During the spring of my junior year, I watched the TV show “Pose”, which provides a lens into the Drag Ball culture of the LGBTQ+ community in the 1980s. The colors, makeup, and liveliness of the performers were so striking to me, and I wanted to challenge myself to capture that expression in my art. While I searched for images to inspire my portraits, I was totally in awe of the hard work and attention to detail that goes into every outfit, pose, and expression: these balls are a manifestation of life and identity in its most vibrant, bold, and raw state. It strikes me that this unapologetic form of beauty and the right to take up space is still restricted today because of the discrimination that LGBTQ+ members of society continue to face.
Throughout this project, I was worried that my own identifiers would prevent me from fully capturing the essence and beauty of this culture that was, at first, unfamiliar to me. But as I was struggling with this thought, my younger sibling told me that “just because it’s not your culture doesn’t mean you shouldn’t educate yourself about it and appreciate the time and beauty put into it”—which is exactly what I hope I have achieved through these images.