...is the title of this EduTainment / DocuFeature film, an artistic empowerment and HIV/AIDS awareness documentary about the Ballroom community ( an over 35 year old Harlem, NY tradition ).
new way of educating youth and adults of color using visual media as an artistic
empowerment tool received very encouraging support from the Ballroom community,
elected officials and the LGBT community at large.
In August 2001 the ballroom community and director Wolfgang Busch came together at the LGBT community center in New York City for the first time to talk about "How Do I Look" and the life after "Paris is Burning". The artistic empowerment and HIV/AIDS awareness community program was born.How Do I Look is a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender "look" at the Ballroom Community through a multi-cultural, inter-generational and artistic lens. It serves as an artistic community empowerment project sending strong HIV/AIDS awareness messages through screenings, lectures, politicians, AIDS & community based organizations and the media
The Mission is:
to empower 200 "Ballroom" community members artistically, financially & professionally. Proceeds from the royalties are to be shared by the ballroom community, LGBT community- based organizations and the director.
The Vision for:
this unique improvisational performance art-form is to protect the natural artistic progression from manipulation and negative energy flow and to capture the passing of the over 35 year old tradition through the eye of the director.
The Goal is:How Do I Look Synopsis: The "How Do I Look" documentary was created by artistic and social activist Wolfgang Busch for Art From The Heart LLC. over a period of 10 years, to empower the “Ball” community artistically and financially and to build a national artistic infrastructure to further the careers of LGBT artists.
to create an arts in education program and to inspire people from all walks of life to raise money and give back to the community through similar programs. We want to bring the attention to our community to bring more respect to the arts and to break down racism and stereotyping.
How Do I Look is a LGBT artistic empowerment, HIV/AIDS awareness community project and an arts in education program, focusing on the members of the national “Ball” community that took their talents outside the "Ball" scene and worked with superstars such as: Queen Latifa, Madonna, India and fashion designer Thierry Mugler.
How Do I Look captured the “Ball” communities talents, the assets of this very creative and trend setting community and takes you inside of this over 35 year old Harlem tradition.How Do I Look highlights on the legends and icons life styles, their house system and family values, their every day struggles, the fierce fashion the dance vogue old way vs. new way and runway competition, the passing of three generations of ballroom fashion traditions, transgender health issues and education, HOPE messages on the battle with HIV/AIDS, and how they build their confidence, self esteem and ballroom status through the arts.
The outstanding fashion, runway and voguing visuals in this documentary are the result of this improvisational performance art form and the natural artistic progression. It was captured by German/American activist and film maker Wolfgang Busch through an artistic lense, while showcasing their talents in different categories on the runway, battling for that perfect 10 from the judges for ballroom status, recognition, cash and trophies, to become legendary and be voted into the Ballroom Hall of Fame one day.Transgender education by Carmen Xtravaganza, Octavia St. Laurent, Angie Infiniti and Jazmine Givenchy, substance abuse by Junior Labeija and R.R Chanel and Jose Xtravaganza.
Based on their gender, every house member can participate and has the opportunity to bring their fantasy to reality on the runway, living that superstar moment most of them can not experience anywhere else.
Lifetime achiever and Ballroom Hall of Famer Kevin Omni and mother of the year 2004 Luna Khan are assistant directors and Marcel Christian, Alvernian Prestige, Mann Prodigy, Ricky Revlon, Derryck Labeija, CoolAid and Jack Mizrahi give us the Ballroom history.
Legendary Icon Pepper Labeija, one of the founders of the Harlem "Ball" scene in the sixties, is being honored by the community for his leadership and for his endless contributions.
HDIL captures the unique talents of futuristic bazaar fashion designers Ross Infiniti and RR Chanel International, along with the voguing talents of Willi Ninja, Jose Xtravaganza, Mecca, Muhammad Omni and Andre Mizrahi who keep the history and the legacy alive for future generations to enjoy.
The powerful transgender community is represented by Octavia St. Laurent, Carmen Xtravaganza, Tracy Africa, Alyssa St. Clair and Jazmine Givenchy Blahnik. They speak about their diverse life styles such as graduating from Syracuse university, modeling & performance careers and the stages of transformation of becoming a transgender. Octavia's farther Billy Austin tells us to love our children as they are.
