Legendary dancer calls out Drag Race for ‘making a mockery’ of voguing

Gravity Jacobs, a dancer who appeared on voguing reality competition series Legendary, has criticised RuPaul’s Drag Race after a ballroom-themed mini-challenge.

During episode 11 of season 15 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the cast of queens were given a mini-challenge in which they were asked to “celebrate [the] queer art form” of voguing.

“We are throwing ourselves a Harlem Vogue Ball. I am looking for popping, spinning and dipping – shablam,” RuPaul told the girls.

Gravity Jacobs, who appeared on season one of HBO Max’s Legendary, condemned the segment for ‘bastardising’ the art form without properly educating viewers on its history, or performing the moves correctly.

Voguing originated from the New York ballroom scene of the 60s and the queer people of colour who filled it. It was catapulted from subculture to mainstream by Madonna’s “Vogue” in 1990, and by the film Paris Is Burning the same year.

“Call me a hater all you want but the ‘voguing’ mini challenge in tomorrow’s [Drag Race] episode is probably the most egregious and blatant example of the show’s unrelenting efforts to bastardise and make a mockery of vogue and ballroom, from terminology to technique and framing,” Jacobs wrote.

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In a second frame, Gravity Jacobs called the mini-challenge “incredibly disheartening”, and said that the segment proved that Drag Race “remains committed to active misinformation and historicisation of the scene”.

He added: “Drag Race capitalising off inaccurate narratives of vogue and ballroom is nothing new, but this one is about as blatant as they come.”

Comments under the post show that opinion is divided.

“I just don’t get why ballroom folk haven’t been invited as guest judges and special guest? Like you take their s*** and then don’t wanna ki with them,” one Instagram user wrote.

Another added: “The whole thing felt extremely ridiculous and now even more people will just use vogue as a comedy gag in performances ugh.”

Dancer Gravity Jacobs
Legendary dancer Gravity Jacobs has criticised Drag Race for ‘making a mockery’ of voguing. (@gravityjacobs/ Instagram)

On the other hand, one Instagram user simply commented: “Totally disagree … RPDR is a show for the LGBT+ community and I believe that everyone has the right to do voguing even if they are not professional dancers.”

The complaints appear rooted in Drag Race‘s frequent references to the ballroom scene and pivotal cultural milestones such as the documentary Paris Is Burning, but lack of engagement with figures from the actual ballroom scene as guest judges or in special appearances.

Drag Race alumnus Aja (season nine and All Stars 3), who also appeared on Legendary, previously took issue with still-remaining queen Anetra’s talent show performance, in which she performed a ‘duck-walk’ – a move from the ballroom scene.

Legendary – which follows house members as they navigate through nine balls (dancing/voguing/walking events) – was cancelled after its third season.