You've probably heard the buzz around HBO Max's ballroom reality series Legendary, which premiered on the new streaming service May 27. With judges including Megan Thee Stallion, Jameela Jamil, and self-described image architect Law Roach, the show—among the first mainstream shows about ballroom culture, along with FX's Pose—is expected to make a splash. Legendary follows eight teams, a.k.a. "houses," which compete in jaw-dropping balls that highlight the fashion, culture, and dance central to ballroom. The goal? For one house to achieve "legendary" status.
As for Roach, he's been named one of the Hollywood's top stylists by The Hollywood Reporter and boasts a client roster that includes Zendaya and Kerry Washington; Roach also served as a judge on America's Next Top Model. Legendary will not be the image architect's first rodeo when it comes to reality TV, but he assures me that we've never seen anything like this before.
MC: How did you get involved with Legendary? What has been your experience with the ballroom community?
LR: I was brought into the show by Jameela Jamil. She asked me if I was familiar with the ballroom scene; I'm not in the ballroom scene, but I've been going to balls for 10-15 years, so I know the culture very well. Some of my good friends are mothers or fathers of houses. After I spoke to Jameela Jamil, I got a call from one of the producers saying they wanted me on the show. I think Jameela has a great eye, so I give her all the credit for my involvement in the show.
MC: Along with Jameela Jamil and Megan Thee Stallion, the show features ballroom icons including Dashaun Wesley, Leiomy Maldonado, and DJ MikeQ. What was it like working with ballroom legends?
LR: I remember Dashaun and Leiomy from their crew, "Vogue Evolution," on America's Best Dance Crew, so I've watched them over the years. I think Dashuan is incredible as a host. He is such a natural; it was very inspiring to watch.
Leiomy is the Wonder Woman of vogue. There's no one else who could have sat on that stage and gone into the technicality of voguing the way she does. She's an expert. She sees all, catches everything, any mistake the dancers make, she will catch right away. She was very gracious; she made sure that we understood all the things that we didn't come in understanding. I left with an even deeper knowledge of voguing.
MC: With shows like Pose and now Legendary, the ballroom scene is gaining more mainstream attention. How do you think this will change the community?
LR: I think it's long overdue; I think ballroom is one of the last subcultures to really get its just due. It's been a really long time coming—there has been so many things in fashion and pop culture that have come out of ballroom. The innovators and pioneers very rarely get the credit they deserve. I think the show will push that. Other subcultures like punk and the club kids have received mainstream credit for their innovation and pushing the envelope. I think ballroom has been doing this for just as long.
MC: As a judge, what did you look for in a house?
LR: First of all, I'm a person that loves goosebumps, I love the thrill and excitement of being entertained. My number-one criteria is entertainment: Do I root for this house, do I want to see them again?
Then it's something about the love, the thickness of the emotion of love in the room. When these houses come out, you can tell they are a family. Before they even speak a word, you can feel the love they have for each other. Each house has a parent, a house mother or father—it's just like being in a room with a traditional mother and their children. I truly can't wait for people to see that part. It's a really incredible thing to watch people who weren't born a family but became a family.
But, of course, you want to see the style and the talent. Legendary is no different than any other show that America has fallen in love with over the years. The setup is the same, but the cast is what makes it so special. We have never seen anything of this magnitude on television before.
MC: How would you explain ballroom to somebody who just looks at it as "voguing" when it's so much more?
LR: It's so much more, and I think that is why the show is beautiful—because everybody has this idea that voguing is ballroom. When my friends and I went to the balls, we went for the fashion categories. We went for labels and the runway category. I think a lot of people would enjoy that aspect if they knew it existed, so Legendary is giving a profile to some of the other categories in ballroom.
MC: I'd love to hear more about the fashion aspect of the show.
LR: Eric Archibald and Johnny Wujek, the costume designers on the show, did an incredible job helping the houses tell their story through their costumes and the fashion. Each ball has a theme, and the houses worked with the stylists and costume designers to make their vision come to life. I'm a big fashion kid, so I loved to see the creativity that these houses have when it comes to fashion. [The producers] did not skimp on wardrobe. The entire show is really beautifully done.
MC: What are you most excited about?
LR: I am really excited for this underrepresented population to really get their just due and really push into mainstream. I think we all saw Pose, which is based on [ballroom], but this is actually happening now—you get to learn about these houses in real time.
I want to see all the things that I didn't get to see as a judge. I can't wait for people to gag and gasp in amazement at how beautiful and talented these houses are.