Updated: May 4
West Coast Mother Calypso Jeté and her kids from the Balmain house introduced vogueing, ballroom culture and runway confidence to Valley College.
By Natalie Metcalf, Valley Life Editor
For the first time in Valley College history, ball culture was introduced to Monarchs. The long running tradition gave students an opportunity to feel confident by strutting the runway, voguing, spinning and dipping.
The Rainbow Pride Center hosted “Seminar Slay '' on April 27, where students, faculty and staff competed and learned about ball culture, an African American and Latino LGBTQIA+ underground scene. The House of Balmain, a ballroom house which was founded in 2015, came to campus to teach Monarchs how to vogue and walk the runway. Voguing consists of hands, catwalk, duckwalk, floor performance, spins and dips. The dimmed lights, loud dance music, shimmering disco ball and balloons gave participants a look into ballrooms today. The “mother” of the Balmain house, Calypso Jeté and her “kids” showed support and love to attendees, or what mother Jeté called students–– “virgins.”
“What inspired me to keep doing it everyday is my kids,” said Jeté, in reference to the fellow members of The House of Balmain. “I deal with a lot on a daily basis. But just knowing I have my kids and I’m teaching them how to be young adults and how to progress and perform is all that matters to me.”
Jeté competed in the reality television show “Legendary” on HBOmax. It is a voguing competition, which explores ball culture. The west coast mother won in the first season of the show. Jeté described herself as a femme queen. In traditional ball culture a femme queen is a transgender woman.
Before the dancing began, the house mother explained traditional ball terminology. A legend is someone who has mastered their performance and likely has won some competitions. The second category is a statement, meaning a dancer is still learning the art of vogue but is close to becoming a legend. The last section in ball culture is a star, meaning there is a prodigy among the group.
A competition went underway, and the winner, women’s basketball player Taylor Whitfield, received $100 from Jeté herself. The second place winner won a gift card to the campus bookstore. All participants of the vogue-off were given Valley reusable water bottles.
“Our coach told us to come by and check this out,” said Whitfield, after the event. “It was fun, it drained my energy, but I learned new things.”
The athlete mastered traditional vogue moves. Jeté’s “kids,” other members of the house of Balmain, acted as judges to Monarchs brave enough to compete.
Last semester, Jeté performed for The Pride+ Club holiday mixer. Natalie Guerrero, the head counselor and coordinator of the Rainbow Pride Center, has planned and executed numerous events. Over the course of these events she has seen an increase of student engagement.
“I wanted to highlight some of the wellness and self esteem for LGBTQ students,” said Guerrero. “The vogue scene promotes a way for students to be themselves.”