Luna Luis Ortiz, Mother of the House of Khan leaves the children with a message of HOPE by sharing his story about how he became infected with the HIV virus during his first sexual experience at the age of 14; and how he continues to live a full life at the age of 33, using his photography skills as a teacher at the Harvey Milk High School. Harmonica Sunbeam speaks of the importance of protecting yourself against HIV at all times.
Jaimee Balenciaga, voted mother of the year for 7 years in a row, is a lesbian talking about how she educates her house children and prepares them for the competition on and off the runway.
Poems are by Emanuel Xavier called "Legends" and by Octavia St. Laurent the "Chosen One".
The music is provided by the local community, Tori Fixx from Chicago, DJ PUNCH from Atlanta, The How Do I Look Project, Harmonica Sunbeam, Jade, Shane, Robson Milian, Dutchboy, Octavia St. Laurent and Willie Villegas from New York.
The exciting performances and magical moments in How Do I Look, attracted many celebrities during the work in progress, Melba Moore, Malik Joba, Mo'Nique and Boy George, multiple #1 Billboard dance artist Kevin Aviance, gossip columnist Michael Musto and Patricia Field from Sex in the City can be heard and seen in How Do I Look.
How Do I Look has been an inspiration in many peoples' lives in the community and inspired artist Kevin Aviance with producer GOMI, The How Do I Look Project, Tori Fixx, Ru Paul, DJ Relentless and Truly to write a song about How Do I Look before its release.
The industry, community and consumer feedback from the limited fund-raiser DVD release has been very strong and the media response from the New York Times, NY Post and BBC TV in London has been very positive.
How Do I Look is already used for student studies and thesis in high schools and at Harvard and Temple universities. We had screenings with lectures at Yale-NYU-Detroit Mercy university and Oberlin college, the Harvey Milk High School, the Door youth organization, the Latino Commission on AIDS, Gay Men's Health Crisis, Minority Task Force on AIDS, the HIV Forum and at LGBT cultural institutions such as the LGBT community Center in NYC & Philadelphia, OutProfessionals, StoneWall Democratic Club and Black Pride NYC.
We received letters of support from Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Field, Senator David Patterson, NY State Senator Thomas K. Duane and the White House.For more information please go to our website at www.HowDoILooknyc.org
Wolfgang Busch (46) is a multi-award winning, openly gay director/documentarist and artistic activist. He was born and raised in Germany until the age of 26.
Wolfgang has been supporting the LGBT Black & Hispanic communities since 1989. He worked with Mike Stone of the WareHouse night club in NYC and Fausto from Latitud O.Wolfgang received an Award of appreciation from the House of Omni for his support, friendship and hard work on January 5th, 2000 and 2003.
Community members in the film:
Luna Luis Ortiz Khan
Luna was born in New York City and his parents are from Puerto Rico. Luna is now 30 years old and he contracted the HIV virus at the age of 14 after his first sexual experience. As a man who has overcome considerable odds, Luna is an important spokesperson for artistic empowerment in the Ballroom community. Growing up with the HIV virus has helped him to maximize his talents in photography, modeling, acting and visual arts like animation. His art has earned him awards, and letters of appreciation from former mayors David Dinkins and Ed Koch. He became a spokes person on HIV/AIDS awareness issues on PBS, MTV and TeleMundo. Luna graduated from the Harvey Milk High School, a LGBT school located in the village in New York City and teaches photography full time at Hetrick Martin Institute, an agency in New York City for young people of color. In the film Luna speaks openly and clearly about his journey. His animated drawings of the AIDS virus in action also appear on film in a segment that further emphasizes the educational focus of "How Do I Look?"
Jose is best known as a professional dancer and one of the performers on the "Blond Ambition" tour with the popular singer Madonna. Madonna found out about Jose after seeing him vogue at a New York club called the Paradise Garage at the age of 15. Madonna admired Jose's voguing skills so much that she hired him to be a choreographer and dancer. Jose started dancing at the age of 10, trained in classical ballet and jazz and, with other community members like Willi Ninja, is responsible for introducing the art of voguing to mainstream audiences.
