"As you look around, there's not much. You see all of these abandoned buildings. You just see poverty on a level that is uninspiring. But being from here, it makes you want more. It makes you hungry and it makes you like a beast," Khaos shared with us. He is part of Detroit's inspiring Ballroom scene, which serves as an outlet for self-expression and community among local LGBTQIA+ youth.

The Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit provides residential safe spaces and support services for runway, homeless, and at-risk queer youth, and it also provides a place where people can learn to vogue. There's been a renewed interest in voguing and ballroom culture thanks to hit television shows like Legendary and Pose, and this real-life subculture is shining bright in Motor City.

We hit the ground with Frank Hope, a board member at the Center who also appears in an upcoming feature in Legendary, and ballroom voguers, like Khaos, to take a closer look at the ballroom scene in Detroit and how it helps shape the city's culture.

We also laced up the dancers in the all-new adidas Originals Forum, which is the inspiration behind our Forum series that deep dives into eight cities across the U.S. and examines various subcultures and the communities behind them.

In Conversation With Frank Hope (Legendary Jupiter Balenciaga)

How were you introduced to Ballroom Vogue in Detroit?

I was introduced to the Detroit Ballroom scene by coming to the Ruth Ellis Center. The Center has always had a huge dance floor and allowed the youth to express themselves through dance more often than anything. That’s how I fell in love with voguing.

How did you find friends within the scene?

Once you join the ballroom and walk your first ball your status is “star,” and the longer you participate and talent grows, relationships with competitors – if you join a ballroom house like “Balenciaga” – is how you build relationships and start great friendships.

How does the adidas Originals Forum connect with your community and how you express yourself?

The Forum stands out from the crowd, while also drawing the crowd in. The Forum means being able to stand in your truth and letting our truth be heard. Ultimately, it means being brave just like my community. With everyone I know wearing adidas throughout the years and still rocking it, shows just like my culture how stable the foundation will remain.

Were there any local mentors/inspirations that really caught your eye?

My mentors were mostly professional mentors who were the main leadership at the Ruth Ellis Center when I first started attending: Kenneth Jay Wilson and Laura Hughes.

What keeps you going in this subculture? Who is pushing the scene to new heights right now?

I keep going because I want to still inspire the next generation on how ballroom structure works, and teach all the unspoken rules that I wish I would of learned earlier in my ballroom career. I enjoy helping others with the creative process, helping them think bigger and presenting their craft on a larger scale.

Frank Hope
Frank Hope
Highsnobiety / Vuhlandes
Mother Kyra Makaveli
Mother Kyra Makaveli
Highsnobiety / Vuhlandes
Adidas-Detroit-05
Highsnobiety / Vuhlandes

Are there local hangout spots/parts of town that are iconic to the subculture?

Tom Phillip Post was our iconic location for all our balls/events when I first came into ballroom, but it's no longer operational. There isn’t an exact location for our events, but the fact that we have been able to maintain the ballroom culture for 21 years in Detroit is the important thing because wherever the ball is held the community will attend.

How does Detroit's Ballroom Vogue scene contribute to the city's culture? On the flip side, how does the city inspire what you do creatively?

Ballroom was created by and for Black and Latino people to feel safe and loved and valued. Detroit represents itself amongst ballroom because of the beauty that we bring. In our community, we really are family – most of us are connected in ways that are deeper than most families. We root for each other, we support each other, and we truly believe Detroit versus everybody! The Detroit ballroom scene has saved many young lives and created many amazing legends and icons who are changing the world not just for ballroom but for everyone.

Any tips for curious newcomers?

Establish early goals, have a strong backbone, and be grounded. Understand the power of relationship-building. Have fun and trust your craft.

What advice do you have for LGBTQIA+ youth, particularly those who identify as BIPOC?

Take your time and trust the process. Every day take a step toward a goal. Everyone doesn't need to know your business. Trust your first mind – if something doesn’t feel right it isn’t. Family is important, however, your mental well-being is more important. Don’t be afraid to try something new that can create positive opportunities. If you do not know ask, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Only you are standing in your own way.

In Conversation With Khaos

How were you introduced to Ballroom Vogue in Detroit?

There's this recreation center here in Michigan called Affirmations. My mom wanted me to go there because I was gay, and wanted me to be around people like me. So I went there and I see people throwing their bodies to the ground and I see them being very feminine in this type of dance. I was like, "Yeah, that's what I'm going to be doing. I want to do that." Once I see them practicing Vogue, I'm like, "Why do you guys do that?" Then found out they do it for these competitions, these spars. There happened to be some recruiters for a house. They wanted me to join her house and I went and it was like magic ever since.

How did you find friends within the scene?

Again, luckily the special thing about Detroit, we have these centers and it allows gay youth to come and be themselves. So a lot of the times we will all meet there. The gay scene, like any other type of scene, there's a lot of cliques and stuff. You just find out where you fit in. That's how I found friends, at the centers.

Were there any local mentors/inspirations that really caught your eye?

I would love to say yes, but no. Not in Detroit. I never had a person, especially a male figure, that I idolized in my own city. No, I haven't had that.

What keeps you going in this subculture? Who is pushing the scene to new heights right now?

I think that a lot of mainstream platforms. Us having a visibility that we have now, you guys doing this, and then Legendary and Pose. People being able to see these stories being told, it makes us all want to do more. Having ballroom highlighted. It's like, "OK. Yeah, let's do more." Then we have the ability to create our own content right now on social media. I have a big following right now, and I can create pretty much wherever I want and people love it. That keeps me going. My audience.

Are there local hangout spots/parts of town that are iconic to the subculture?

Oh yes, of course. Here in Detroit, the legendary Tom Phillp Post. All of the major balls were held there. Unfortunately, we don't have it anymore, but we have a club called The Woodward and I work there. The Woodward has the vogue nights and it's a place you want to come to when you come to Detroit, especially being gay.

Frank Hope
Frank Hope
Highsnobiety / Vuhlandes
Frank Hope
Frank Hope
Highsnobiety / Vuhlandes

How does Detroit's Ballroom Vogue scene contribute to the city's culture? On the flip side, how does the city inspire what you do creatively?

Detroit is famous for its talent. There's a certain type of energy within Detroit and the talent that is in the people in the ballroom scene too. There's this attitude that people in Detroit have, and I'll say this for ballroom. In ballroom, you need to have a certain type of attitude. This confidence. This air about you. We provide that on the floor in ballroom, and it contributes to the city because it goes along the lines of everything we stood for in Detroit. The hard hustling. That's how we get down here.

[On the flip side] well, as you look around, there's not much. You see all of these abandoned buildings. You just see poverty on a level that is uninspiring. But being from here, it makes you want more. It makes you hungry and it makes you like a beast. That is what inspires me, for sure.

What advice do you have for LGBTQIA+ youth, particularly those who identify as BIPOC?

The advice that I have to them is to love yourself. Love yourself, and if you're not loving yourself, find out how you need to. I think we all need that. It's not about even being gay or bi. People need to love themselves. When you have this confidence and this foundation for yourself, things seem to go a little bit easier. Remember who you are and stay on that path to what you want. But you got to love yourself first to know where you're going.

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