.
- How old are you? - l'm 1 5.
What time is it?
Hey, homeboy, look at the time over there. 2:26.
- And how old are you? - Me, l'm 1 3.
- 1 3? And you're out here at 2:26? - Yeah.
- Where do you live? - Me, I live in Harlem.
And why you down here? Where's your mother?
Hanging out. I don't have a mother.
Everybody has a mother or we wouldn't be here.
- Where's your mother at? - She's gone.
- Where's your father? - He's gone, too.
- So who you live with? - With a friend.
- And you, too? - I live with my mother in the Bronx.
- And you all just hanging out like this. - Just hanging out. Right there inside.
(Pepper) But a lot ofthese kids that I meet now,
they come from such sad backgrounds, you know.
Broken homes or no home at all.
And then the few that do have families and the family finds that they're gay,
they ex them completely.
(Dorian) A house? A house. :et's see if we can put it down sharply.
They're families. You can say that.
They're families... for a lot of children who don't have families.
But this is a new meaning of family.
The hippies had families and no one thought nothing about it.
It wasn't a question of a man and a woman and children,
which we grew up knowing as a family.
It's a question of a group of human beings in a mutual bond.
You know what a house is. I"ll tell you what a house is.
A house is a gay street gang.
Now, where street gangs get their rewards from street fights,
a gay house street-fights at a ball.
And you street-fight at a ball by walking in the categories.
The houses started because you wanted a name.
The people that the houses are named after
were ball-walkers who became known for it, really.
(man) Work, Paris... Dupree. Work, Paris...
(Dorian) After the first few houses were started
and named after people who had won trophies,
they also would create houses.
:ike a new group of kids would just create a house.
Then they"d work at building its name up, which worked.
The House of xtravaganza, the House of Saint :aurent.
- l' m Overness. - Pendavis.
- Adonis. - LaMay.
Saint Laurent, of course.
They saw me and they all liked me, all the rest of the Xtravaganxas.
And they decided, ''Well, if you want to become an Xtravaganxa,
you have to walk a ball first.''
''And if you snatch a trophy, then you can become the Xtravaganxa.''
That's how it's supposed to work with any... everyone.
But like that, it wasn't with me.
I just became an Xtravaganxa.
Hector xtravaganza, he's the one who started the house.
He was the first gay man I ever met.
The first time he took me to the Village, which was my birthday,
I had just turned 1 5 years old,
and he threw a party for me out there. He bought me a cake.
I met a lot of drag queens, transvestites,
that I didn"t believe were, because they were so beautiful.
And that kind of sunk into my head
and I guess that's why it kind of made me want to even do it more.
They treat each other like sisters and sisters.
Or brothers or mothers or...
You know, like, I say, ''Oh, that's my sister."
Because she's gay too, and l'm gay, and she's a drag queen or whatever.
(man) My mother is Angie xtravaganza and my father is David xtravaganza.
The House ofxtravaganza has done a lot.
It's made me feel like I have a family.
We 're always together. If we 're not together, we always speak on the phone.
My name is Angie Xtravaganxa and I am the mother of the House of Xtravaganxa.
When there's a ball, l'm always doing something for everybody in my house.
I do that one's hair, the other one's makeup.
You know, choose their shoes, their accessories.
I always offer advice, you know - as far as what I know
and what l've been through in gay life, you know.
I ran away from my house when I was 1 4
and l've learned all sorts of things, good and bad,
and how to survive in the gay world, you know. It's kind of hard.
(all) Xtravaganxa power.
I bought her her tits. I paid for them.
- He paid for my tits. My tits. - I paid for these implants.
- Shake them tits, Mommy. - Shake those tits, Mama.
He paid for my tits.
* All she wants for Christmas is her two front tits
* Her two front tits, her two front tits
- And we gave her them for Christmas. - And we gave 'em to her.
Our mother even nurses us! She's a good woman.
She nourishes us!
* My mommy is a drag queen, look, I say!
From the House of Xtravaganxa, the Mother of the Year,
keeping her children intact,
can we have Angie Xtravaganxa?
Walk for us, girl! Walk that runway!
