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Gay and Transgender Divas Battle for Stardom in Bay Area's Ballroom Scene 

Wednesday, Feb 6 2008

Page 5 of 5

That was all the provocation needed, and the fight was on: Spectators lunged up on the runway, while others stampeded to the ballroom's edges. Maliyha was hustled up onto the stage ("because I'm known to fight," as she would later explain). Security men streamed onto the runway to separate the brawlers. Skirmishes erupted down on the floor, overturning two tables, the goody bags of condoms and dental dams skittering across the floor.

Jack Mizrahi channeled his stern authority through the mike, his apparent disappointment called into question by his other hand holding a camera recording the chaos for posterity, possibly for YouTube. "The ball is over!" he shouted. "Thank you. We are constantly labeled as a subculture community because of things like this. Get your trashy asses out!" The crowd eventually obeyed his demands and trickled out into the rain, while the Mizrahi house members grouped around the stage. Jack told them, "The revolution of this house starts in Oakland tomorrow night at 5 p.m." at a house meeting. West Coast chapter father Duke Mizrahi screamed, "The way you motherfuckas carried on tonight ... is fucked up! It's fucked up! It's fucked up!" He continued like a profane broken record until Jack calmed him down.

Starr missed all the chaos she had predicted. After she went outside to console an upset friend, the security guards wouldn't allow her back in, a parting insult to stack up with the night's others. Back in the Castro by 2 a.m., she was already planning to head home — to New York. "I'm really sad about how this ball turned out," she said.

By the next afternoon, her gloom had morphed into anger. The ball "was a piece of shit. Someone who's walking virgin vogue shouldn't be chopped, period. Unless they're just beyond ridiculous, but nobody there was beyond ridiculous, so I don't know why they were expecting to just see the next hottest thing."

Though Starr previously had said that criticism just made her work harder, this particular slam was now making her condemn the ball scene on this entire side of the United States. "I'm done with the ballroom scene out here on the West Coast," she said. "On the East Coast, you don't see a virgin voguer chopped." She figures ballroom stardom obviously cannot happen here, if it's a fixed game before she's even really started.

So Starr says she's booked her plane ticket for next week, arranging to stay at a friend's place. Her mom back in Virginia has her own hopes for Starr.

"Before all this gay stuff came out, he wanted to be a lawyer," Leketia Christian says. "When he was in school, he was making straight As. ... He's focused it all on gay issues. He lost concentration as far as what he wanted to be in life.

"He's probably going to be gay for the rest of his life," she continues. "I can't change that. I accept that now. But I wish he'd get off the hormone shots and go back to school."

Starr has looked into starting social work classes at a community college later this spring, but the estrogen shots aren't stopping anytime soon. First stop in New York: the club where all the ballroom kids practice. Wing it from there.

(Click to see a slideshow from the story.)

About The Author

Lauren Smiley


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