Michelle Visage is returning to her ballroom roots for this week’s special episode of Strictly Come Dancing in Blackpool as Michelle Visage and her dance partner Giovanni Pernice will be performing a street/commercial routine to Madonna’s ‘Vogue’.
After being in the bottom two last week, Visage will fight her way to the final in what we can imagine will be an ode to Ball Culture.
The Drag Race judge started her career in the voguing scene, years before Madonna brought the dance to the mainstream.
She picked up her stage name ‘Visage’ in Harlem ballrooms because she gave “good face”.
Visage was taught voguing by Willi Ninja, Mother of the House of Ninja, a gay man known as the godfather of voguing. Ninja featured in the seminal documentary Paris is Burning. She is featured with her Drag Father Casar Valentino on a show called Spotlight Dance in 1988.
Visage told Dazed in 2015 that although she is a well-known superfan of Madonna, she was jealous when the singer released ‘Vogue’ in 1990.
“I could out-vogue any female who came for me, and most of the boys too.”
“I’d been voguing for the past couple of years and then she released that song and of course she’s going to get the attention for it,” she said.
“She’s going to make it known worldwide when we had been working our arses off in the community, and the dance had been around for years. But I also felt excited because the community was getting recognition. It was a double-edged sword.”
Post Madonna’s Vogue revolution, the dance has been a fixture in the LGBT+ community and received a further burst in popularity thanks to shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Pose.
Speaking to GCN in 2018, Visage said her background in Ball Culture means she holds the Queens that appear on RuPaul’s Drag Race to a specific standard.
“In RuPaul’s Drag Race I have a very specific role,” she says. “I grew up in this community since I was literally weaned off the plastic tits of a drag queen. I have a background and standard that I’m holding these queens to when I know they can do better. I’m a lot tougher on them because I need to be.
“I like to give constructive criticism. It’s not going to help me to cut someone else down; it’s going to help me help somebody else. I’m a Virgo; I want to help everybody. I want everybody to be happy.”
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