"Ladies, gentlemen and genderqueers" exclaims Dashaun Wesley as host and emcee for the new ballroom culture reality-competition show Legendary, on HBO Max.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, he came out at 14 and visited Christopher Street in the West Village often while growing up. He described it as a place where he could be himself as an out gay man. The pier there was where he first saw vogue battles, inspiring him to begin competing, eventually earning the title as King of Vogue.
Fans of America's Best Dance Crew will recognize him as a member of Vogue Evolution. He played Shadow Wintour on the FX series Pose and appeared on the big screen for Magic Mike XXL.
Brought to life by Scout Productions, Legendary is a competition show where different houses perform for judges to take home a grand prize of $100,000. The judging panel consists of Law Roach, Jameela Jamil, Leiomy Maldonado and Megan Thee Stallion.
Windy City Times: Had you emceed in the past before Legendary?
Dashaun Wesley: When I found ballroom, I was a competitor in clubs with a fake ID, tagging along with my friends. I always wanted to use my voice. I have a nice voice, not to toot my own horn here. I grabbed the mic for the first time ever in 2003. From that point forward, I never let it go.
WCT: Is it a lot of freestyling?
DW: Yes, directly on the spot. However you feel, you call it. You have to flip it around and make it work for the crowd.
WCT: Were you nervous about being a commentator on Legendary?
DW: To be honest, I practiced before the show. Everyone gets nervous because we don't know how it will be shot or how we will be seen. As a ballroom performer, you don't think you can go out there and it will be easy peasy, but you have to think positive.
WCT: You must have won trophies in the past with the name King of Vogue.
DW: Yes, gawd. In Georgia, one of the highest performance categories for $5,000 went to vogue, so I am the highest paid voguer out there.
WCT: Talk about the creation of Legendary.
DW: It started with Scout Productions: David Collins, Rob Eric and Michael Williams, who came to us with the idea and had won Emmys in the past for Queer Eye. At first, I was going to be a competitor on the show. I am a house parent as well with the House of Lanvin. When we shot the pilot for the show, I was on there with my house members.
This was two years ago, they eventually spoke to me about being the emcee and I was glad to accept the position.
WCT: What are your thoughts on the judging panel of Legendary?
DW: I love how the judges have their own opinions and views. That is how it is in the actual scene. The judges come dressed up and sit to watch the competitors.
Leiomy is a person of experience and a legend in the ballroom culture. Momma don't play no games at all! Megan Thee Stallion sees things from a neutral point of view. Jameela is the caregiver and Law gives the tough love.
WCT: Talk about the moment when the audience turned against guest judge Dominique Jackson on episode three.
DW: That was the full ballroom experience, where the crowd didn't agree with a judge. They will yell at a judge and the judge is there to do a job. Dominique's reaction was so real and fab at that moment.
WCT: DJ MikeQ handles the music?
DW: Yes and MikeQ has been in this just as long as I have. He creates his own tracks. The music is not all about dance, but music plays a part as far as communication.
Ballroom is not just about voguing. It's about so many different categories.
WCT: There is a lot of diversity on Legendary, but what are your thoughts on the all-cis girl group House of Ninja? I know you are a big fan of their inspiration, Benny Ninja.
DW: In conversations about ballroom cultures, you will hear a lot about the Black and Latinx community. This show is a light that there are other parts to our communities. We have categories for trans men, trans women, gay men [and] drag queens; straight men can walk, too. I think it's important because there are women out there that want to participate in ballroom.
WCT: There are some touching stories on Legendary. Has there been one that meant a lot to you?
DW: Every time I hear a story I want to cry. These are true stories that people should connect with. Our rights are free, but there are a lot of things to go for and achieve. Legendary shows what's happening at the moment. There are kids that are having problems at home still or don't have places to live. I am emotional hearing all of them.
WCT: Shorty, from House of Ebony, is from Chicago and mentioned possibly having no home here.
DW: These are the stories we need to tell. There are so many people going through this that we haven't shown on TV until now.
WCT: [Actor] Jack Mizrahi worked on Pose and Legendary. Did you know him well before this?
DW: He is my gay mother. I have known him since I came out. He is an icon for ballroom culture on the microphone. It is awesome to work with him on both shows.
Years ago, we unknowingly signed up for the same hosting class in New York City. We talked about the future and here we are.
WCT: What does the TV show Pose get right or wrong?
DW: There's only so much story you can tell in a certain amount of time. It is hard to get the message across to everyone, because there's so little time. There are a lot of things that I wish could be said through Pose, but not enough time to say it.
Pose has been such an amazing opportunity. By the way, I love playing dress up and it's the best thing ever. I love outfits that shimmer and shine. Pose captures the visual of it all.
WCT: Have you ever hurt yourself voguing?
DW: Yes, a few times. When you are in a battle moment, you just don't see anybody. I remember not having any money and doing what I had to do to earn that prize. I have messed up my knee by the way I landed. I sprained an ankle before and still won. Of course I still hung out at the ball afterward even with a sprained ankle!
WCT: What would you like to see on a second season of Legendary?
DW: New houses. There are so many houses out there. I would like to see new challenges. There are more faces to bring in from the community to show their talents, whether as a judge or participant.
WCT: What do you think about HBO Max removing the movie Gone With the Wind from its library?
DW: I saw those conversations on Twitter and I am sad about it. I wanted to watch it, but now I can't. I am sure I will watch it somewhere. People are talking!
WCT: How are you doing with Pride and protesting this month?
DW: We had one of the very first protests out here in Los Angeles, which was awesome. I have been through experiences like that before, being from New York. I appreciate the protests. Things get crazy and wild, but messages need to be put out there.
For Pride, we would usually be celebrating here in LA. This pulls it back a bit. We need to let the world know why we do this. I wish we could just celebrate who we are the last week and have a good time.
We are going through something right now, but we do have a show that is representing Black, queer, trans, lesbian and gay issues. When things aren't open right now, we can still come home and watch Legendary.
New episodes of Legendary debut every Thursday on HBOMax.com and more of the King of Vogue can be found at DashaunWesley.com .