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Day Of: Marquale Ashley Recounts The Drama of Nick Cave's Freedom Ball

Marquale Ashley knows the significance of ballroom culture. From its origins in the 1980’s (and prior) queer communities of NYC, to Ashley’s own upbringing in the much more conservative town of Jacksonville, Florida, the ritual of competing houses and celebrating subcultures is not something he takes for granted. Ashley is a queen in his own right, a forever member of the Milk fam, and one fiery performer.

It should come as no surprise, then, that his Vaquera-supplied patriotic performance at Nick Cave’s Freedom Ball (hosted at the Park Avenue Armory) earned him a first place in the “State of The World” category. He came, he walked, he conquered.

“At this point in New York, I can only go to one place to fully let go and feel liberated and have a good time and not be judged for dancing too much, or being too much of myself,” he says. “Back in the day, there was way more room for accepting weirdos. These days, the weirdos still have a look. Everyone trying to be different and weird looks the same todayeverybody has a clan mentality. So Nick was trying to create a space where everyone could have fun and be a weirdo, really feel the music again.”

On the day of the competition, photographer Andrew Boyle captured Ashley in all his ballroom glory just prior to the ball. “Day Of” is the zine that came out of this collaboration. Regardless of which ball is next, Ashley’s unapologetic self-expression is not just for himself—it’s for every kid who needs that extra reassurance that it’s ok to just do you.

“Something that’s important about highlighting the ballroom scene is showing these kids you can be way more than one thing. That is the super fantastic thing about having all the different categories: it doesn’t put people in the box. It does celebrate difference, and it celebrates queer, people of color and black kids in the street don’t have to follow just one storyline. It may not resonate with us, or the adults, but the kids are always watching and trust and believe it is resonating with them.”

Stay tuned to Milk for more DIY art.

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