This is for entrée, Christian girl.
(man) My birthday will come and I"ll always get a birthday gift from Angie.
Won"t get one from my real mother.
:ike when I got thrown out of my house, Angie let me stay with her
until I got myself together and I got working.
She always fed me.
She can be a pain in the ass sometimes,
but I wouldn't trade her in for any other mother.
You know, you have to have something to offer in order to lead.
The mother usually becomes the mother
because she 's usually the best one out of the group.
I' m Willi Ninja, the mother of the House of Ninja.
(man) Give him what he wants!
(Willi) I"m the mother of the House of Ninja
because they say I"m the best voguer out.
To be the mother of the house, you have to have the most power.
Take a real family - it's the mother that's the hardest worker,
and the mother gets the most respect.
As far as my naming my house the House of Ninja -
ninjas hit hard, they hit fast, an invisible assassin.
And that's what we are. We come out to assassinate.
The House of LaBeija is the legendary house above all of them.
I have the most members. I'm the most popular.
New York Ciry is wrapped up in being LaBeija.
So it speaks for itself.
And I am the fiercest mother out of all of them.
LaBeija? I wouldn't be caught dead in that house.
I'm sorry, I don't see that house.
Only reason I see my house, Pendavis,
is because of Kim and Avis. 'Cause both of them walked.
And at the last ball, Avis showed her goddamn ass off!
They call them competitions, but believe me, they're wars.
And they often do lead to fights.
The emotions be very high. They're very intense. Very intense affairs.
But I guess that's what makes them fun.
Like a good movie, if there's no emotion... you don't enjoy it.
I don't talk too much about the ball kids because I want them to talk about me.
Because I haven't walked yet.
And it's like, well, William says,
''l want you to walk in my ball. I want you to walk in my ball."
And I keep telling William, I say,
''l'll walk when I walk. I'll walk when I want, not when you want. I'll walk when I want."
And so far, I don't knowwhen l'm gonna walk.
I'm thinking somewhat around the time of the Legends Ball,
but don't quote me on that.
I mean, it really causes hate, actually, between two individuals.
It's like a war on the floor.
Like World War Three. But the only thing about it, they're gay.
(MX) Now... I'll cut the music.
Now, I said... I said, ''men's garment."
(Dorian) He look like he had on a man's fox coat.
Tell this child where are the men's garments!
I paid for it, motherfucker. A man bought it!
- It buttons on the right side! - The judges...
It buttons on the right side!
- Someone came up and told the MX... - Are you a judge?
...that it was a woman's coat.
I thought it was kind of silly to nitpick.
They're throwing shade at him! I can't believe this!
Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute!
Wait a minute, now. Let's not get loud.
Now... David, David, David!
(Dorian) That's the one thing that I find faulty with the balls.
After they've laid down these little categories,
then they try to become a stickler for exact interpretation.
Merely a point to discredit the contestant.
Like, in the Olympics, where the Russian judge brought to the fact
that the American coach had stepped onto the floor,
and that was a disqualification for the contestant. Just as picky as a ball.
So the little flaws like that, that's because that's a part of shade.
That's the idea. Knock 'em out if you can.
Get 'em any way. Hit 'em below the belt.
Where is it? Where is it? Where is it? Where is it?
Shade comes from reading.
Reading came first.
Reading is the real art form of insult.
Now, you want to talk about reading?
Let's talk about reading.
What is wrong with you, Pedro? You going through it?
You going through some kind of psychological change in your life?
- She went back to being a man. - Oh, you went back to being a man.
Touch this skin, darling. Touch this skin, honey.
Touch all of this skin, OK?
You just can't take it.
You're just an overgrown orangutan.
You get in a smart crack and everyone laughs and ''hee hees''
because you found a flaw and exaggerated it,
then you've got a good read going.
I am a person just like you.
You cut me, I bleed the same way you do. I bleed the same color.
(Dorian) Ifit's happening between the gay world and the straight world,
it's not really a read. It's more of an insult, a vicious slur fight.
See, see, see, there go my sister right there.
She don't even want to admit that she my sister. She a bulldagger.
(Dorian) But it's how they develop a sense of how to read.