Heavenly Angel Octavia St. Laurent Manolo Blahnik
Octavia identifies herself as an enunch and she is know in the ballroom community for her fashion, sexy body, "wicked beauty" (as she says) and her ability to win prizes at balls. She turns it out at the "Balls". As she says in the film, Octavia doesn't know what it is like "to be masculine, to grow a beard or mustache." When Octavia was diagnosed with HIV, she became so sick, that she was near death. The doctors told her that she had just a few days to live. Octavia is a fighter with a strong will to live. Laying on her death bed was a wake up call for her. Not only did she prove all the doctors wrong, she is a medical miracle with a mission to tell her story of empowerment. A former drug user who prostituted herself, Octavia's frank discussion of her life experiences on camera demystifies the problems facing enunch's and the transgender community.
Carmen is a transgendered beauty and one of the most respected mothers of houses in the Ballroom community. In the film, Carmen shares her experience of her motherly duties for the house of Extravaganza and educates her "children" about health issues related to gender transformation. Of particular interest to audiences will be her frank discussion of hormones, castration, and plastic surgery and dealing with bias in mainstream society.
Marcel is one of the oldest living ballroom member in the community. He has been documenting the ballroom community with his IDLE sheets for many years, capturing much of the ballroom history from the 80's and 90's. His commentary on how the Extravaganza's benefited from the singer Madonna's appropriation of voguing, his African & Egyptian fashion designs and the politics within the ballroom community are valuable assets to this film. Marcel is a professional fashion designer and works in HIV/AIDS social services for the city of NY.
Kevin has served as a principal consultant on this project. In the ballroom community, he has won over 170 trophies for face & face over 40. He received the Legends Award, LifeTime Achiever, 2001 & the Hall of Fame award in 1995. The House of Omni started in 1980, with chapters across the United States. Kevin's blood mother, Dorothy Burrus, and his sister Linda have been very supportive behind the scenes of "How Do I Look?" Kevin helped the project obtaining a letter of support from Senator David Paterson and bringing mayoral candidate Kenneth Golding to a How Do I Look meeting at the center, meeting and educating the ballroom community.
An accomplished dancer and dance teacher, Mohammad has been researching and documenting history of voguing and is the producer of the vogue history segment on the film. He is particularly well-verse in old school voguing and is making a comeback from his retirement. He feels it is necessary to come back and showcase the traditional old school voguing style, because today's judges at balls are unclear about judging the old school voguing categories.
He is one of the youngest and most creative ballroom member today. He creates dips and voguing moves and is also the up-coming commentator in the scene. His talents come natural to him and he is an asset to the ballroom community.
His photography career started in the ballroom. Without the ballroom community there would be no Gerard he says. He got involved taking photographs right after the movie Paris is Burning was released and because of what was going down with that he had a hard time getting pictures. He was getting pictures but not intimate ones. He had to gain access slowly and he needed to work with R.R Chanel and Hector Xtravaganza to provide him with the access he wanted to get the pictures he was looking for. He is a straight man and he talks about how he had to get comfortable around them. They look into your eyes and they see how you interact with them. Gerard wishes that straight people should be more open minded, because he has no problems working with the ballroom community as a straight man.
Willi took his voguing talents around the world. He is a true legend. He teaches the children about voguing and takes members from the ballroom community on tour to educate them and give them exposure. He has a very successful career and Willi provides true community leadership. He is coming back from ballroom retirement, because he feels that right now is an important time to come back to make contributions to the community again.
His outstanding contributions to the ballroom community have taken him to the top of the ballroom world. He is the northern regional father of the house and his oldway voguing style is original and exciting to watch. He educates the house members on ballroom issues as well as assists and mentors them within their daily lives. He works very hard to recruit new house members making the house of Balenciaga one of the most successful houses today.His awards and recognition in and out of the ballroom community has made him a positive role model for aspiring ballroom newcomers to look up to. He quotes "the house of Balenciaga is a house of champions". He constantly stresses to his members to always give their best in every aspect of their lives remembering "nothing beats a failure but a try"!
She is the mother of the house and voted the mother of the year 2003. Jaimee hasn’t always been on the top and she talks about how hard she worked from being chopped to become the mother of the year. She is one of the few lesbians in the ballroom scene and she is in a long term relation ship. Her beauty and personality is an important contribution to the ballroom community. She educates her children the right way. They rehearse at her house in front of a mirror for hours to prepare themselves for the next ball coming up.
