Vogue Nights Jozi, a celebration of queer identities and ballroom culture Jozi style.
Inspired by a vision of inclusivity and self-expression, the creator of Vogue Nights Jozi, DJ Lelowhatsgood, put together the definitive Johannesburg ballroom experience. A space for alternative queer South Africans.
Vogue Nights Jozi was created as a response to the lack of safe and affirming spaces for queer and trans individuals in the city’s nightlife scene.
Drawing inspiration from the growing ballroom scenes blossoming globally, especially in New York, Lelowhatsgood wanted to create something similar but with a distinctly South African vision of inclusivity and queer self-expression.
Lelowhatsgood included local, diverse music like Gqom and South African House during Vogue Night Jozi to promote a sense of South African LGBT identity. Baile Funk, Jersey Club, Ballroom, and Footwork are just a few sets that feature music from the international ballroom scene.
The concept proposed by Lelowhatsgood began to develop a following. As soon as the announcement was made on social media, there was a flurry of curiosity from people all around, and the incident even made headlines in some foreign publications. People were familiar with the concept of ballrooms but had never actually visited one.
When it comes to post-apartheid South Africa, trends, cultures, subcultures, and selfexpressionism, things keep shifting, but when it comes to creating an absolute, completely safe space for a community to flourish, you have to create not only a space but an entirely new ecosystem in order to re-affirm to deliver and so for them to deliberate in the art form of ballroom culture.
While Lelowhatsgood draws the foundation from NYC ballroom culture, his name has become a landmark of expression itself. It only takes a second to remember that such a thing was exactly what a queer or non-queer, someone somewhere, needed to keep going, to keep living, to be fully embraced. Lelowhatsgood becomes that channel.
in a world where queer individuals still resort to things like suicide, a movement of this magnitude taking into account geography, race, and culture, Lelowhatsgood arrives at the exact time when with full honesty is what South Africa needed in the said sector, we all need to have a sense of community, which is what defines us, what is what defines a country, and influence its story.
Vogue Night Jozi’s inclusive message transforms spaces and gets the community. The city is rethinking what “inclusivity” looks like—offering solidarity, bodily autonomy, and the right to safe, uninhibited self-expression through dance.
Lelowhatsgood says, “I realized my purpose a while ago, and that’s to be a vessel to create platforms, opportunity, and springboards for others.” Lelo is making good on that purpose, helping those in the queer community launch and excel at their creative ideas.
Ballroom nights offer to belong in a world ruled by white cis-heteronormative ideals, where non-conformity can be dangerous. The opportunity to find a family for the first time. That sense of giving a voice to people who would otherwise not speak up.
Voguing culture has spawned subcultures and houses in a few nations, with France being one of the most powerful. Still, in the category of an individual arriving at a critical fixed point in time, Lelowhatsgood gets all 10s across the board.
At Vogue Nights, Jozi and, in their writing, Lelo makes room to ensure that people are heard and represented in much more significant ways. Vogue Nights Jozi and spaces like this allow trans and gender-diverse people the opportunity to speak their truth in their way.
The twenty-first century is all about self-expressionism. Pop culture feeds it by the second, and it only gets better and better, but when location is taken into account, like in this case, each member and attendee at Jozi’s, the word fearless drops on them loose because you come to Lelowhatsgood event to transcend.
There is no way but up for DJ Lelowhatsgood and Vogue Nights Jozi.
This article is a collaboration with music traveling journalist Troy Bronson for God of Sound.™