That's her husband right there. And that's my girlfriend right there.
(Dorian) They may call you a faggot or a drag queen.
You find something to call them.
But then, when you are all of the same thing,
then you have to go to the fine point.
In other words, if l'm a black queen and you're a black queen,
we can't call each other black queens, 'cause we're both black queens.
That's not a read. That's just a fact.
So then we talk about your ridiculous shape,
your saggy face, your tacky clothes.
- Let me see what you are. Let's see. - No paint!
- Yes, it's paint! It's paint! - No motherfucking paint, girl!
She wears more makeup than my mother does.
Then reading became a developed form where it became shade. Shade is,
''l don't tell you you're ugly, but I don't have to tell you because you know you're ugly."
And that's shade.
(man) Pop, spin, dip.
Pop... dip... spin.
Voguing is the same thing as, like, taking two knives and cutting each other up,
but through a dance form.
Pop, dip, spin, vogue.
Dip, vogue, turn it out.
(Willi) Voguing came from shade
because it was a dance that two people did because they didn"t like each other.
Instead of fighting, you would dance it out on the dance floor,
and whoever did the better moves was throwing the best shade, basically.
(man) No touching! Neither one of you!
If you touch, l'm chopping you. I'm telling you right now.
(Willi) You can take the pantomime form ofthe vogue.
What generally sometimes I do, is I make my hand into a form,
Iike a compact or a makeup kit,
and I"m, like, beating my face with blush, shadows or whatever, to the music.
Then usually, I"ll turn the compact around to face that person,
meaning, like, almost, like, my hand is a mirror for them to get a look.
Then I"ll start doing their face,
because what they have on their face right now needs a dramatic makeup job.
So voguing is like a safe form of throwing shade.
(man) Paris... Dupree, work. Paris... Dupree, work. Ooh!
All right, Miss Bishop. Go knock off, Miss Paris.
Come on, baby, take your time.
Bring it to the judges.
Judges, give it to the form and the sryle. Work! Let's hear it for her, goddammit!
(Willi) The name is taken from the magazine "Vogue, "
because some of the movements of the dance
are also the same as the poses inside the magazine.
The name is a statement in itself.
I mean, you really wouldn't go to a ball to do the "Mademoiselle. "
(woman) Now we 're all ending up on the floor!
Show them how to do that!
(Willi) :ike breakdancing,
the dance takes from the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt.
It also takes from some forms of gymnastics.
They both strive for perfect lines in the body, awkward positions.
But it goes one step further.
It's starting to make a name for itself, but I want it to be known worldwide
and I want to be on top of it when it hits.
I want to take voguing, not to just Paris is Burning,
but I want to take it to the real Paris
and make the real Paris burn. That's what I want to do.
And not just there, but to other countries as well.
My house name is Ninja,
and I would really like to take my whole house and go to Japan
and really let loose and do it and have them accept it there.
I want to be a big star.
Known, generally, every corner of the world.
You know, maybe as a choreographer,
a famous dancer,
a singer... or all of them.
What the balls has to do with that, as far as the dance field,
is maybe perfect my craft a little better.
T o learn new things, new ideas,
and bring 'em to the real world.
It's been really unbelievable, my life.
If I was to die today or tomorrow, I could not say I have not had an exciting life.
I have had a fabulous... And l'm not rich, mind you.
Just imagine if I had the dollars!
Poh, it would be too much for the world.
If I had the riches that I had the fame, trust me,
all of you all in here would be rich for points.
'Cause l'm very generous, you know.
I can't... I wouldn't enjoy having a whole lot of money,
Iike being a millionaire and hoarding it, you know?
I'd share it with all my loved ones, you know.
I'd want them to have it, too. We'd all have to go.
I'd want to charter a plane and we'd all fly to Paris.
O-p-u-l-e-n-c-e. Opulence!
You own everything!
Everything is yours!
(* "Marcia Trionfale" from "Aida" by Giuseppe Verdi)
This is white America.
Any other nationality
that is not of the white set
knows this and accepts this till the day they die.
That is everybody's dream and ambition as a minority -
to live and look as well as a white person
is pictured as being in America.