Harmonica Sun Beam
Harmonica, aka Dorian, is a female impersonator who has been very supportive of the ballroom community. Harmonica hosts parties at many clubs throughout New York City and New Jersey. She produced a mini-ball at Escuelita in memory of a member of the community who passed away from AIDS. Harmonica grew up in New Jersey and perfected her skills in gender impersonation.
China Blue Latex
China Blue got his name from Selvyn Infiniti one of today’s commentators. China is one of those children dedicated to help his community. He works for the House of Latex handing out condoms and his heart is in the right place. China has his own voguing style, different from the traditional vogue or new way. China is a crowd pleaser and people just love him for what he is. Even so he get’s chopped by the judges, his attitude is always positive. He participates at balls for the love, energy and positive response from the spectators. His mother told him "If you want to be the best you have to learn from the best".
R.R. Chanel International
R.R. is from the old school and is the co-founder of the house of Chanel International. His concerns in today’s ballroom scene are the judges and participants. His reputation to be shady is uncalled for, because he will chop you if you don’t represent what the flyer calls for. He says " I am a stickler when it comes to that". He has the flyer with the category’s right next to him and that is what he goes by. R.R. has a successful modeling agency for 6 years and is very proud of his ballroom accomplishments. He received many grand prizes and has been recognized for his ballroom contributions. He is a master in bazaar fashion and runway and not to be wreckened with.
At 16, Emanuel Xavier came out to his mother and was thrown out of his home. He ended up hustling at the West Side Highway piers and dealing drugs in major New York City nightclubs for survival. It was Anji Xtravaganza that introduced him to the ballroom community and encouraged him to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. Years later, Emanuel crashed on to the spoken word circuit and became one of the most significant voices to emerge from the modern day poetry movement. He has since published four widely successful books: the Lambda Literary Award nominated cult classic, CHRISTLIKE, (the first published novel ever to feature a main character involved within the ball community); the poetry collections, PIER QUEEN and AMERICANO; and edited BULLETS & BUTTERFLIES, a collection of queer spoken word poetry. In 1998, he founded the House of Xavier and introduced the annual Glam Slam as a tribute to the gay ball competitions which had influenced him, bringing spoken word competitions to a whole new level of inspiration and entertainment. These contributions earned him the Marsha A. Gomez Cultural Heritage Award and a New York City Council Citation. Emanuel has also appeared on television as host of IN THE LIFE on PBS, on RUSSELL SIMMONS PRESENTS DEF POETRY on HBO and co-starred in the first gay black and latino feature film ever to be televised, THE SKI TRIP on LOGO. Go to www.emanuelxavier.com for more information.
She is the youngest and most successful transgender in the ballroom community today. Her girlish attitude and personality is very well received and people like Jack Givenchy give her support and advice to get better each and every time. Roxy says that she feels like a celebrity and she already accomplished to be recognized in the ballroom scene at her young age.
Ross is the founder and father of the House of Infiniti. He is one of the Old School legends. His fabulous costume designs are inspired from the 80's he says. I visited Ross at his home in Brooklyn, while he was working on the bazaar costume for the Legends ball. What I like the most about Ross besides the outrageous designs is his attitude. Quote "In order to be a good winner you have to be a good looser" and that is what Ross stands for.
It takes Ross one week to complete a costume and he has Infiniti house members that work with him until all is finished. He works until his eyes get tired and he has to stop, because he reached his physical limits. He learned from the old school legends such as Avis Pendavis and Dorian Corey. He keeps their tradition alive and is passing it on to the children in his house.
He talks about the Infiniti family and how he is there for them even at 4AM in the morning if need be. The lack of today’s creativity compared to the old days is unfortunate he says. Most of the creative children have died of AIDS. Today’s Ballroom creativity and inspiration has become a lack there of because of AIDS.
Portia Labeija McQeen
She is a Transgender in her forties that still hits the runway like no other. Her modeling career has taken her around the world and she is living prove that a transgender can do it all. Her fashion statements and runway experience has given Portia her claim to fame.
