Culture

The House Of Silky Is Queering Vivid

house of silky

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Watching the House of Silky at a ball is like experiencing pure queer euphoria. 

Birthed by queer and trans people of colour, Ballroom has been a place of resistance, liberation, joy, and power since the 1970s. Starting in Harlem, New York, it continues to provide a safe space and home to queer people across the globe. Ballroom took off in Australia in 2014 when the House of Slé was created by Bhenji Ra. They were the main House before Xander Khoury, Kitana, and Mira started the House of Silky. 

I’ve had the pleasure of watching the evolution of the House of Silky for the past few years at various events. From Balls to queer events, you know that if the House of Silky is there, you’re in for a good time. That’s why it was an honour to chat with House of Silky co-founder and mother Mira as the House prepares for their Grand Silky Ball at VIVID Sydney. 

Ky Stewart, Junkee: What inspired you to create the House of Silky?

Overall Mother Mira Silky: It came organically within the scene. In Ballroom we say 007, which means you’re not affiliated to a house, you’re not in a house or you’re your own agent. Me and Xander were 007s within the scene and were already training together at some warehouses. Just any kind of free space that we could find. And then we’d go to the club and then we’d tear it up on the dance floor and find new music and things like that. And so that was happening for like a year or two. The most prevalent House at the time was House of Slé. There was also House of Luna, but they will only come out here and there. They were quite a small house so House of Slé was the only more established family within the scene. They were grabbing all the prizes. They were throwing all the balls and we were like wait this is strange, we need to make some healthy competition within the scene. [So we said] ‘Why don’t we start a house?’

At the time, it wasn’t really clear that in Ballroom there’s two different scenes. Called the mainstream scene, which is all the houses we know and love: House of Xtravaganza and House of Ebony. They’re the mainstream scene and there’s also a kiki scene internationally which is more focused on youth. The mainstream scene can get very competitive and serious and the kiki scene takes care of the kids and makes sure everyone’s got jobs so we were like, ‘We’ll create this’. The kiki scene is what really stood out for us in terms of our values. We wanted to make sure that younger trans and queer people were being looked after in their journey. We spoke to Benji, who is really the only legend within Ballroom Australia who’s been officially deemed by the icons. She introduced us at a ball and we got her approval and we debuted and yeah it’s been nonstop since that moment, honestly.

I can imagine it would have been such a whirlwind experience being officiated by such a legend.

Absolutely. It was so good to have that validation. Because things get really competitive after that as well. So it was ‘now we’re in this together’. We’re shady on the floor but we can be cute and we’re our community. At the end of the day, we need to look out for each other. 

What does it mean to you to be a parent of the House of Silky?

It means everything honestly. Me and Xander have learned so much in the five years since starting the House and we’ve made mistakes and grown. I actually have so many different layers of respect for my own parents in some regards, and in how to navigate so many different members. We started with around three of us to now 20 of us and because we have chapters in different cities [we have] constant communication checkups. For me, parenting is about making sure that the members are all good outside of Ballroom before even pushing the kids to win grand prizes, get their costumes together, and all those kinds of things. My first priority is, do you have a job? Do you have a house, a roof over your head? How are you going with money? How are you going with your spirit? All those kinds of things. Because no one can focus or put their energy into the competition and the fantasy until the reality is cute.

How do you think young queer people are doing in this turbulent time? 

I’ve got a lot of thoughts. I actually think the younger gen have more access to information than I had in my early 20s or late teens. They’ve got a lot of the language, they’ve got a lot of access to information and it can be a strength or weakness because sometimes too much effort or thought is put into online. Sometimes they lack the actual lived experience. They understand the language before they actually have experienced it for themselves. But I have so much hope and excitement for the younger generation because they are given more of a platform than we did at the start in terms of the balls. I think the younger ones are really inspiring. As a parent, you’ve got to be really patient sometimes and see them eye to eye because there’s things to learn from the younger generation too.

How does it feel to have the House of Silky featured at VIVID? 

It’s such a privilege and so fabulous. At the same time, we feel like we gatekeep the scene a little bit just to protect a lot of language and things have been misused.here’s this borrowing between art and music, mainstream culture, fashion. We take from them, they take from us and there’s like this ongoing cycle that’s happening. 

Balls are expensive to throw and VIVID have been so gracious in helping us with production costs. We are so excited to throw this ball at Machine Hall. It’s such a stunning venue. I don’t think we’ve really had a ball in that kind of space before. Very industrial, very chic, very fashion, and the house loves the elevation of it all.

Speaking of pop culture borrowing from Ballroom and vice versa… Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour featured elements of Ballroom and Madonna has always taken inspiration from that culture. Have you seen more interest in Ballroom because of them? Do you think they’ve promoted a more authentic version of Ballroom?

I respect that they’re actually bringing out people from Ballroom [onstage]. We’re quite a small community. We have friends from Australian Ballroom who are on the Madonna tour at the moment. There’s one degree of separation with people who are on the Beyoncé tour. So all of that is really fab. Locally, sometimes people take the language and things like that and don’t understand it yet, but I’m not extremely offended by that. Things take time in an intricate, nuanced culture. Even people within Ballroom will cringe at themselves from their first year. People are constantly learning and it’s like Indigenous cultures where it’s information passed down from elders. There’s not sources online. You’re not going to really understand the language unless you connect with the international legends and people who birthed the scene overseas. 

There’s even moments in Heartbreak High of voguing and ballroom, which is so cool to see. 

You know there were plenty of Silkies in that episode. Benji was there, it was all the community from the scene. If it’s in a film or music video, it’s this three-minute moment of packaging for an audience who aren’t really immersed in the culture. So it’s fine. You’re not going to understand everything in those three minutes. But at least they’re representing people who are within the culture and it’s not people putting on a costume, doing some dance moves.

How can Australia better invest in the Ballroom scene or in queer culture generally?

Well, obviously, financially. Balls are expensive. For a ball, we’re bringing international legends and icons so we can grow and connect — we need to connect to the roots as well as create our own identity here. We have our own Indigenous history, our own migration, and there’s lots of different diasporas here, which is different to the States. 

As a spectator, there needs to be respect when entering the space. Step back when you need to and enjoy it. There’s people who need to chant who know the chants for the houses, they know who’s walking and the walkers need that support. My main concern is with the aftercare. The safety and care outside of Ballroom. Things like more trans housing, more talk and safety around drugs and mental health, and finding jobs. We’re always shouting out for any job openings and housing. So I think it would be fab to see some sort of union or funding that could help. I know it’s not a big thing. We’ve seen it done in the States, they have House Lives Matter, and they have support for people. I would love to see that happen in Australia. 

How can Ballroom provide a space for people looking for connection and safety?

I think Ballroom is an amazing moment for people to leave reality outside of the room. It’s a way to escape and actually experience joy and live your fantasy. It also pushes you because it’s an art form. If you’re performing and voguing, it’s a workout so it does allow you to get out of your head and get into your body and feel feminine. It’s a place that actually celebrates femininity for all genders. Also masculinity too but masculinity for people who are marginalised. 

What can people expect from the Grand Silky Ball? 

Black and brown excellence. We’ll be having an icon who must not be named right now. It’s packed with surprises, but expect to be absolutely gagged. We’ve got so many categories and cash prizes. We’ve been working on this every single day for the past few months. To be honest, we’ve been speaking about this since Covid. So you know she’s been brewing and the tea will be piping hot.

The Grand Silky Ball will take place at The Machine Hall for VIVID on June 8. 

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and Multimedia Reporter at Junkee. Follow them on Instagram or on X.

Image: VIVID