Jameela Jamil vs. The Ballroom: All the tea on ‘Legendary’
Paris is Burning introduced us to the world of ballroom. Pose got us up close and personal with the everyday drama of the houses. Now, HBO Max is doing the next natural evolution: turning it into a reality competition series. They missed the memo about not pillaging this artform for a mainstream audience, but we’ll get to that.
Legendary will give ballroom stars a chance to vogue their way to a trophy and a cash prize like normal, except with a much larger audience. Pairing up competitors into new houses for the show, Legendary will bring an even larger audience to the world of ballroom than Pose has.
Some recent casting announcements have drawn early controversy to Legendary though. It was initially reported by Deadline that The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil, a woman with absolutely no ties to ballroom, was going to MC the competition. While it’s been corrected that she is just a judge, all the announced judges except Leiomy Maldonado also have no ties to ballroom (Megan Thee Stallion and Law Roach).
With this new casting announcement has brought a lot of new information and controversy to Legendary, so let’s separate tea from fact and get the nasty on the ballroom competition series.
From Queer Eye to the ballroom
Creators of both the original Queer Eye and the Netflix reboot Michael Williams, David Collins, and Rob Eric are behind Legendary, producing through their company Scout Productions. So you already know the show is going to be a mixed bag when the guys who made Queer Eye get involved.
Showrunners Jane Mun and Josh Greenberg have worked on a variety of short lived competition shows like Boy Band, The Sing-Off, and The Next Big Thing. At least the competition aspect of Legendary should be solid and offer a fair competition.
The judges are a mess
Most likely, the name you’ve heard tied to this show more than anything is Jameela Jamil. The Good Place star was incorrectly announced as the MC of the show, and on Twitter Jameela corrected the piece, stating that she’s just a judge. But even with this correction, the main judges have people disappointed in HBO for not casting people actively involved in ballroom.
While the actual MCs, Dashaun Wesley, and DJ MikeQ, have a background in ballroom, with Wesley even having guest roles on Pose, there has been a lot of outrage online about people who are involved in ballroom getting passed up for roles. Trace Lysette’s tweet about interviewing and being skipped over was one of the most retweeted in regards to the issue, especially after Jameela’s tone-deaf response.
As of right now, no one has stepped down from their role in the show. Thanks to the Pose comparison many people have been making, Indya Moore spoke out in support of the show. She also condemned people acting as if the Pose cast are the experts on the subject of ballroom, encouraging them to research and look into true ballroom stars.
Jameela defending her space
Jameela took the brunt of the hate for this, as she is the one who is most outspoken on Twitter normally, plus people were assuming she was the MC thanks to HBO’s incorrect press release. Even after she corrected the news stating she was just a judge, people were still upset that a non-queer person was invading a space created by black queer people.
Jameela’s sexuality was called into question, as some people remember her discussing it while remaining vague. Jameela ended up feeling forced to come out as queer finally because she was being attacked as a non-LGBTQ person taking up space in Legendary. Even her sexuality announcement drew criticism as people felt that she was trying to do everything in her power to justify her role in the show.
Due to the backlash, Jameela’s last tweet was a note confirming that she is queer, and feeling upset that so many people were attacking her over the issue. Jameela also noted that she’ll be taking time off Twitter until the backlash subsides because it was affecting her mental health greatly. She also confirmed that filming for Legendary began this week, so we’ll see if the show makes it to air.
Is Legendary still going to air?
HBO has yet to comment on the controversy, nor admit their press release about Legendary was wrong, so the show is going forward as planned. If HBO does decide to acknowledge its controversy, the worst thing they could do is cancel the show and not show off the ballroom scene at all.
HBO Max launches in May, and Legendary is set to premiere on the new streaming service by the end of 2020.