Founder and creative director of the House of MASHALA has been photographing the Ballroom Community since the year 2000. His photojournalistic style is filled with emotion, cultural style, and is action packed, but still bringing a natural appeal to the image. His imagery will be used by the HOW DO I LOOK project, and for various publications supporting the Ballroom Community.
MASHALA's motto of survival that has worked for him till present day is to stay away from drugs, practice SAFE SEX ALWAYS, and most importantly to ENJOY LIFE!
Big girl runway ruler. Monica left the House of Xtravaganza to become the mother of the House of Continental. She learned her runway skills from the legendary mother Anji Xtravaganza and no girl is too big for her on the runway.
Alvernian is a ballroom role model and provides solid leadership. He created the balls in Philadelphia and is now branching out to the Carolina’s to continue to build ballroom communities and history. He is a commentator, walks the runway and vogue’s the old way. His ballroom contributions are priceless.
Every ball stars with Legends, Statements and Stars. The commentator calls out the ballroom celebrities to the runway to give them the respect and visibility to maintain and build their ballroom status. Kenny brought the Legends, Statements and Stars to the balls and Eriq Christian Bazaar is educating the children about this ballroom history on the microphone.
Where there is a ball there is a commentator and Jack is one of today's best. To become a commentator of the year is a very difficult and creative art form. It is his job to pump up the audience and the performers to make the ball and the categories hot.
Eriq Christian Bazaar
Eriq is one of the most missed ones in the ballroom community. He lost his live to AIDS in 2001. Eriq was an outstanding commentator and a driving force in the ballroom community. Eriq was known to be legendary in the Bazar category. Not only will he be missed for his creative ballroom contributions, he will also be missed for his ballroom leadership. He touched many children’s live and was a role model to most of them. He always educated the children on the microphone and kept the ballroom history and tradition alive.
"Jazmine is one of the young transgender girls in the ballroom scene and has been recognized for years. She is a college student at Syracuse University and lives her everyday life as a young responsible woman. Jazmine would like to show society that the stereotypes about being transgender are not true.
Jazmine dropped out of college for three years to go through the transition because she did not want to be in college during the transitioning process. Being as focused as she is, she is a valuable asset to the ballroom community at large. She will be graduating with her bachelors in Social Work and Psychology in May 2004."
When we talk about creativity within the ballroom community, than we are talking about Koolaid Infiniti, aka Selvyn. Koolaid is one of the most creative children in the ballroom community overall. Not only is he one of today’s commentators, he also walks runway, fashion and vogue. He commentates balls across the country and adds always excitement to any ball. His originality and personality makes him the most popular member of the ballroom community today.
Rickey is a new legend in the runway with production category. His best friend was Eriq Christian Bazaar, who passed away from AIDS. One year later Rickey is still getting over the fact that he lost his friend to AIDS.
Rickey was conducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002 and has won many trophy’s and awards. He explains how to serve on the runway and how to be on point with his side steps and special moves, depending on his opponent. He talks about shady judges and how drugs effect some of the children participating in unsafe sex.
Gerald Dupree Labeija McQueen
Gerald was one of the most uplifting individuals I ever met and was one of the Ballroom finest. It is unfortunate that we lost him to AIDS, just like too many others. His dedication to the ballroom community was outstanding and his love for everyone was on a non-discrimination bases. He is loved by everyone and his outrageous performances, personality and comedy is deeply missed but will live on forever in our hearts and spirit.
I was able to capture some of Gerald’s performances, including the conduction into the Ballroom Hall of Fame at the Y in Brooklyn.
Even with community based agency’s such as GMAD, POCC and GMHC/Latex, the HIV virus is on the raise in the Black/Hispanic community. The traditional outreach methods used by community based organizations are not effective anymore and they have no information why the virus is on the raise.
By using graphic images such as Gerald’s and Fila’s wake, I hope to shake up the people that need it the most. It is unfortunate that society has reached a point where we need to use shock therapy to get through to people to make a difference.
Kevin performed live with GOMI at the How Do I Look screening at the LGBT Community Center in New York City and has been supporting the artistic empowerment and HIV/AIDS awareness project in many ways. We thank him for that.
A ball without music is like a ball without voguing. There is no other
than DJ Carlton, who won 8 years in a row Ballroom DJ of the year. His
music selection, mixes and loops for each category put him into the #1
DJ position for almost one decade.
