For decades, ballroom culture has been celebrated across the media, from Madonna’s Vogue to the more recent television show Pose. In the scene, members band together in houses, which act as chosen families, and participate in balls, where they present their handmade, avant-garde fashion and participate in dynamic performances. In the Kiki scene, a community self-organized by LGBTQ youth of color, young people carry on traditions of the ballroom scene through their own houses, balls, and culture, which are all infused with a positive HIV education message. Through its family structure and celebration of an often marginalized culture, the Kiki scene provides an alternative to high-risk behaviors, creating a support system that acts as a form of survival and resistance for a marginalized group.
The importance of fashion in the Kiki scene cannot be understated. During the balls, there are many different runway categories including all-important the “face” category, which focuses on beauty. Both in and outside of the balls, Kiki scene fashion flaunts gender nonconformity and revels in diy couture. But, while many in the scene dream of becoming models, they see few faces like their own in magazines and on runways outside of the scene. These images aim to recognize the talent in the Kiki scene, spotlighting the artistry of its members.