If you thought the ballroom scene was still underground, think again! The first season of HBO Max’s reality ballroom competition series “Legendary” has undoubtedly proven to the world that the ballroom community can be a mainstream success.
With Legendary making television history, we were not surprised that the show was renewed for a second season, but the accolades from the show’s monumental debut didn’t just end there.
MaKaylah Lanvin aka the Princess of Philadelphia is one of many talented contestants who have been able to propel their careers forward after competing. With a ‘don’t fuck with me on the floor’ mentality as she vogued, flipped and dipped in 6-inch heels, MaKaylah aided her team, the House of Lanvin, to become runners-up for the $100,000 grand prize.
After proudly congratulating Makaylah on her success at the start of our interview, it was a must that I ask how she felt being a newfound pioneer for the ballroom community while competing on Legendary.
“It was mind-blowing! It was a dream come true…turning my extracurricular activity into a career and my dream into a reality. I’m a big fan of manifestation and just to see everything unfold, I feel like I’d have a “That’s so Raven” moment. For Legendary to be on the platform it was on, and for them to give the community the respect and the acknowledgment that it gave us, it was just unbelievable.
I mean I know we had “Paris is Burning”, I know we got “Pose”, but this was actually a competition – like a competition where you really got to see how we battle down for the money! (Laughs)…how we do in ballroom. Though some of it wasn’t 100 percent ballroom, you gotta look at it like this, we still have to do it for T.V and ballroom. And the way Legendary did that, I give them props.”
Yes! I absolutely loved the show, and I’m so proud of you. You slayed the fuck out of every one of your performances!
“Thank you, that was my mutha-fuckin-house!”
(We Laughed) And let’s get into that. Can you let the gayes know why you are the Princess of Philadelphia?
“Kevin JZ (a renowned and successful MC in the ballroom scene) gave me the title the princess of Philadelphia. I was the only one in Philly that was travelling, holding it down and dominating my category. It wasn’t a lot of people really walking. I remember when Kevin first seen me, he said, ‘that little bitch gonna be a problem’. He came to me and was like, ‘I wanna work with you’.”
Just in case you need a refresh on MaKaylah’s skills, here’s a video of Makaylah vogueing at the 2017 House of Lanvin Grand March while Kevin JZ is on the mic:
“When the Princess steps on the floor, my vogue is very eclectic. You never know what I’m gonna do. I can give you dramatic, and I can also soften it up a lil bit. But I’m definitely a dramatic girl hands down.”
It is clear as day that Makaylah exudes talent. She describes growing up always dancing and into gymnastics and cheerleading. While living on campus at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, she revealed her apartment was located in the middle of the gayborhood (a neighborhood occupied and frequented by many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people), which was where she was introduced to ballroom.
“I would sneak out and act like I’m going to the 7-Eleven, take the long way around, see everybody, sightsee. And one day I ran into somebody that I knew when I was little, his name was Chingy, and I never knew that he grew up to be gay. He turned out later being a close friend, and one day he was vogueing, and I was like, “oh, I can do that!’.”
Chingy and another friend of MaKaylah, Mariah West, later took her to a dance studio where she learned how to do her first and favorite element of vogue, the duckwalk.
(Gaye Tip: There are 5 elements of vogue: Hands, Catwalk, Duckwalk, Floor Performance, Spins & Dips)
“I started vogueing in 6-inch heels since day one. That’s why now, I do not know how to vogue in a flat. It’s definitely a bad night if you ever see me in a flat."
Chingy and Mariah took Makaylah to her first ball where she won grand prize for First Friday. Since then, Makaylah has become one of the highest paid voguers from cash prizes in ballroom.
Her success compounded, eventually allowing MaKaylah to perform at Trans Pride, open up for Ari Lennox, teach vogue classes, judge a mega ball in Russia, be featured in Calvin Harris and Sam Smith’s music video “Promises” alongside Winnie Harlow, and recently, choreographing for Megan Thee Stallion’s music video, “Don’t Stop” featuring Young Thug.
With all of your success, how were you even presented the opportunity to be on Legendary?
“I was a part of the House of Lanvin and they called us and asked us did we want to come shoot a sizzle [video reel], but we had to pay for our own flights. So, I went to LA and shot the sizzle, and then they were just waiting for a network to pick it up."
MaKaylah then went back home, and 2 years later, she got a call from one of the producers who asked if she was still interested in filming the show that upcoming January. Surprisingly, MaKaylah was not in charge of who was in her house on the show despite being an actual member of the House of Lanvin.
“Another major network picked it up at first, and then HBO Max picked it up because they was trying to water it down and HBO gave them more money. I loved that HBO picked it up, we needed it raw and uncut, and HBO said, ‘you can do whatever you want’.”
It was definitely raw. Even as I watching the show, it really looked intense up in there, like damn. I’m sure they could’ve made a reality show spinoff.
“Baby, ya’ll only seen half of it. If ya’ll would’ve seen everything and released it, they would’ve made a lot of money.”
