Inspired by the evocative theme of “Music Is My Life,” performers turned out in their showiest sequins and sparkles for GMHC’s Latex Ball on June 3.
A capacity crowd of over 2,100 ball goers packed the house at Terminal 5 in Manhattan for one of the New York Ballroom scene’s most anticipated Pride Month events. “Tonight is all about music, our love for music and music artists. We want you to bring the theme to life. Bring it as only BIZARRE could!!!” was the instruction for performers competing in the Bizarre category–and bring it, they did.
Taking its title theme from Patti LaBelle’s 1979 disco classic, the Latex Ball celebrated musical artists from Cher, Madonna, David Bowie, and KISS to current sensations Janelle Monae and Nikki Minaj–along with eternal divas like Lena Horne and Billie Holiday–in performance categories that spanned Runway, Fashion, Face, Realness, Vogue and Sex Siren.
In a surprise cameo, Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel wowed the crowd when she walked the runway in a skin-tight, electric-blue latex catsuit.
Especially at a time when LGBTQ+ rights are under attack, the Latex Ball showcases the creativity, resilience, tenacity, and strength of the House and Ball community. Members attended from over 25 Houses, which serve as chosen families for the Ballroom community, made up mostly of Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ people.
“This community was one of the hardest hit by the HIV and AIDS epidemic, and GMHC made a commitment that as long as HIV and AIDS are in our lives, there is going to be a Ball specifically for it,” says Luna Luis Ortiz, GMHC’s prevention program coordinator, who’s himself a Hall of Fame Ballroom Icon. The Latex Ball is both a celebration of life and a tribute to past ballroom angels the community has lost to AIDS-related complications. It is also a public health fair that promotes HIV prevention and sexual health.
GMHC Testing Center staff provided free and confidential HIV testing on-site at the Ball, along with free condoms and other prevention materials from GMHC and additional community-based organizations. To encourage sexual health care, ball goers who’d received a HIV test in advance gained entry to the exclusive Latexotica VIP lounge, which returned after last year’s hugely successful debut.
This year, GMHC also provided MPOX vaccinations at the Latex Ball through a partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and support from the White House. Harold Phillips, the director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy coordinator for the White House National MPOX Response, even made a special video message to promote the MPOX vaccinations at the Ball!
The Latex Ball debuted a new competition category this year, “HealthySexual as a House,” with support from Gilead Sciences. Before the Ball, each competing House created a short, safer-sex PSA video after attending a presentation from Gilead on the latest sexual health information. The Haus of Alpha Omega won the $5,000 prize for its incredible sex-positive video that used a “stay sexy” theme for HIV prevention.
As the PSA shows off their style on Ballroom runways, four Haus of Alpha Omega members in voiceovers address HIV testing hesitancy, wearing condoms, using PrEP for HIV prevention, and HIV treatment. “I too deserve to be sure of my status–to live and be healthy,” says Overall Mother Miasha Alpha Omega in the PSA.
We thank the generous sponsors whose support allows us to hold the Latex Ball as a free community event: Hall of Fame sponsor Gilead Sciences, Legend sponsor Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Statement sponsors Avita Pharmacy and Boxers NYC.