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The woman who brought voguing to Milan

La B. Fujiko is the founder of the BBallroom, the project that promotes the art of Voguing

The woman who brought voguing to Milan La B. Fujiko is the founder of the BBallroom, the project that promotes the art of Voguing

Vogue is a highly stylized, modern house dance originating in the late 1980s that evolved out of the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s. Vogue gives the relief, escape, validation, and power to anyone who goes to the dance floor and let their body—black or white, boy or girl—move to the music. It gained mainstream exposure when it was featured in Madonna's song and video Vogue (1990), and when showcased in the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning. Last and not least, it has recently become very popular once again thanks to Netflix Pose

We had a chat with La B. Fujiko, the creator of the Scandalous Ball in Milan and founder of BBallroom, the organization that promotes the art of Voguing, who told us more about the emerging Italian scene and of her experience as Mother of the House of Ninja

#1 Is it correct to say that you were the first to bring Voguing to Milan? Besides you who else is in charge of organizing the Balls in Italy?

Yes, correct. I was delighted to receive the Legendary Pioneer official title straight from New York and approved by the European Ball commission. Now there are several Balls around Italy, in Milan and Bologna, but also Rome, Turin, Florence, Verona, Naples, etc. Those who have been in the scene for some time and have a bit of following are trying to start doing something for and in their city. We could say that Milan is the main city for Balls and dancers come from abroad to join us all the way from other European countries, Russia, Asia, etc. The last annual Scandalous Ball I’ve organized last November is certainly today’s largest Ball in Italy. 

#2 When did you decide that you would devote all your energy to Voguing?

Let's say it all happened very naturally. I felt it was an environment in which I could feel myself at ease and I wanted to take Voguing on. At the beginning I did it alongside with other dance styles and other projects I was already working on, later I realized that I was much more interested and inspired as an artist and as a person by Voguing and its Ballroom scene, so I gradually gave up everything else. Today it might seem like a "professional" choice, but trust me it wasn’t so back in 2009/2010, it was very different at the time. People weren’t familiar with Voguing, so even planning courses was very difficult, in fact organizing the very first Ball was only possible a few years after. Furthermore, most dancers did not "understand" Voguing and did not appreciate it and did not consider it on a par with other styles. To them, it was a stupid and frivolous thing, without technique and any need for practice. Back then I never imagined it would spread to the point of becoming a job for me. 

#3 We watched Pose and we were fascinated by the characters, after your experience in NYC how much does it correspond to reality? Did Madonna really allow the revolution and the acceptance of this movement on an international level? 

Netflix Pose is certainly a very well done Netflix series and is surely coherent with the scene, many important real Voguing contributors who made its history were involved in the creation and production of the episodes. Pose goes back to the 80s/90s, so I must say the NY 2020 ballroom scene, being alive and constantly evolving, is definitely different. Madonna can take credit for bringing voguing to the mainstream audience. Surely the team of dancers involved in her video and tour has shared together indescribable moments and many people have recognized themselves in those dancers and have accepted and appreciated their message. However, it must be said that Madonna, like any mainstream pop star, has taken an underground subculture and used it to take advantage of it, and then moved on to something else. I would not attribute words like ’revolution’ and ‘acceptance’ to Madonna related to the ballroom scene. Yes, she has given visibility to the scene and to some of its dancers, but also mostly for commercial purposes and for a limited period of time. She is considered neither part of the scene nor a sort of benefactor.

#4 If you have been named "Mother", does that mean that you have other dancers who look at you as an actual family member and to become stronger and stronger in voguing? How many "Children" do you have?

I have been Mother of House of Ninja since early 2012, it means that I have Kids to follow in the ballroom scene as in real life. As far as the house is concerned, I do not think it is like it was in the 80s in New York, but to me, they are still based on real bonds between people. The challenges during the ball are important but competition and winning trophies are not the ultimate goal of Voguing, or at least not for me. In Italy, we are 13 Ninjas so far, but many more are coming.

#5 The House was the foster home for young kids looking for a place to stay away from their parents, what does belonging to a house in Italy actually mean?  Is it mere entertainment or does it also have a social component in which those who feel like a stranger find their expression?

The balls are not Olympics, it is not a sport, it is a space, a safe space, created to freely express oneself through art, looking, creativity, performance, beauty.  A space in which prejudices, stereotypes, and expectations of the society, with which we are confronted every day, doesn't matter. It is a celebration of being proud of who you are. 

#6 For those who would like to learn to vogue, how long and how much effort does it take before they can see results? Can anyone do it or do you have to be particularly worn?

Many categories of the Ball are closely related to the LGBTQ + community and there is no need to dance, there are Fashion Categories such as Best Dressed, Designers Delight, Labels;  related to physical appearances such as Face and Body; or a more historical and important derivation like Realness, in which we play to be completely credible in the image that society sometimes imposes on us even today to accept us.  In these categories, there are obviously rules and elements that must be respected and followed because they are important in the eyes of the jury but you don't dance. With the word Voguing, we define all those categories where we dance: Old Way, New Way, Vogue Fem, etc. each of these has different elements and techniques.  There are no defined timings to learn, each body is different, certainly for those who think it is easy and it takes just a lesson or two to join a Ball, I would suggest being a spectator.

#7 In addition to training, stage clothes are also important and I imagine that they must be just as burdensome to sustain, therefore this shows how the competition goes beyond economic gratification, and if you don't win money, why would you do it? 

Economic gratification is not a thing that goes well with this world. No money is won apart in some categories of some important balls, but rarely; and arranging Ball isn't something that makes you pay for the rent. It is done because we believe in the values ​​that this world promotes and carries forward. It is done for the joy of entering a dimension where stereotypes and impositions of daily life are suspended and you can freely express yourself at 360 degrees. Winning a category is a personal and personal satisfaction for the House, but competition is only a pretext to meet again and share once again that type of energy and freedom. 

#8 Besides being a dance, it is a revolution that leads to the integration and understanding of an otherwise difficult to understand subculture. Do you have confidence that even in Italy it leads to the understanding that not all of us reflect ourselves in a specific gender or identity and that not only in the world of dance but universally, there is no need to label everything?

Let's get this straight. Voguing is not a dance. Voguing is a small part of the Ballroom Scene. I hope that this wave of attention on our world will bring an interest that is not only superficial, that is not only "I want to dance like this" but that also will highlight the real reason why all this happens, because people they dance like that because they spend time, money and energy to participate or organize Balls. We have a spotlight on us today like never before, for years if they were 100 people attending at the Ball there were considered a success, now at the last Scandalous Ball, we went sold-out in an hour. As far as I'm concerned, I try as much as possible to talk and tell what is behind all these spangles and false eyelashes every time I get asked for interviews. The most beautiful part is perhaps not the one you see during the actual Ball but it is the energy that you breathe and that reaches everyone, even those who happen to be there by chance and have absolutely no idea what is going on. I think I have to leverage on this because it sends a very very important message, especially today, if you just want to vogue to lose weight I definitely recommend going to Zumba classes! 

#9 When is the next event gonna happen? We cannot wait.

I am planning a small Ball to kick off the year properly on January 18 at RED in Bologna: the Chic Hangover Mini Ball (on FB you can find the event page with all the info). As for Milan, I am planning something very beautiful for April 5, soon to be announced with full details, in the meantime save the date. More exciting stuff will be added to the calendar, follow us on both IG and FB: type BBALLROOM to stay updated!