God Save the Queens: "Paris Is Burning" Returns

Published on Jun 14, 2019

Long before RuPaul brought the drag race into our living rooms and even before Madonna asked us to strike a pose in the “Vogue” music video, Crystal Labeija was a participant in the 1967 Miss All-America Camp Pageant. When she was declared the third runner up, Crystal walked off the stage in a fit of rage because these pageants discriminated against drag queens of color. Even subaltern queer cultural phenomena like drag balls were run on racist rules which kept out queer persons of color. When they did get around to participate, they were asked to lighten their faces. Fed up and angry, Crystal Labeija founded the legendary House of Labeija out of a need to create a safe space for queer people of color. This went on to shape the definitive ballroom and voguing culture for queer people of color, which forms the subject of Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary Paris is Burning.

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