Every media you have - from TV to magazines, to movies, to films.
I mean, the biggest thing that minority watches is what?
"Dynasty" and the Xolbys.
Pr "All My Xhildren. " The soap operas.
Everybody have a million-dollar bracket.
When they showing you a commercial from Honey Graham
to Xrest or :estoil or Pine-Sol, everybody's in their own home.
The little kids for Fisher-Price Toys - they're not in no concrete playground.
They're riding around the lawn.
The pool is in the back.
This is white America.
And when it come to the minorities, especially black,
we as a people, for the past 400 years,
is the greatest example of behavior modification
in the history of civilization.
We have had everything taken away from us
and yet we have all learned how to survive.
That is why, in the ballroom circuit, it is so obvious
that if you have captured the great white way of living,
or looking...
or dressing or speaking -
you is a marvel.
I think if I could just be on TV or film or anything,
I'd do that instead of the money.
Of course, I do want the money because I want the luxury that goes with it.
But... I want to be wealthy.
If not wealthy, content, comfortable, you know?
I want to be somebody.
I mean, I am somebody.
I just want to be a rich somebody.
(man) We're gonna tell you, you see her in a supermarket,
and you're gonna say, ''That's a fag."
(Pctavia) Women don"t go out oftheir way because they are women.
I went out of my way because I wasn"t
and I felt that I wanted to be the best I could be.
The Virginia Slims girl is here.
This was not a game for me, or fun. This is something that I want to live.
She's here, in person.
Hopefully, God willing, by 1 988,
I fully hope to become a full-fledged woman of the United States.
You look at all these models on the wall.
Every one of them are gorgeous.
Every one of them are beautiful.
But every one of them have their own look.
This is my idol, Paulina.
Someday I hope to be up there with her.
If that could be me, I think I would be the happiest person in the world.
Just knowing that I am... that I can compare to Paulina,
to stand next to her and to take pictures with her.
And I look at her here and l'd say she's seductive and she's alluring.
I look at her there and I say she's sexy and provocative.
I look at her here and I think that she's childish and little-girl tight, you know.
And I look at her here and it's the same.
And I look at her here and I think of wicked beaury, you know?
That's how I see her. I admire her.
You know, the red-hot fire of hair and... the whole bit.
(man) If you're not really trying hard enough, then I become hard.
Do not believe just because l'm a guy, that I cannot do it.
In order to be a teacher to show girls how to do it, I have to know how to do it.
I've taught for various shows, like for F.I.T. I've taught models.
Girls that are from various agencies that come to me by word of mouth.
New York Xity women are a little bit harder than most women.
Basically, l'm trying to bring their femininiry back and bring some grace and poise.
You know, whether they become models or not, it's nice to know,
because it's more attractive to men.
The walk that she's doing is basically to get more movement in your hips naturally.
Don't exaggerate it.
Most likely, she"ll get what she wants.
You know, especially if she's in a man's world.
She can still have her equal rights,
but be able to manipulate a man by using her feminine wiles.
She can't use it by using masculine.
(man) Are they soft? Looking from head to toe, would you know?
Is this realness or not? Let it be motherfucking hot.
Miss Octavia? You don't feel this realness?
Where are you at, sister? Oh, you're right there, not bothered.
(* "I Got To Be Real")
(MX) :aBeija. Xandy :aBeija.
Realness in the daytime, darling. She goes to school as a woman.
Get into it. Get into both of them and see which one is realer.
Feel the flesh, or whatever it may be. Is it soft or not?
(woman) lt's soft.
Come, come, come. Score Miss Octavia first.
Step forward, accept your scores.
T en, ten, ten, ten, ten!
Score Tennille.
Nine, ten, ten.
Grand Prize, Pctavia. First Place, Tennille.
There's people who sit home all day.
They have potential, OK?
I mean, they go to the balls and they prove that they have potentials
on actually selling a garment, OK. But, they, like,
''Being that I have this potential, the ballroom tells me..."
OK. ''The ballroom tells me that l'm somebody."
But when the ballroom is over and you come home,
you have to convince yourself that you are somebody.
