House of Latex Ball Strutting into Midtown Saturday

By Jill Colvin on August 19, 2011 6:15pm 

Participants struck a pose during last year's ball.
Participants struck a pose during last year's ball.
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Luna Ortiz

MIDTOWN — Several thousand dancers, models and glam-lovers will "vogue" their way down the runway this Saturday night for the 21st annual House of Latex Ball.

In addition to competitions for dance, modeling and voguing, the gala event at the Roseland Ballroom on West 52nd Street, sponsored by Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), is meant to draw attention to the fight against HIV/AIDS, with free condoms and HIV testing available through the night.

“Latex is a big deal in New York,” said Luna Ortiz “Khan,” of Washington Heights, a community health specialist at GMHC and the father of the famous “House of Khan,” who described the ball as the most competitive, most glamorous and most photographed in the world.

"Drag houses” and “drag balls” emerged as a subculture in the LGBT community in the early 1920s, and hit their peak during the 70s and 80s, when there were 25 major houses competing in New York, and hundreds of balls across the country.

The House of Latex was formed in 1989 specifically to fight the AIDS epidemic that was crippling the community.

Ortiz, 39, said the balls are open to anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and said those who’ve never been “should expect what you’d see when you go to a Las Vegas show. There’s a lot of glamor, a lot of beauty," he said. "It’s a big fashion extravaganza.”

He said many participants spend months designing their outfits ahead of the competition. This year’s event will feature the theme "A Night at the Latex Museum," with six separate sections inspired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The night will also serve as a tribute to Arbert “Latex Evisu” Santana, a founding member of the House of Latex, who died in March.  

Doors for the ball are set to open at 7 p.m., with performances beginning at 9 p.m. and competitions kicking off at 9 p.m. and lasting through the night. Admission is $20. More information on tickets is available here.

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