The Trans Woman Who Changed “Voguing” Forever
Leiomy Maldonado joins Megan Thee Stallion, Jameela Jamil, and Law Roach on HBO’s new competition show
Leiomy Maldonado made history more than 10 years ago as the first trans woman to compete on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. The Bronx-born dancer, along with her troupe Vogue Evolution, reintroduced the world to voguing — the dance style that comes out of New York’s ballroom scene that many still believe Madonna discovered.
“Around that time, there were videos circulating of different artists having people try to vogue in their music videos,” Maldonado tells me over the phone. “For us, it was like, if we have this chance to go on TV and show the world where voguing comes from, and to let them know that it’s a real art form, a real dance form, why not?”
She looks back on the experience now bittersweetly, as do other members of her group, which included Dashaun Wesley, Devon Webster (aka Pony), Malechi Williams, and Jorel Rios (aka Prince). Despite being able to represent their culture and educate masses, they felt like their talent took second place to their identities as Black LGBTQ+ people. Maldonado even had to deal with transphobic comments from one of the show’s judges.
Fast-forward a decade, the tables have turned and now Maldonado is doing the judging. Along with stylist Law Roach, rapper Megan Thee Stallion, and actress Jameela Jamil, Leiomy is doling out the critiques on HBO Max’s new ballroom competition show Legendary, streaming May 27.
Similar to other dance competition shows, Legendary features eight teams, each of which represents a house, as they compete in varying ball categories — performance, or voguing, runway, fashion, and face. The last house standing will win a historic $100,000 prize, the first six-figure award ever offered in the scene. And it’s Maldonado’s presence, along with her former Vogue Evolution teammate Wesley who serves as the show’s emcee, that gives Legendary its community stamp of approval.
“I believe I’m one of the most important judges because I know ballroom,” she says. “People will say, ‘I’ve been a part of ballroom, I’ve spectated.’ That doesn’t mean anything. I know things about ballroom that other judges…