Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

FAF SWAG celebrates growth of Auckland’s Vogue scene with Legacy Ball

Alice Lolohea | Reporter/Director/Videographer

Strutting, spinning and serving some iconic looks; creatives across Tāmaki Makaurau spent many hours preparing for one of the biggest nights of the Auckland Arts Festival. 

The Legacy Ball is the crowning glory of an eight-year journey for FAF SWAG, the Queer Pacific Arts collective who introduced vogue ballroom to Aotearoa’s rainbow community in 2013.

The collective have been holding vogue balls and workshops around New Zealand, slowly growing the vogue scene here in Aotearoa.

“It’s basically just a form of expression for those who just needed to let it out on the floor,” says FAF SWAG artist and Mother of House of Aitu, Falencie Filipo.

“Ballroom is specifically for people of colour to be revered in a way… In general mainstream society, we don’t really get that many opportunities. So ballroom is the place where we feel like we’re revered in a certain way and celebrated.”

Each walker represents a House, a family of LGTBQ+ individuals united by their house theme. Several FAF SWAG artists lead these houses as parents, supporting their children in numerous ways.

“I felt like young people need some guidance and nurturing and support, and I’m happy to offer that,” says fellow artist and Mother of the House of Iman Jaycee Tanuvasa. “In a way where I enhance and support their talents, and then even more so, people that are disconnected from communities, and I feel like need to be connected and just to help them flourish.”

“And so for me, ballroom and my house is that gateway for them to be this community and just really find their authentic selves.”

The Legacy Vogue Ball was one of the biggest nights of this year's Auckland Arts Festival. Photo: FAF SWAG.
The Legacy Vogue Ball was one of the biggest nights of this year’s Auckland Arts Festival. Photo: FAF SWAG.

House of Coven-Carangi is supported by House Father Fang and House Mother Moe Laga.

For Fang, being a house parent means a lot of things.

“For me, it’s being the supportive person at the back of the group that just makes sure everyone’s all good. Checking on their looks, checking on their mental wellbeing, just making sure they’re all good.”

Many more houses have joined the Aotearoa ballroom scene since its inception, becoming safe spaces for queer youth to express their individuality, creativity and sexuality without fear of judgement or ridicule.

This isn’t always the case in their day to day lives. Many of the walkers still face abuse and discrimination in their workplaces, communities and their own families.

According to the Ministry of Justice’s Highly Victimised People report, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be victims of crime than heterosexual people, which is why the ballroom scene is such an important staple for the queer community.

“It’s a safe space,” Falencie reiterates.

“It’s empowering them to know that they can go anywhere, because some people come from dysfunctional families, and this being a house, we’re like family. So we support each other, you’ve got a family. It’s your second family. If you’ve disowned, we are your family.”

Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

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