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Celebrating Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Community

Supreme Imperium Shares The Beauty And Grace Of Ballroom

Take a peek into the Toronto ballroom scene…

STORY, CREATIVE DIRECTION AND STYLING: Aram Eginliyan
PHOTOGRAPHER: Colin Gaudet
MODEL, HAIR AND MAKE UP: Supreme Imperium

In a time when drag has become part of our mainstream day-to-day lives and queer references and culture is seen in everything from ad campaigns to television, it comes as no surprise that the once underground scene that was ballroom and vogueing is also on its ascent to popularity. Shows like Pose and Legendary have given the world a peek into the world of a community that didn’t always feel accepted in the mainstream and society. 

Ballroom was born out of a need to be accepted, respected and supported by other Black and Hispanic queer community members. In 2022, it’s an art form of presentation that encapsulates the idea of living your wildest and truest fantasies that the regularities of the mundane world would never allow you to live.

In Canada, we’re fortunate enough to have a thriving local scene of both Kiki and mainstream ballroom culture that invites all members of the queer community to come and hit the floor to live their most authentic fantasies. Houses formed by members of the scene – often led by ballroom’s legends, statements and stars – become safe havens for their family members and also become the starting point for walkers to hone their skills in their respective categories. They cover categories in everything from Performance (where vogueing both old and new takes the stage in a form of self-expressive dance unique to the ballroom community) to Face (where your beauty takes centre stage and your face becomes the spotlight of your inner and outer beauty), all the way to Bizarre (where the weirder, the better is encouraged to be the motivation to hit the runway in adornment only imaginable in the most creative and truly bizarre of minds). It’s all with the goal of collecting your 10s across the board from the judges, which will then land you in a spot for that final battle for the trophy and cash prize.

With the scene growing faster than it ever has in Canada, what better time to find out if ballroom is the place for you and your queen identity? I sat down with Supreme Imperium, the up-and-coming statement in the scene who in just one short year has swept trophies across the board both nationally and internationally. Here’s her take, as a reigning shining light in the Toronto scene, to help you understand what goes behind the walk and what kind of confidence it takes to hit the ballroom floor!

ABOVE: BALACLAVA: Constructed by stylist; EARRINGS: U3

What drew you to ballroom and eventually start walking balls? 

A friend had introduced me to the scene by way of YouTube ballroom clips, and from then on I was hooked! The creativity and unlimited potential of all who walked is what captivated me!

Why do people choose ballroom names, and what made you choose Supreme?

I am learning the scene, like most newcomers and even vets who have been in the scene, so I won’t pretend to know the true meaning behind why names are chosen. I can assume that names are chosen because so much of our lives have been decided for us and this is a rare opportunity when we can decide for ourselves who we are, and who we want to be! Supreme has been my self-proclaimed name for over half a decade. To be supreme is “to be extraordinary” by definition. I enjoy presenting as such to myself and to the world. Ballroom is no different and I will continue to choose to be Supreme.

From sister to sister we know it’s not easy putting yourself out there to be judged when you walk. What did you feel the first time you hit that floor? 

The nerves were REAL! But the excitement to display my own creative spin on best dressed definitely took over. I also felt pride in knowing that what I delivered melded fashion together with an experience!

ABOVE: ENIM CHAIN JACKET: U3; ONE SHOULDER DAYSUIT: Studio; BOOTS: L’intervalle

You, being the goddess you are, walk multiple categories. What’s your favourite to walk, and why? 

My favourite category to walk recently has been face! I’ve always judged my imperfections so harshly, and walking face has positively challenged me to embrace my features and my skin and to better care for myself.

For those who have never attended a ball and want to start being seen at the functions, what word of advice do you have?

1. Confidence is your best accessory! 2. Execution is equally as important as just meeting what a category calls for! Those two things are universal for ANY walker. If you’re not feeling your affect, and the nerves take hold of you more than readiness and excitement, it will be written all over your face!

How would you describe house culture and being in the House of Imperium? 

I would describe house culture as a vulnerable and tight-knit setting. Typically you see your family on a weekly basis, so it is only natural that from there you grow to love them like you would a biological family. They motivate you, help you to improve and hone your craft! With them you can be vulnerable! For many, a “house” is the home they’re not able to have on a day-to-day basis. Being in the House of Imperium has taught me that if there’s a place where I can be my truest self, it is with them.

What’s your favourite category to watch when you attend a function? 

My favourite category to watch would be performance! I am GAGGED every time I see what moves and combinations walkers can create on a whim! It’s inspiring.

For those who don’t know, what’s the difference between the Kiki scene and mainstream scenes? 

The two can sometimes blend together, but from my knowledge to date: the Kiki scene is where you put on those training wheels! It’s where you get a feel for a mainstream ball on a more attainable level. The standard for how you rock an effect is still there, but with an air of lighthearted energy. Now mainstream is BLUNT! You can’t just “bring it” in any old garment – there needs to be a show, a story behind your look! The effort and presentation needs to be seen, or best believe, it’s a “chop” and there is zero chance of you battling it out on the floor amongst an equally talented competitor. After all, a win isn’t as sweet if you don’t get to battle! Essentially, Kiki is the little leagues and mainstream is the big leagues!

ABOVE: JACKET & EARRINGS: U3; DAYSUIT: Studio; BLOUSE: H&M Studio; SHOES: Alexander Wang; PURSE: Microdose

What does ballroom mean for your queer identity? 

Ballroom has given me the opportunity to be surrounded by other queer folk. It has given my queer identity the space to loudly and boldly blossom without limitation. I can be as boisterous as I want and as meek as I please with no set expectations. That kind of freedom is priceless.

You’ve just celebrated your one-year anniversary in ballroom and you’ve made quite a splash in that short time, sweeping trophies both locally and internationally. What’s the Supreme secret to success when it comes to walking (and winning!)? 

I wish I could say there was a formula to securing a win! But earlier I mentioned confidence and execution. Those were the two key components that I had to nourish and foster after every loss so that I could win. I had to sit with my critiques from the judges and re-watch footage to see where I could improve. To win takes nerve! Feel it! Have it! Then take all of that energy and WALK, baby! You just might leave with a trophy!


ARAM EGINLIYAN is a Toronto-based wardrobe stylist, style writer and co-owner of Toronto’s The Fashion Hotline. A fashion chameleon and lover of all things fashion and luxury, he can often be seen playing with highs and lows in fashion, mixing and matching local vintage gems with high-end street style.

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