Mother Angie Infiniti
Mother Angie is the mother of all mothers. You need a shoulder to cry on? where do you go, you need some help for a ball? where do you go, you have a problem with your family? where do you go... Mother Bangie Angie Infiniti.
The House of Infiniti has chapters across the country and is one of the largest power Houses. Angie is a very quiet person who likes to take care of her children. She tells us about her motivations and why she became the mother of this very important House of Infiniti.
Andre is a legendary icon. He won over 800 trophy’s and is by far the most successful ballroom child today. He takes his voguing skills beyond the ballroom scene. He is a professional dancer and choreographer and works for many celebrities. He is a two time Apollo winner and is now the father of the House of Mizrahi. Andre walks the runway, fashion, bazar and vogue categories and his breathtaking vogue performance skills, keeps the audiences on their feed. He is looked upon as a ruler and role model in the ballroom community.
Mann always wanted to create his own house and he left the house of Ebony in 2002 to start the house of Prodigy in Philadelphia. He is all about realness and is very clear what he is looking for when he is judging the realness category. If you don’t bring it right.... it’s a chop. He is one of the most important members in Philadelphia and a driving force in the ballroom community.
Tracy has been a very successful international model for many years and is conducted into the Ballroom Hall of Fame. When the fashion industry in New York found out about her gender she had to leave New York to work in Paris. Now she is retired and lives a full life as a women.
Jay Manolo Blahnik
Jay Ebony began his ballroom career in 1994. Among the Ebony Realness Troup, Jay debut at the Aphrodite Ball in New York City. After winning with his fellow house members he became the prodigy of Ballroom Icon, Stewart Ebony. Stewart introduced Jay to the microphone at the ‘Unity Ball,’ hosted by Stewart Ebony and Alvernian Prestige; allowing Jay to join the ranks of some other distinguished commentators. At the 2002 Revlon Ball the new house of ‘Manolo Blahnik’ won the most trophies throughout the night and won GRAND PRIZE. To date, Jay has ten (10) Grand Prizes under his belt and countless awards and acknowledgments from his peers including the Dutchess LaWong Lifetime Achievement Award presented in 2000 at the Peoples Choice Awards Ball in NY, NY. The House of Manolo Blahnik, has the unique distinction of being first New House of the Year 2000 and then House of the Year 2001 & 2002. Jay has inspired a generation of new ball walkers to be creative and to be good sportsman.
LEGENDARY FATHER TOMMIE LA'BEIJA
HAS BEEN THE FATHER OF THE HOUSE OF LA'BEIJA SINCE 1985 HAND PICKED BY THE ICON MOTHER PEPER LOLITA LA'BEIJA HER SELF. TOMMIE IS THE MOST UNDERSTATED AND UNDERRATED PARTICIPANT IN THE BALLROOM TODAY BUT IS THE MOST RESPECTED FATHER IN THE BALLROOM. HE SITS ON ALMOST EVERY JUDGES PANNEL SINCE HIS RETURN FROM A HIATAS IN 1991. HE HAS MANY GRAND CHILDRED, NEPHEWS, ETC IN ALMOST EVERY HOUSE IN THE BALLROOM. "IN MY DAY THE REAL FELLAS WHERE NOT ALLOWED TO WALK B.Q. CATOGORIES SO YOU COULD ONLY BECOME FAMOUS FOR BEST DRESED MALE, REALNESS. TOMMIE'S CLAME TO FAME WAS AT THE MAX EBONY BALL IN 85 WHERE HE WALKED HEAD TO TOE OVERNESS (LABELS) WHERE HE CAUSED SUCH AN UPSET CAUSING A TIE BETWEEN DAVID XTRAVAGANZA, KIM PENDARVAS, AND THE DYNAMIC DUAL EFREM AND CRIS DUPREE AND HIMSELF. " I TEACH MY KIDS THAT THE BALLS ARE JUST FOR FUN , EXTRACARICULAR ACTIVITY AND NOT TOTAKE THEM SO SERIOUS, YES GO TO WIN BUT WINNING IN YOUR REAL LIVES IS MORE IMPORTANT TO ME".
Return to Homepage