Paris is Burning

USA 1990. Dir Jennie Livingston.

Based in the underworld, Paris is Burning (1982) director Jennie Livingstone documents an infamous ensemble of African-American and Hispanic young men, who live out their high fashion female fantasies and obsessions by mimicking catwalk supermodels. These highly competitive rituals are carried out on the dance floor of Brooklyn nightclubs. Adopting the names of famous Parisian couture houses, these exotic creatures wear their own ostentatious creations mixed with bootleg fashions, and have created their own unique dance style called “voguing”. Here again these spectacles are carried on in virtual exclusivity behind closed doors, far away from the prying eyes of the general public. One is left with the feeling that these young men are somehow victims of a blinkered society that excludes fashions that challange and differentiate from the norm. It is therefore somewhat ironic that it took the female pop icon Madonna to later appropriate nad popularize “voguing” as an acceptance genre.