Before you attend their round table for RUSSH Weekend, meet House of Silky's Xander Silky, Basjia Silky and Akashi Silky.
House of Silky is a collective body of QTBIPOC artists based in Sydney. It encompasses a diverse blend of cultures, performing together to pay homage to their ancestry and iconic legends of the ballroom scene. And, above all else, House of Silky is a family.
Ballroom culture has a rich history spanning more than 50 years to its conception in Harlem, New York. But no matter one's knowledge of ballroom, they will most likely be familiar with its references within pop culture. Madonna's Vogue is an obvious one. But ballroom's innate influence can be found throughout fashion, art, music, dance and film. And it's a connection that should be acknowledged and honoured.
"First and foremost, ballroom culture is Black culture," explains House of Silky co-founder Xander Silky.
"Created and lead by Black trans women, ballroom has infiltrated all areas of pop culture including fashion, art, music, dance, film and even our vocabulary over the last 50 years."
Want to know more? The House of Silky family will be discussing how pop culture manifests itself through ballroom as part of their session for RUSSH Weekend. Tune in on Sunday July 19. But before you do, read our interview with House of Silky's Xander Silky, Basjia Silky and Akashi Silky. On creating a safety net for QTBIPOC, unconditional love, and why ballroom culture is so important.
What’s the first thing we should know about House of Silky?
Xander Silky: That House of Silky is a family. For some, it's their only family and others a second chosen family. What you see at balls is only a fraction of what it means to be in a house. Know that behind the balls is a group of people supporting each other in every aspect of life; home life, work life, financially, socially and emotionally.
Basjia Silky: House of Silky are a family of QTBIPOC who have found safety and love amongst each other within the ballroom community. Within ballroom and amongst our house we celebrate ourselves, our stories, each other and our larger community.
Akashi Silky: The House of Silky is the moment. It's a house that holds real family values that help mould its members into becoming everything they dream of being. It's a house with lots of nerve, known for performance, fashion, beauty and lots of sex appeal. Silky is an attitude one that gives unbothered and sitting pretty, cute and cuddly, just don't try me because you can get it any time and any place.
How did House of Silky come to be?
XS: House of Silky was created by myself, Kitana Silky and Mother Mira Silky in early 2019. We had been walking balls previously as 007s and saw that the scene wasn't growing. We each were passionate about ballroom and knew we had a perspective to bring to Ballroom Australia that didn't exist yet. So, we took the risk and House of Silky was created and it's now a leading house in Australia.
What do you love most about what has been created?
XS: How it has brought together so many people who outside of ballroom probably never would have found each other. It makes me happy when I see the kids giggling with each other in the corner of training or when I hear they've helped each other during the week get through something. The house is the fabric that binds us together, when you join House of Silky, you automatically are family.
BS: I love that we have created more than just a house, it truly is a family. We care for and nurture each other not only within ballroom but all aspects of our lives. It's a family built from unconditional love and we celebrate each other for exactly who we are.
AS: What I love the most is the work that exists within the house to connect more with younger queer / trans youth who are most vulnerable and have no connection to a community of like minded people outside of their own context by inviting them to our house trainings. Kiking getting to know them. But also allowing that exchange to happen whereby they see themselves reflected and they feel a little less ostracised and alone in the world. As for most of us, ballroom provided me with a safety net to escape the reality of the world, to re-create myself in the way I wanted to see me and envision my life on my terms but that was only possible because of the people who were around me who were also in ballroom.
What is the importance of ballroom culture in Australia?
XS: The saying goes, "As long as queer people are oppressed in the world, ballroom will exist". Homophobia and transphobia is very much still present in Australia, you only need to drive out west to see it. Ballroom provides a safe space for those that are BIPOC and queer here, it helps them build confidence and the tools to take on society while connecting them with likeminded individuals who will accept and support them whole heartedly for who they are.
BS: Ballroom culture in Australia is so important. As a country that still upholds a lot of prejudice towards those who are deemed 'different', the ballroom community opens its arms and welcomes all people.
"For those who are trans and queer specifically, Australian ballroom is a place where we are safe to exist, a place where we can be free in our bodies, feel beautiful, feel seen and heard."
AS: Ballroom is important for Australia because just as long as their injustice towards black / brown trans / queer bodies in every borough, street, area. Ballroom will be the remedy but also the voice that will bring people together.
What was your personal introduction to the ballroom scene?
XS: I had always known about ballroom culture from my late teens because of Paris is Burning but it wasn't until I came across the clip of Katrina vs Leiomy vs Feminine that I realised that 'ballroom' and 'voguing' was more than just dancing and got invested into the scene. I remember watching them have it out with each other on the floor, hearing every word they were saying with their hands and the way they held themselves. They had something to say, vogue was the medium they used and ballroom was the facilitator. I kept watching clips for years after and throwing down in my room before discovering the Australia scene existed and walked my first ball at the Sissy Ball by Bhenji Ra in 2018.
BS: My personal introduction into ballroom was through my Silky mother Mira, who suggested I walk at the 2019 Sissy Ball. As someone whose been painfully shy in my childhood and early 20s it was something I wasn't sure I could do. However, that night I pushed myself onto that stage and it was the best decision I ever made because it was the first time in my life I ever felt like I truly belonged somewhere, that my existence was appreciated and celebrated.
AS: I was introduced to ballroom in high school in 2009 / 2010 through a friend (shout out to my girl Vana Slé). We would watch youtube clips of legends like Katrina Ebony, Leiomy Amazon, Prince Milan to name a few and we would imitate what they would do, which was voguing every lunch time. We would pump the beat and vogue down behind the school bins to the HA Beat and get our life! Years later in 2015 I would walk my first ever category at the first ever ball in New Zealand, which was hands and vogue fem performance and the rest was history. Here I am, a few years, hormone shots and a couple of new houses later, a Silky girl and loving it.
For RUSSH Weekend you’ll be hosting a round table on how ballroom culture intersects with pop culture. Tell us more …
XS: First and foremost, ballroom culture is Black culture. Created and lead by Black trans women, ballroom has infiltrated all areas of pop culture including fashion, art, music, dance, film and even our vocabulary over the last 50 years. Some influences are more direct like Madonna's Vogue and this generations use of words like 'Kiki', 'Shade' and 'Reading'. While other insections have been more subtle like Leiomy Amazon['s] iconic 'Lolly' hair whip becoming a staple in Beyoncé's performance mimicked by millions of fans. Or designers like Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and Patricia Field all taking inspiration from the fashion categories and legends in the ballroom scene.
For QTBIPOC who are curious about the ballroom scene or interested in joining House of Silky, what are the best ways to become involved or learn more?
XS: 50 per cent of ballroom is research and the other 50 per cent is showing up. Google, watch clips, learn the legends and icons before you and the history that is tied with ballroom culture. You can follow @ballroomaustralia on insta and that will lead you to the balls, functions and kikis in your area. Be present at those events and show your interest in the house. We are always watching who is walking balls and attending events looking for new people who could benefit from the house.