Calgary belle finds liberation, fun at Out of the Closet: XXXpose Vogue Ball

THUMB JUDGEDANIVogue has been a widespread underground cultural phenomenon for over 50 years. With its roots in Harlem, New York, the Vogue Ball has been a safe space for the LGBTQ community to showcase differences through friendly competition.

For the last three years, the YYC Bad Girls Club has brought the Vogue Ball to Calgary.

Founded by Calgary-based choreographer Tony Tran, the event fuses dance, fashion, music and visual media to create art that challenges performance norms by favouring diversity. This year’s ball attracted about 200 people and was dubbed Out of the Closet: XXXpose Vogue Ball.

Organizer Giang Trinh says that the “Out of the Closet” theme fits well with vogue culture, which is about breaking down barriers and stereotypes.

“We just thought that it was a great idea and concept, especially since vogue is a new culture here in Calgary,” says Trinh. “It’s like coming out of the closet, opening up to this new art form within Calgary.”

The event featured people of all sizes, genders, identities and ages, including 22-year-old University of Calgary student Khadija Mbowe. She says the Vogue Ball is one of her favourite times of the year, adding she loves the freedom of expression, the uninhibited fun, and the way that the event is tied to rich history.

Produced by Ato Baako

“It was mainly started by black and Latino gays because a lot of times they didn’t have a place to perform. There were people of colour and other social minorities that were like, ‘We are going to have our own space to celebrate our own selves’,” Mbowe says.

“It’s a way to express yourself and be yourself. It’s a celebration I’m proud to be a part of it as a woman of colour — you can just express what’s inside of you,” she adds.

With a new theme every year, organizers plan to keep pushing boundaries.

Preparations for the fourth event are already underway, however, Trinh hopes Calgarians won’t have to wait a whole year for the next opportunity to show up and show out.

“Hopefully, we will make the fourth one bigger and better, and then we will have smaller gigs throughout the year and other little projects,” says Trinh.

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