In this series of “Ball Vocab” posts, the vocabulary and descriptions have been adapted from several excellent and comprehensive lists maintained by House of Enigma, and reorganized here for ease of use in the rehearsal room. Terms in red appear in the playtext. Please note that definitions and slang are, by nature, flexible, and may change in specificity or connotation depending on who you’re talking to. Lists are not comprehensive.
Whatever categories are offered, contestants must adhere to the requirements given, to avoid disqualification or low scoring (getting “chopped”) before an eagerly cheering and jeering audience (a vicious “Gong Show,” if you will). This brings about the question of “shade”: who’s throwing it and how much. Judges can be quite finicky when it comes to exact interpretation, and it’s up to the emcee or a head judge to settle disputes that may erupt from time to time. Generally, everyone’s a good sport, but you do get poor losers here and there.
For runway contestants, the tall division, regardless to gender
A category solely dedicated to the dexterity and coordination of ones “sleight-of-hand” arm and wrist movements; hand tricks and illusions
A class of ball competitors, usually 250 lbs. and over; “Luscious” for the ladies
Offers the widest range of creativity and display. From “Futuristic” to “Fantasy,” the objective is to always present an elaborate costume and effect. There are specific favorites like “Foil vs. Plastic,” but often the category is more general in scope.
The judges will be looking for someone who looks attractive, and healthy. Do not confuse this with sexiness, as there is a completely different category for that.
Butch Queen (BQ)
A gay male, ranging from “straight acting” to flamboyant
BQ in Drag
A gay male in women’s clothes that is not taking hormones. Some can actually pass for women, but this is not required unless specified by the category
Commentator vs. Commentator
Allows aspiring (and current) MCs to showcase their ability to hype the crowd
A category for aspiring designers and home sewers. “The garment must be made by YOU!”
Like Vogue Femme, with spins into dips only
A category to determine who has a classically beautiful face. Judges examine the eyes, the nose, the teeth, the lips and the structure of the face. While the category may call for an effect, ultimately the judges will only look at the face of a competitor, which should not have much makeup and should appear flawless.
Usually requires the efforts of 3 or more people per entry. You may have to create a skit, or put on some type of production in the theme of the event. Close attention must be paid to costume, music, props and overall showmanship. This is one of many categories that can bring a ballroom to its feet, when you consider the lengths that contestants will go to satisfy a frenzied crowd.
Male Body (Men or BQ)
“Muscular” (body builders) vs “Models” (not as beefy; magazine quality)
Male Face (Men or BQ)
“Masculine” (allows groomed facial hair) vs “Pretty Boy” (smooth and clear complexion). Sometimes “Face” is further divided between “Light and Lovely” vs “Brown and Lovely” vs “Dark and Lovely”
For runway contestants, the petite or short division; anyone shorter than male/female model industry standards
Male: Models vs. Muscular Body
Two separate categories, the later leans toward bodybuilding
Open To All (OTA)
Does not designate gender or persuasion, but you may have to meet other requirements, such as a specific prop or costume.
Role playing down to the smallest of details. For example, if the category is “FQ Realness,” all traces of one’s biological maleness must be virtually erased (or at least hidden). In contrast, “BQ Realness” requires complete camouflage of anything remotely perceived as “gay”: you appear to be a straight man. Realness With a Twist (Twister) – Judged on participants’ ability to blend in with heterosexuals, then returning in vogue
Requirements vary greatly, with contestants displaying home-sewn garments (“Designer’s Delight”) or high fashion ready-to-wear like Prada or Gucci (“Labels”). Sometimes the contestants are judged solely on their walking ability. In these instances, you are free to choose any outfit that will make you “feel it.” Some subcategories: European Runway – Often a butch-queen category, featuring effects seen in a European fashion show. American Runway – Similar to European Runway, featuring butch queens, trans men or Butches/Studs
Participants will do their best to tease, and titillate the judges. Some do so by stripping all their clothes off, others do it through erotic dancing, and some combine the two in order to attempt to win
• Not to be confused with drag, lip syncing, or posing (all separate categories)
• Stylized jazz dance created by the african american gay community, with its own separate divisions and requirements.
• A true voguer SEAMLESSLY combines the disciplines of a diverse range of movement: martial arts, jazz/modern dance, gymnastics and yoga, among others. Beyond this, there is still a particular execution that distinguishes vogueing from other dances. Structured around distinct hand and arm movements, the voguer must keep time with the beat of the music, as well as accentuate the various changes in the music. Improvisation is driven by the build-up and break-down of baselines, rhythms, sound effects and vocals.
• Starting out as a category called “Performance,” the dance took on the name “Vogue” during the late 70’s, when practitioners started borrowing ideas from the more extreme photo layouts of current fashion magazines.
A dance style that takes the femme queen technique and exaggerates it even further: pronounced hip movement, cha-cha-based footwork (often in stocking-feet for maximum slide), peppered with classic striptease gestures. Execution ranges from soft and dainty to dramatic and severe
A category created to test your sharp wit in the art of insults. Contestants are often made to sit in separate chairs and exchange turns at the mic to “roast” each other. Thin-skinned patrons need not apply! Also “Reading,” or “Deadly Daggers”
Women’s Face (Female or FQ)
“Painted” (allows makeup) vs “Unpainted” (no makeup)
Women’s Body (Female or FQ)
• “Luscious” (full-figured, but sexy) vs “Models” (swimsuit quality)
• “Shoplifting Models” vs. “Luscious” full-figured, but sexy)