And that's where they get lost.
(* 'sweet Dreams [Are Made of This]" by Eurythmics)
She's also in a magaxine. What's the name of the magaxine?
Paris Kathy Dupree.
(Dorian) There was a time when you could have spent a great deal of time
making outfits and preparing for something.
Now they come very quickly and the mood's changed. Very quickly.
I come from the old school of big costumes and feathers and beads.
And they don't have that anymore. Now it's all about designers.
And it's not about what you create, it's about what you can acquire.
What do you think?
Isn't that beautiful?
$559. How's that for a simple dress?
If you have on a label, it means that you've got wealth.
When it doesn't, really, 'cause any shoplifter can get a label.
You can't come down the runway in something for $1 4.99 or $49.99 and say,
''Well, l'm lovely," and expect to win.
OK. To describe... Explain mopping. Mopping.
You go into a store
and... just look... for...
Look for whatever you want to see, look for whatever...
Mopping is stealing.
General stealing.
However it's done, it's stealing.
If you're working every day, you're struggling to buy this outfit.
When you walk, you're, like, ''This is me."
And your facial expressions as well as your means of projection of your outfit,
it shows if you actually stole it or you purchased it.
- (woman) You can actually tell? - You can actually tell.
Faggots are stunting themselves, regardless. Make no mistake.
First, it comes... OK. When it comes to a stunt, it goes in three...
It goes in order. It goes faggots, then girls, then boys.
Because boys are the stupidest. They don't know how to do a stunt right.
Now, faggots will do a stunt and, I mean,
you will never catch up with it until years later.
And then, I mean, you'll be, like, ''Oh, shit!''
''This faggot pulled this stunt on me!''
We went down there, we had fun, and we acted stupid and came back.
But I think the best thing we did was Roy Rogers.
That was fun. You would have had something to eat!
'Cause how much did you pay for that sandwich?
I don't remember. Maybe five dollars or something.
Around five... Five dollars?
Make no mistake, we got your five dollars back.
I had two double cheeseburgers,
two fries, a Xoke, a Sprite and an orange. Xhicken and chips.
I was going back and forth. I lived on that line!
We got over around, say, around $200 in food.
See, they put cheese on the meat.
I hope, after this, Roy Rogers does not change how it has its food,
because if it does, by this interview, I will be so upset!
I will be so upset.
I will be swollen!
I'll be hurt, l'm telling you.
I really will be. 'Cause I mean it.
Where else can you go in, get it done your way and go out without paying?
(MX) Xarla xtravaganza said, will you please return
her black patent-leather shoes, size seven.
There is a reward.
She want her pumps.
She said it's not going to work, taking her shoes. Give "em back.
Daytime, if they go out, they' re only going out
to try to hustle up a quarter or two...
to get their things for the ball, or go to a little job.
A lot of them have little jobs now. They work. Don't think they're laxy.
In New York Ciry, you work or you starve.
You work or... Some kind of work.
Legal or otherwise. But you have to work to sustain yourself.
(man) The legendary Tennille Dupree
and the father of the House of Ebony, Max,
presents a night of living hell and punishment
at the Imperial Elks :odge,
1 0 West 1 29th Street, which is right here.
Doors open at 5am.
Grand March is at 7am.
The balls are usually later because of the fact
that we're waiting for the working girls to get there.
(woman) And what is it those girls are doing?
Well, they're making money for the balls or they're making their costumes, their outfits.
- Or, you know, getting it together like that. - What's their profession?
Usually showgirls. Usually, they're, you know, showgirls.
Uh-huh. Anything else?
Well, it depends. It depends.
I don't know a lot of their professions, but usually they're showgirls. Usually.
The thing that helped me make my most money through the escort service
is being that l'm so little,
I'm so petite and tiny.
The blonde hair and the light skin
and the green eyes and the little features.
And the client's hands would be bigger than my hands,
while they would hold my hand or something.
You know, they'd like feeling that they're with something perfect and little
and not someone that's bigger than them.
Because I guess that kind of disturbs them.
Most all the drag queens that are involved in the balls, they...
90 percent of them are hustlers.
