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Nike Broadens Our Vision of Athleticism For Pride By Showcasing Mother Leiomy—the Wonder Woman of Vogue

Vogue, as an art form, didn’t start with the hit Madonna song. It started decades earlier in the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s, which sprung up in response to decades of racism in the ballroom scene going back as early as the 1930s, where white gay men wouldn’t let gay men of color participate, and if they did, they never won prizes. Right now, there is a reigning queen of vogue. She’s known as Mother Leiomy, and Nike has recognized her greatness during Pride Month.

In the ad above, which is part of Nike’s #BeTrue #Equality campaign, we see 30-year-old Leiomy Maldonado, A.K.A. Mother Leiomy (ballroom competitions are divided up into “houses” and each house has a “mother” or a “father” who guides newer members) head of The House of Amazon (perfect for the ‘Wonder Woman of Vogue’) being athletic as hell.

Marvel as you see her move, push, and contort her body in ways most people can’t. But more importantly, listen to the words of the poem being spoken in the spot by Precious Ebony. where she talks about how inspiring Leiomy is to an entire generation of “fallen angels” who never felt like they fit before coming to know of and be taught by Leiomy. Precious Ebony writes:

“Which angels gave you their wings?
Which skies have you flown?
When you reached the heavens, who was there to catch when you fell?
And did they tell you that you saved them too, like you saved me?
That they are mending their wings and holding them up to the sun, just to step back and watch you fly
So go ‘head Lei — fly.”

There are so many reasons why vogue exists primarily in the underground, not the least of which is that it remains a safe space for black and brown LGBTQIA youth, but that doesn’t mean it’s small. There are global competitions, and countries all over the world have their own houses and ballroom scenes. Voguing has also popped up in pop culture everywhere from the Madonna song and the award-winning documentary Paris is Burning, to Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” video (in which Leiomy was featured), to The Get Down in which Dizzee is introduced to the ballroom scene in 1970s New York.

Knowing that, it makes sense that a mainstream brand like Nike acknowledge the athleticism and inspiration brought about by this art form that has its roots entirely in the LGBTQIA community (as do many other cool things).

And now I’ll leave you with one of my favorite instances of Leiomy doing her thing at a vogue competition in Stockholm a few years ago when she was a judge. SHE DOES ALL THIS SHIZZ IN HEELS, THO! (Sorry, Nike!) Much respect, Mother Leiomy.

(via Mic, image: screencap)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former Mary Sue assistant editor from 2015-18. Teresa's returned to play in the TMS sandbox as a freelancer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.