The ballroom community has been the inspiration from everything from Madonna’s “Vogue” to Beyoncé. The launch of the HBO Max competition series Legendary, which showcases the world of ball culture, has helped bring a newfound respect to this world, according to the judges.
Leiomy Maldonado, speaking at Deadline’s Contenders Television: Documentary + Unscripted awards-season event, said the ballroom community is “raw” and “authentic.” “This show itself has shown a lot of people and gained a lot of respect for our community,” he said on the virtual panel. “I feel like the ballroom community is prepared for competition and the competition they can bring to this show is something that you won’t see anywhere else.”
Contenders Television: Documentary + Unscripted: Livestream, Schedule, Lineup
Maldonado is a judge alongside fashion designer Law Roach and The Good Place star Jameela Jamil, with Dashaun Wesley as MC.
Legendary features eight voguing houses: House of Balmain, House of Escada, House of Gucci, House of Lanvin, House of Ninja, House of Ebony, House of St. Laurent and House of West. Each feature five performers and a leader called the house mother. The teams compete in a competition that documents a themed ball every episode from start to finish. Throughout each episode, we learn more about each house and their performers as they tell us their moving and inspirational backstories.
“The show is authentic because you’re getting real performances from the actual community,” said Wesley. “They’re putting their lives on the floor. The best part about this is that we as a community have the opportunity to show the world what we’re made of. You get the real game and this adds a challenge to the game.”
Roach has been affectionately dubbed the “Simon Cowell” of ballroom. “I’m just giving you my instinctual opinion, I’m just being me and whether I feel bored or super excited. Sometimes things roll out of my mouth that are reminiscent of Simon Cowell and it is what it is,” Roach said. “I’ve been really blessed in my career to see a lot of things in fashion and pop culture. I’ve been a huge fan of ballroom for the last 15-20 years.”
Jamil said that ballroom has gifted the mainstream fashion, vernacular and performances. “There’s so much that has been siphoned from ballroom and not credited and gone on to achieve massive mainstream success, so it’s a big passion of mine to give credit where credit’s due and make sure that ballroom takes center stage finally,” she said.
The show, which is produced by Queer Eye producer Scout Productions, has been renewed for a second season.
Check back Monday for the full panel video.