I guess that's how they make their money to go to the balls
and get whatever they need and stuff.
I used to hustle in New York to make my money.
I was with a guy and he was playing with my titties till he touched me down there.
He felt it and he seen it and he, like, totally flipped out.
He said, "You fucking faggot! You're a freak!"
"You're a victim of AIDS and you're trying to give me AIDS. "
"What, are you crazy? You're a homo! I should kill you!"
You know, stuff like that.
And, like, I was really terrified, so I just jumped out the window.
I grabbed my bag and just jumped out the window.
But see, now I don't like to hustle anymore. I don't.
And I"m afraid of what's going on - the AIDS - and I don't want to catch it.
Like, later on this evening, l'm supposed to meet someone.
A friend of mine. A very good, old friend of mine.
He's a young, very good, attractive, handsome young man.
And he's taking me out to dinner later on this evening,
or for cocktails after midnight.
I know he'll give me some money,
just for me to maybe buy a pair of shoes and a nice dress,
so that the next time he sees me,
he'll see me looking more and more beautiful,
the way he wants to see me.
But I don't have to go to bed with him or anything like that.
At times, they do expect sexual favors, but that is between myself and them,
so I do not wish to further speak about that, if they do.
But, at most times, 99 percent of the time, they don't.
95 percent of the time, they don't.
But I feel, like...
If you're married...
A woman in the suburbs, a regular woman,
is married to her husband
and she wants him to buy her a washer and dryer set.
In order for him to buy that,
I'm sure she'd have to go to bed with him anyway,
to give him what he wants, for her to get what she wants.
So in the long run, it all ends up the same way.
(Pctavia) If money wasn"t so important in the world today to survive,
I guess I wouldn"t want anything but what I have now.
But since money does,
I hope that the way I look puts money in my pocket, you know?
I"m really working hard.
I"m gonna work even harder.
(man) Yeah. There we are.
That is lovely. Still.
Great. Couldn't be better.
It's beautiful like that for the light when you kind of, you know, do this to the light.
I want people to look at me as, "There's the model, Pctavia. "
""There's the actress, Pctavia. "
"There's Miss Supermodel of the World, Pctavia. "
Is this endless, this catalogue of poses?
I could keep going here longer than you could.
Yeah, just there. Mm-hm. Mm-hm.
I don"t want to end up an old drag queen
with nothing going for me but trying to win Grand Prize at a ball.
Yeah. No, back a little bit, like you did.
Yes, that. Twisting a little bit more to the light. Just coming around there.
Yeah. Great. Couldn't be better.
I don"t think the world has been fair to me. Not yet, anyway.
Yeah, lovely. Lovely.
I've been a man and l've been a man who emulated a woman.
I've never been a woman. I never had that service once a month.
I've never been pregnant. You know, I could never say how a woman feels.
I can only say how a man who acts like a woman or dresses like a woman feels.
I never wanted to have a sex change.
That's just taking it a little too far, you know.
Because if you decide later on in life to change your mind, you can't.
Pnce it's gone, it's gone.
A lot of kids that I know, they got the sex change because they felt,
''Oh, l've been treated so bad as a drag queen. If I get a pussy..."
Excuse the expression. ''...I'll be treated fabulous."
But women get treated bad.
You know, they get beat, they get robbed, they get dogged.
So, having the vagina, that doesn't mean that you're gonna have a fabulous life.
It might, in fact, be worse, you know.
So l've never recommended it and l, myself, would have never, ever got it.
And l'm so thankful that I was that smart. Because right about now,
this next 40 or so years that l'm gonna be here, l'm gonna live.
And for those children that can't take the fact that I still look youthful, ha! Suffer.
No bags, no lines. Lovely.
America's nice. You can do what you want if you have the money.
You can be what you want, certainly. Look at me.
In "84, I've had a nose reconstructed job.
I've had my cheekbones risen, l've had a chin implant and breast implants.
Yes. T ell them like it is.
The most important factor in my life that has been completed recently
is that l've had a transsexualism operation. That means l've had a sex change.
I'm no longer a man. I am a woman.
I feel great.
- She has to rub it in. - l'm very happy.