Your stunts are unbelievable, on a scale of one to ten how hard is it to vogue in heels?
I make it look easy, but I’ll give it [an] 8.
Any tips for vogueing in high heels?
“Number 1, if you can’t walk in it, don’t try to vogue in it. I don’t want you breaking your heels, your neck or back. After that, I say bust a catwalk. It’s not hard, it’s just like walking. Now the duckwalk is where its at. Get you a wall, a dance beam, or hold on to something…hell if you in the hood (Laughs), hold on to a countertop and go into your duckwalk. I’m telling you, slowly, you’ll get better.”
Speaking of injuries, let’s talk about what happened after you jumped off the wall while battling Jeter on Legendary. Did you see a medical advisor on the show?
“Every time I vogue, my vogueing knots swell up and it starts to hurt. A vogueing knot, most of the dramatic girls gottem, it’s just nothing but extra skin on your knee, or some people get them on the top of their foot. In my case I got it on my knee. Me jumping of the wall and into that dip, it just irritated it. It happens, I know how to deal with it and fight through it. Legendary made sure I was 100 percent good.”
Oh, wow! A vogueing knot? I learned something new. Moving forward, it seems like you formed a good bond with Megan Thee Stallion while on the show, how was it first meeting her?
“The first time I met Megan she was like, ‘Ya’ll look rich!”. At the end of second ball, we hugged each other and she was like, “Makaylah imma put you in my video". After “Legendary” ended, she couldn’t really talk or follow us or anything until everything aired. So after, I got a call from Roc Nation and they said Megan wants you to be in her video. And then the whole commotion [with Tory Lanez] thing happened, so that put a pause on the video and they flew me back home. But, they flew me back out 2 months later and then we shot the video. She is very nice!”
It’s so great that she kept her word on that. I read that you and Honey Balenciaga had a lot to do with the duckwalk choreography in the video? Can you talk about that?
“For the ducking walking part, they wanted me and Honey to show them if they were doing it the right way because they didn’t want to disrespect anybody, or make it look like they mocking, so we gave them a lil’ choreography piece and made sure they’re hands were right, just so they didn’t look like they were disrespecting the community in any type of way.”
Alex Mugler from the show "My House" has talked about his experience choreographing for Rihanna and how he advised her that she must use voguers who live and breathe ballroom culture to make her project “authentic” rather than him simply teaching her dancers. In your opinion, how important is it for mainstream artists to use actual dancers from the ballroom community?
“Why not be authentic? I’m all for going to my community. I just know they get me. Plus guess what, if the choreographers was in our shoes they would call their friends. So, guess what imma do? Imma call my community and we gonna have a party.” (Laughs)
I saw you and Honey responding to negative criticism after you both were featured in Megan’s video. Have you been comfortable being in the limelight where people attack your identity?
“I’m actually comfortable with who I am. I’m comfortable with one day I’ll be a boy, and the next day I’ll be a girl. I’m living my Hannah Montana life.”
What advice can you give to people like you and our community who will be facing adversity?”
“Smile and say thank you. Say to them ‘you’re watching me and I’m glad that you gave me all that life’. They gonna talk about you till the day you die, so it’s nothing you can do about it and its okay.”
What are some tips you would give to the season 2 contestants of "Legendary" when competing on the show?
“Be patient, be very humble, be a team player, don’t be stubborn. Don’t try to be miss queen B because you have people on the team and ya’ll all have to work as one. Just take your time, and just have fun. That’s all I can really say. When the cameras get to you do not take that moment to be that bitch, don’t be bitchy. Be yourself from day one.”
Speaking of being a team player, tell me about you and Honey’s relationship. How close are you all?”
“That’s my lil sister. She used to date my lil brother. And one thing, I want people to stop thinking we’re rivals because we’re not rivals. I’ve been out way before Honey, but we definitely had a good battle and I love her. I will always love her down, but she wouldn’t be my rival. Our relationship is just crazy because looking at her I see myself. Honey been in the ballroom for like 2 years…her career just started, and its shooting!”
Now that ballroom is beginning to be more mainstream, what more opportunities do you hope to see for the community?
“I just want us to keep doing what we got to get on the big screens and show the straight world that we’re not monsters, you know. We’re human beings, we bleed just like how you bleed. Guess what? We’re all in the same world, why can’t we all get money together. Like c’mon it’s a respect thing.”
I’m curious to know, who are some of your influences? Or people who inspire you?
“Beyonce! Beyonce will always be my number 1. My daddy Dashaun Lanvin. I have so many leading ladies in my life with Eyricka being one of them but my two main mothers are Erica Kane and Brooke West. Leiomy was always [an] inspiration for me. Kassandra Ebony, rest in peace her soul. Yolanda, rest in peace her soul. I’ve always loved Malaysia Ebony, Shadeera, Katrina. It’s a lot more."
You can follow Makaylah here. Be sure to keep your eye out for her upcoming projects. Legendary was just the beginning! Check out Makaylah and Honey Balenciaga slay in Megan Thee Stallion's "Don't Stop" music video below: