8 Canadian vogue and ballroom stars you need to know
These artists have pushed queer ballroom culture to dazzling new heights in Canada
Twysted Miyake-Mugler is a Canadian ballroom artist, founding member of the House of Monroe, and a producer on our new series CBX: Canadian Ballroom Extravaganza. Watch the full series now.
I got my start with dance at the age of 8 when I was in a hip hop dance group at Firgrove Community Centre in Toronto's Jane & Finch neighbourhood. This is where I first discovered my passion for movement and artistic expression. Later, I was introduced to dancehall through a competitive dance group with some friends called "Dream Team."
Then, at the age of 16, I found an entirely new form of dance that embraced the femininity of Black gay men. I was seeing something I had never been exposed to before: the art of vogue.
I began teaching myself how to vogue and started to connect with the international ballroom scene. I joined the Canadian House of Monroe as a founding member and walked my first ball in April 2008. Just two months later, I won my first trophy in Detroit in June 2008 (the "Virgin Vogue" category at the Hotter Than July ball). Since then I have won balls locally and internationally, and I am one of the people bringing ballroom to higher heights in Canada!
This article will highlight a few key folks who I feel do not get as much praise as they deserve. I wanted to publicly take the time to acknowledge them for their sacrifices and their commitment to our ballroom scene in Canada. Here are eight people in Canada's ballroom community whose legacies you need to know.
Sevyn — The Mother Of Canadian Ballroom
In the era before social media, Sevyn was travelling to the States to participate in ballroom. We all looked up to Sevyn, who took up the role as the First Mother of the premier Canadian House: House of Monroe. Sevyn introduced ballroom history and the culture to Canada. As the gatekeeper, he ensured that the foundation of the scene was built on showcasing our talent and finding your chosen family within this community that isn't always as safe as it looks.
Since most of our homes were not a safe place for us to be together, Sevyn offered his place as a haven for us. For someone that was the same age as us, his life was not the same. He was living on his own and was already involved heavily in the Black LGBT club community. We owe so much of the success of our scene to the investment and sacrifices he made in those early years. Without his determination to instil the true spirit of ballroom within the early generations of our community, we would not have been able to take the steps to build the bridge between the ballroom in Canada and the ballroom in the United States.
DJ BlackCat — Toronto Black LGBT Community Pioneer
Since getting his start in 1990, DJ BlackCat has been carving out spaces for the Black LGBT community for over 30 years. He plays music that he is a genuine fan of, and his passion has been felt on the dance floors for decades. Before ballroom was even a thing here, DJ Blackcat gave space for the pioneering voguers of Toronto in the clubs. His first love musically is house music, and the beats we vogue to are house beats!
House music came from Black communities in the U.S, and it was not something most of us were used to coming from African and Caribbean countries. Back then, whenever BlackCat played house beats, the club would get empty and only a few people stayed inside and danced: the older house heads and the voguers. But that changed thanks to DJs like him, who helped everyone fall in love with house music.
Ballroom was created on the dance floors at Papi's Nightclub and Hacienda (now known as Cock Bar on Church St. and The Wreck Room at Bathurst and Bloor). DJ Blackcat is now an avid member of the House of Monroe, and can still be heard holding down the music at balls across Canada.
Miyoko — Canada's Premier Femme Queen Performer
Vogue femme is a beautiful dance form that accentuates the femininity within the performer. There is something magical and transcending when the performer is a Black trans woman, embodying the very history of oppression and the struggles that come with it. Ballroom in general was created by femme queens, and there was only one at the very beginning of our journey in Canada: Miyoko.
A former gymnast, singer, producer, and dancer, Miyoko took to vogue like a moth to a flame. We were learning a form of dance, but Miyoko was just expressing herself. With her natural movement and athleticism, she just excelled and became the premier performer of the inaugural generation of ballroom in Canada. Today, she is the Overall Mother of the Kiki House of Siriano, where she gives back to the community through mentorship, training, and being a support system to the management team.
Amazon Wayne — MTL Ballroom Pioneer
It was Toronto Pride 2012 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, during the Open-To-All vogue category, where my perception changed of the bodies that vogue. At the back of the runway was an older white man with orange fringe on his head and wrists. The beat started, he started voguing — and I lost my entire mind. He did all the elements, he caught the beat, and he didn't vogue like anyone I had ever seen before.
Unbeknownst to me, there were a few people who were already researching ballroom on their own in Canada. Amazon Wayne is one of those people who learned how to vogue on his own by studying his Mother, Leiomy Maldonado. One of the biggest moments in Canadian ballroom history is when Wayne walked the Latex Ball in NYC in red high heels and had the entire crowd on their feet!
Brilliante Amazon — Montreal's Shining Star
There will be those who have to learn how to vogue, and there will be a few who just embody the art form. When I started hosting balls in Montreal in 2017, I witnessed the beauty and elegance of Brian (aka Brilliante)'s performance. There was so much strength and intention within his performance, and although he was new... the girls were SHOOK! He was a trained professional dancer in the styles of ballet and jazz, and was no stranger to the stage. His natural flare made him a threat in the Butch Queen Vogue Fem category, and he immediately became the Mother of Vogue in Montreal.
When he was invited to Toronto to participate in Canada's Top 10 Vogue Showdown in 2018, many of Toronto's ballroom community had no idea why he was on the list. They had not been to Montreal, so they had no idea of the talent that was brewing just around the provincial corner. But he was about to show them.
DJ Vjuan Allure (R.I.P.) was on the turntables, and after Brian told the DJ to play whatever they wanted to, Vjuan took the opportunity to drop a brand new beat — and Brian climbed on top of a tower of speakers and started to vogue! He slipped off the speaker and landed perfectly in a dip, sending the crowd into an uproar as he cemented this moment in ballroom history.
Mother TKO Monroe — The Redemption
After Sevyn's departure from the House of Monroe, TKO stepped up to the plate and elevated the brand of the House. He was a drag performer, songwriter, producer, and worked as a youth program leader at the Griffin Centre for LGBT+ youth. Under his leadership, the House of Monroe was invited to perform at some major events such as Pride Toronto, Inside Out Film Festival, and Toronto's Fashion Week.
On the runway, Mother TKO Monroe walked almost every category in our ballroom scene except Body, Sex Siren, and Bizarre. Among his many notable wins, he was the first $1000 Vogue Fem winner in 2014. Mother TKO Monroe currently sits as the chair of the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance and the Father of the Kiki House of Old Navy.
Danger — Our Fallen Angel
Most of our ballroom stars are made on the runway, but there are instances where impact is made by the personal connections and relationships we create with people. There are those with a giving nature, who sacrifice their needs for the needs of others. They wear a smile even with the world falling around them.
Since the beginning of our community, Danger noticed that there were people who were being overlooked. His dream was for everyone in our community to feel that they were part of the family, whether they wanted to walk a ball or not. There are many people in the ballroom scene who just want to be part of a family structure that accepts us for everything that we are. That's something that doesn't look the same for everyone. Danger created the House of Greta Constantine, and the members of the family have always kept a strong sense of connection to the House, whether they interacted with the larger ballroom community or not.
In May 2021, Danger died from medical complications just a couple of weeks shy of his 38th birthday. A memorial service was organized by the community, and this was when we got to see the real impact that he left behind. Losing Danger rocked our entire community, and it's something we still have not come to terms with. The lessons he taught us will guide us as leaders and a community for years to come.
Rest In Peace Danger.
Dynasty Ex-Ninja Milan — The Assassin
The House of Monroe built the Canadian ballroom community, and I thought we were always the highlight at the balls — until one late summer evening at the back-to-school ball, where we saw an Asian butch queen with a super edgy sense of fashion hit the back of the runway.
The entire room gasped in unison and went into an uproar as he pumped up and down the runway. I was hosting that night, and I vividly remember asking his name; when he replied, "Dynasty Ninja," I was gooped because a NINJA among us! Having been an avid researcher of ballroom history, I was very aware of the House of Ninja and the tremendous impact they've had on the ballroom community. Willi Ninja's dream was for voguing to be international and to have people as far as Asia voguing. Dynasty was a living example of that dream becoming a reality.