And I feel like the part of my life that was a secret is now closed.
I can close the closet door. There are no more skeletons in there
and l'm as free as the wind that's blowing out on this beach.
Except that voice is still there.
''As free as this beach."
(both) * I am what I am
* I am my own special creation
(woman) Sample Poison by Dior, ladies.
Sample the elegance today. Poison by Dior.
Can I sample it?
Yes. Dior's Poison.
- Very nice. - Delicious, yes?
Folks, please keep moving. We're trying to keep the aisles clear.
(woman) Please keep moving.
(woman over PA) The search for the Supermodel of the Year -
the seventh search of this type.
Mrs. Ford is here with two of her top models and we 're interviewing candidates
who hope to become the Supermodel of the Year.
Clients like models who are helpful,
who never say the clothes are terrible, even if they are.
Because, after all, not everything is perfect.
They have to make the least perfect of clothes look like a Dior.
And so they can't just say, ''That's the worst thing l've ever seen."
They have to make it look good. They have to be very, very cooperative.
And they have to be cheerful. Nobody likes to go in and hear your troubles, you know.
When people ask you how you feel, don't tell them if you're sick,
'cause they don't really care.
(man) Three, two, one.
But while the faces of the '80s stood on line, the feet of the '80s did some waiting.
Half an hour and 'round the block, all the way to Third Avenue.
One of these young ladies could become the Supermodel of the World.
Try again.
How does this rype of thing square with women's lib?
What about men? Do they take you seriously?
Or, when they hear you're a model, how does their reaction change to you?
What about, like I asked before, does this square with the women's lib movement?
Can I have a few of you over here? OK. Can I have a few more women?
- Hi. How are you doing? - Good. How are you?
Fine. Nice to meet you, too. I'm Shari.
- Shari, my name's Janet. - Hi, Janet. So you want to be a model?
- Yes. - Well, you need an application.
Actually, I was in this contest. That's how I started. That's me.
- I can't believe that. - Yeah, that's five years ago.
- You still look great. Thanks a lot. - Thanks.
We look at 75,000 pictures.
Well, you know, that's the average amount that we look at each contest.
What have girls become? Are they the same? How are they different?
Girls are not different from yesterday or the day before.
Everybody who's young has a hope and a dream,
and I don"t think that it's ever been any different in the history of the world.
I believe that there's a big future out there
with a lot of beautiful things,
a lot of handsome men,
a lot of luxury.
I want a car.
I want to be with the man I love.
I want a nice home away from New York -
up the Peekskills or maybe in Florida.
Somewhere far, where no one knows me.
I want my sex change.
I want to live a normal, happy life.
Whether it's being married and adopting children,
whether it's being famous and rich.
I want to get married in church, in white.
Sometimes I sit and look at a magaxine.
I try to imagine myself in the front cover, or even inside.
I want to be a complete woman.
And I want to be a professional model,
behind cameras in a high-fashion world.
I want so much more. I want...
I want my name to be a household product.
I want everybody to look at me and say, ''There goes Octavia."
I want this. This is what I want.
And l'm gonna go for it.
(MX) Ppening with us,
Amy xtravaganza.
Amy xtravaganza.
(music drowns out speech)
Vogue, vogue, vogue, vogue.
Previously, I introduced rap music,
along with the dancing, to Japanese people.
And they really loved it.
(woman on TV) This, ladies and gentlemen, is voguing,
a form of dance that has its roots in Harlem.
A takeoff on runway modeling, which they had plenty of last night as well.
Voguing is an attitude, a style. It's... it's...
A kind of institutionalized showing-off. But not without its entertainment value.
Something very spectacular. Very important... art form. Very important.
It's just so theatrical.
And the energy... Ph, it's just terrific.
In addition to perhaps putting voguing in vogue,
this :ove Ball, sponsored by the Design Industries Foundation for AIDS,
raised more than $350, 000 for research and housing
for the homeless who have AIDS.
And I had never seen anything quite like it.
And I"m Xonnie Xollins, News Four, Manhattan.
Two years ago, I was working in a health-food store,
still teaching and trying to perform on my own.
