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'Legendary' Review: This HBO Max show peeks into strong family bonds of the LGTBQ ball culture

The yet to be launched show has already seen its set of controversies
UPDATED MAY 18, 2020
(HBO Max)
(HBO Max)

'Legendary', a ballroom-themed show, also an HBO Max original, will release on May 27, 2020, the same day when the streaming site, HBO Max, is launched. The trailer of the show is out and it's every bit of what the show's name suggests: Legendary.

A voiceover is heard shedding light on the subculture while a montage of what's about to go down in the upcoming docu-series plays on the screen. The trailer confirms the show will serve upbeat 'voguing' music, high-fashion costumes as well as a lot of hair whips and death-dropping. Here we tell you what the trailer doesn't, giving you an idea of what to expect from the show. 

It's common knowledge that the show will see eight ballroom houses competing for the trophy. The show will comprise nine ball themes and at the end of each episode, one house will be shown the exit. The winning house will walk away with $100,000, the highest winning amount ever in ballroom competition. 

Participating houses include House of St Laurent, House of West, House of Ebony, House of Ninja, House of Gorgeous Gucci, House of Escada, House of Lanvin and House of Balmain. Each house consists of five members, one of whom is the father or mother of the house protecting, mentoring and leading their respective packs. 

Out of the many good things about the show was it highlighting the inclusivity of the ballroom culture. The House of Ninja team's all five members are cisgender women and some of the members are Asian. Even though ball culture was born in Harlem in the 1920s within the Black and Latino communities, the show highlighted the fact that the subculture is for people of all gender, orientation and color. 

Someone in an episode also says, "You know there are rival gangs? We are rival houses. They (gangs) take it to the streets, we take it to the floor," a reminder that the community doesn't believe in violence but proving their worth with their mettle. 

Another thing the show does very well is, bring to the fore the tight bond between the members of each house. For example, Torie from the House of Balmain lost his mother to lung cancer. After his mother died, the House's father Jamari and the rest of the members helped him from straying to the dark side. He also revealed that his mother, as part of her will, left Jamari a card, thanking him for having Torie's back at all times.

The show is not all about sob stories and struggles but also has its happy moments lined up. Highlighting happy moments is as important as telling stories of struggles and the show strikes a great balance in that respect. 

Actress-activist Jameela Jamil, rapper Meghan Thee Stallion, celebrity stylist Law Roach (styled Ariana Grande, Jessie J, Celine Dion), and 'The Wonder Woman of Vogue' Leiomy Maldonado make up for the judges' panel. Each week one guest judge will also join the panel. Voguing legend Dashaun Wesley will be seen holding the emcee position on the show. 'Legendary' is filmed inside a studio however makers have not disregarded the street aspect and there will be a studio audience surrounding the stage from all ends and will be seen cheering and hooting for their favorite house/performer. 

Watch the trailer below:


Controversies surrounding the show

Jameela Jamil's involvement

Jameela Jamil's involvement with the show had been a topic of contention. Earlier in February this year, Jamil was announced as the MC and the host of the show sparking instant backlash. The LGBTQ community didn't take the announcement laying down and argued that even though the actress has been an ally, she's still straight and not a proper representative of ballroom culture. 

In response to the same, Jamil came out as 'queer'. However, things had gone pretty far by then. Trace Lysette, a prominent name in the LGBTQ and the ball community too had called out the show by then. 

In a tweet, she stated, "Lol. I interviewed for this gig. As the mother of a house for nearly a decade, it’s kind of kind blowing when ppl with no connection to our culture gets the gig. This is not a shade towards Jameela, I love all that she stands for. If anything I question the decision-makers". Jamila later clarified that she and Lysette had auditioned for separate roles. She also contradicted the HBO announcement and said her position was only of a judge and not an emcee. HBO too released a press statement clarifying Jameela's role in the series and announced that Wesley will be emceeing the show. 

Micheal Rice accuses HBO of theft

Best known for his acclaimed film, PartyBoi, a documentary about methamphetamine addiction in the Black and Latino queer community, Micheal Rice claimed ownership of his work. In an interview with Star-Revue, Rice mentioned that he was the one to pitch the show to HBO executives. Named 'Drop' initially, Micheal's pitch was turned down mentioning "there's not enough room" for another LGBTQ show with a ballroom theme. 

"All of a sudden, I started seeing promo with the cast of Drop, same Ballroom series, the same roles, except now it was being called Legendary. Representation is just step one, black people also have the right to tell and control our own stories, they shouldn’t be stolen,” he added. 

Rice is currently seeking legal counsel and maintains that "I wish the best for everyone, but this fight is about making sure black artists especially get protection from predators and culture vultures.”