Voguing and ballroom culture bubbled up from New York City’s queer black and Latino spaces to the surface of the mainstream over decades, gaining visibility via pop influences from Paris Is Burning to Madonna’s “Vogue,” RuPaul’s Drag Race to Pose. But far and wide, communities outside the U.S. only now are getting their lives on the ballroom floor, discovering and reshaping the culture of houses, balls, queens, mothers, and children in their own image, wherever they may be. Queer streaming service Revry’s new anthology docuseries The Category Is… (★★★☆☆) intends to capture the ever-expanding world of voguers, drag, and house kids by offering an intimate glimpse at LGBTQ communities around the globe, with each season dedicated to a different city.
Season one, set in Mexico City, premieres on Friday, Feb. 7, and introduces viewers — in eye-opening, entertaining, bite-size episodes, none running longer than ten minutes — to the fabulous found family that is the House of Mamis. Formed in 2017 by House Mother Mendoza, the Mamis — boys, girls, and gender nonconforming — are a ragtag crew of unique and diverse personalities. At such brief lengths, the episodes don’t develop and play out substantial drama for the camera, nor do we meet any cast beyond house members like Mendoza, Dalia, Athenas, Overkill, and the fierce queen who’s the focus of episode four, Negraconda.
Series creators Ocean Vashti Jude and Lauren E. Zubia Casalda might have done more to craft a season through-line, but these episodes still tell a vital story simply by listening. The Mamis tell facets of familiar tales about pain and rejection, and living their truth in wigs and painted nails, but with the fear of walking alone at night. We can see how they find security being together in public spaces, as they illustrate the values of their familial bond through a shared devotion to voguing, dipping, and dancing. Director of photography Andres Solorzano beautifully conveys the movement, as house members Rio and PonyBoy break down what a dancer hopes to bring to the ballroom floor.
The Mamis train like a ballet company in the studio where Mendoza also teaches classes. While House Mother worries about her children’s safety and success out in the streets, and having enough money for food and rent, Rio, Pony, and Negraconda dance through vibrant video montages, gorgeously edited by Jude and Casalda. Often the wicked beats of Mexican-American dance music artist B11ce, providing the show’s soundtrack, hit harder than the Mamis’ voguing. But that’s no shade, because the beats hit just right, and the show soundly does its part to put Mexico City’s burgeoning ballroom community on the map. Whether The Category Is… alone warrants a subscription to queer-owned and operated Revry — at a cost of either $59.99 a year, or $6.99 per month — the series certainly seems worth taking the streaming service up on its offer of a free trial.
The Category Is…Mexico City is available for streaming on Revry, premiering Friday, Feb. 7. Visit www.revry.tv.
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