8 Mainstream Musicians Who Showcased the Ballroom Scene in Their Work

Sam Smith, Madonna, Dashaun Wesley, Jack Mizrahi & Teyana Taylor
Getty Images; Design by Jessica Xie

Clockwise from top right: Sam Smith, Madonna, Dashaun Wesley, Jack Mizrahi & Teyana Taylor

In 1991, audiences got a glimpse into the fascinating world of ballroom culture through the groundbreaking documentary Paris Is Burning. The film, which chronicled the balls of New York City, was heralded for its raw depiction of gender expression and sexuality.

Now, nearly three decades later, the scene has found its way into pop culture in a major way again through Pose, FX's critically acclaimed series, which made headlines for its uber-inclusive cast.

But Pose and Paris Is Burning aren't the only times the scene has found itself in the spotlight. Artists like Madonna, Frank Ocean and, most recently, Calvin Harris and Sam Smith have showcased the community. Check out a timeline of mainstream musicians who have showcased ballroom performers in their work.

Madonna (1990)

A year before Paris Is Burning's theatrical release, Madonna pushed the ballroom scene into pop culture’s spotlight with her No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit "Vogue." Not only did the track's video feature dancers like Luis Xtravaganza, Jose Xtravaganza, Salim Gauloos and Kevin Stea, but they also joined her on her Blond Ambition world tour -- and subsequently in the revolutionary documentary Truth or Dare.

Azealia Banks (2012)

Azealia Banks has always shown an appreciation for the ballroom scene. Most notably, her 2012 Fantasea features a voiceover from Jack and Jill's "Work It Girlfriend": “I used to think I was fierce because I was in the houses -- I won trophies. I used to munch trade for dollars too. But see -- I’m fiercer now,” Franklin Fuentes, who was credited as Da'Waane on this release, says over a hypnotic beat.

Jennifer Lopez (2014)

Jennifer Lopez featured ballroom scene fixture Jack Mizrahi on her song “Tens,” a track on her 2014 album A.K.A. She even performed the track during NBC’s New Year's Eve celebration, though Mizrahi was not in attendance.

Frank Ocean (2016)

Frank Ocean hasn't been shy about his adoration for ballroom legend Crystal LaBeija. He pays homage to the legendary drag queen in the 12-second track “Ambience 001” on his 2016 album Endless. He referenced the ballroom icon again on an extended version of A$AP Mob’s “RAF," rapping, “I’mma read his ass like LaBeija.” The singer's ballroom-inspired 30th birthday party was hosted by the House of Labeija, and the crew made Ocean an honorary member of their house.

Katy Perry (2017)

While headlines surrounding Katy Perry’s Saturday Night Live performance of “Swish Swish” focused on drag performers, the pop star also made room for members of the New York City ballroom community onstage. Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza and future Pose star Indya Moore strutted down the runway alongside a posse of queer nightlife performers like Brenda Dharling and Svetlana Stoli.

Teyana Taylor (2018)

Teyana Taylor showcased ballroom performers during her K.T.S.E tour, inviting voguers like Dashaun Wesley, Tamiyah and Japanesefaces to the stage. But her appreciation of the scene doesn't end there: Album standout "WTP" features a Paris Is Burning voice-over from the legend Octavia Saint Laurent, and in July, the singer teased a ballroom-themed music video for the track (though it has yet to be released).


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Calvin Harris and Sam Smith (2018)

Prominent ballroom figures like Kevin Stea, Carlos Lanvin, Deshaun Wesley, Kia Labeija and Jamari 007 are featured in the video for Calvin Harris and Sam Smith's collaboration "Promises." Jaramari 007 told Billboard that while the crew helped teach Smith how to swish his hips, the crooner left the voguing to the professionals.