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August 31 2014

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New York Is Burning

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Anyone who has seen the seminal documentary Paris Is Burning or tried to “strike a pose” like Madonna is familiar with voguing—the gender-bending posing that flourished during the late eighties and early nineties with New York’s “ball culture.” Last night, W Hotels paid tribute to the “legendary” underground movement by putting on its own Love Hangover Ball—a voguing competition—in support of amfAR and World AIDS Day on December 1. Hosted by Kelly Osbourne, the walk-off drew a crowd of club kids and fashion fixtures, including models Karlie Kloss, Anja Rubik, Anne Vyalitsyna, and Lily Donaldson, and designers like Richard Chai, Zac Posen, and Prabal Gurung.

“I used to go to all the voguing balls back in the day,” said Simon Doonan, who judged the event alongside a panel that included Fergie, Mickey Boardman, and Jason Wu. Wearing a fur coat and a necklace constructed out of Liberace charm bracelets, Doonan reminisced about the old days. “I knew all those people and houses: the Xtravaganzas, the House of Dorian Corey, the Mizrahis. The level of style and preparation that went into the balls is beyond description. Drag queens would still be painting on their lashes at 10 p.m., and the balls would take hours and hours, going until 3 or 4 in the morning. Hopefully that won’t be the case tonight.” W‘s style director Edward Enninful was also a judge and voguing veteran. “I’m a huge fan of voguing. Growing up, it was a very important part of all our lives,” he said. “It’s a great art form. It’s glamorous. It’s fashion. I think the new generation is really inspired by what it represents.”

Speaking of the new generation, Donaldson and Kloss were just babies during the fad’s heyday, but were quickly swept up. By the end of the performance, both girls were pounding their fists on the makeshift runway, finger-wagging, and yelling, “Work!” When asked to compare her posing abilities to the divas onstage, Donaldson enthused, “These girls are on a completely different level. I wouldn’t stand a chance against them.” Perhaps Pat McGrath summed up the evening best: “Drama, drama, drama. Fierce, fierce, fierce. Realness.” Amen.

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