Well, now, my foot is, like, in every little doorstep that you can think of.
I'm doing a lot of runway work. I'm dancing.
Performing for Malcolm Mc:aren, various other people.
Doing choreography, helping people put their shows together.
So, it's going very good.
This earring that I have here is... I bought this in Japan.
As you can see, it says ''House Couture." I can't read the rest of it.
It has a scissor and it has ''Junior Gaultier '89'' on there.
Of course, that's the Gaultier label emblem.
I bought it, mind you. I have the receipt still.
Where? I don't know. But I bought it.
The balls have kind of gotten toned down compared to what it used to be.
Now, when I tell people what it is and they go and it's not what they expect, you know.
It's like they feel like a little bit of a letdown.
You know, they say, ''Well, it was long, it was dragged out. It was boring."
OK. The balls are always long and dragged out, but they were never boring.
I really do kind of miss the street element, I mean...
But everything changes and everything's been changing drastically, you know.
New York's not even the same anymore.
(* dance)
(Angie) I always said to her, 'venus, you take too many chances. "
"You're too wild with people in the streets. Something is going to happen to you. "
But that was Venus.
She always took a chance. She always went into a stranger's car.
She always did what she wanted to get what she wanted.
I had a booking for a Christmas show at Sally's
and the DT s came to me with a picture of her murdered.
And they were about to cremate her
'cause nobody had came to verify the body.
And I was the one that had to give all this information down to her family.
Actually, they found her dead after four days,
strangled under a bed in a sleazy hotel in New York Xity.
I'm hungry.
We used to get dressed together, call each other
and say what we were gonna wear.
And, you know, she was like my right hand, as far as I"m concerned.
I miss her. Every time I go anywhere, I miss her.
That was my main... the main daughter of my house, in other words.
But that's part of life,
as far as being a transsexual in New York Ciry and surviving.
I always had hopes of being a big star.
And then I looked... As you get older, you aim a little lower.
And I just say, ''Well, yeah, you still might make an impression."
Everybody wants to leave something behind them -
some impression, some mark upon the world.
Then you think, you've left a mark on the world...
if you just get through it...
and a few people remember your name.
Then you've left a mark.
You don't have to bend the whole world.
I think it's better to just enjoy it.
Pay your dues...
and enjoy it.
If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high...
hooray for you.
(* "I Got To Be Real")
* What you think
* What you feel now
* What you know
* To be real
* What you think
* I think I love you
* What you feel now...
Bring the cameras closer, Mr. De Mille. I'm ready for my close-up. And so...
* To be real
* Poh
* Your love's for real now
* You know that your love is my love
* My love is your love
* Pur love is here to stay...
OK, Winter Sportswear.
Preferably fur, but if not, you know, in error, you can... Natural fibers.
If you choose the polyester, God help you. You know how the children are.
* To be real
* Poh
* Your love's for real now
* You know that your love is my love
* And my love is your love
* Pur love is here to stay...
OK, you add ''ug'' at the end of your word, right?
But you have to take off the first letter or the first letters until you get into a vowel.
(speaking pig :atin)
* To be real
* What you think
* I think I love you
* What you feel now
* I feel I need you
* What you know
* To be real
* It's got to be real
* To be real
* It's got to be real
* To be real
I' m not looking for anything. I think all men are dogs.
I honestly do.
You know, every man starts barking sooner or later.
I'm a quiet person.
And if you believe that, you know, I own that island right over there, too.
* What you feel now
* What you know
* To be real
* What you think
* What you feel now
* What you know
* To be real
* To be real
They want to be with their kind. They want to be gay and gay or...
'Cause probably, like, just like, just, all right, just like, again, just like a communiry.
In a religious communiry, they want to pray together a lot, right?
Well, this gay communiry might want to... Or... or they, like, want to be together.
* Someday l'll wish upon a star
* And wake up where the clouds are far
* Behind me
* Where troubles melt like lemon drops
* Way upon the chimney tops
* That's where
* That's where you"ll find me
(audience member) All right, Miss Patti!
All right!
All right, Miss Patti!
Work, Patti, work!
So, this is New York Ciry, and this is what the gay life is about.