If you've seen Legendary on HBO MAX, then you are already familiar with Isla Ebony. I had the opportunity to chat with House of Ebony's mother as well as an established musician, choreographer, event organizer, and a staple in the Los Angeles ballroom community. She has quite a number of trophies to her name as well as personal achievements: she's mother to a two-year-old, half of the established music duo Purple Crush, official Godmother of the west coast chapter of the Iconic House of Ebony, and founder and organizer of the Banjee Ball.
Q: How did you start the Banjee Ball? That was your creation, right?
A: When we moved to LA, we got really involved in the drag community. Purple Crush [her music duo with husband Jared Selter] started performing with drag queens all the time, we did a lot of pride festivals. I'd always known about voguing but didn't really know that cis-gendered women were really involved. I had always thrown events back in my New York days, ever since I was like 20, and I just got the idea one night at the club with our friends, we were all sort of fake voguing on the floor and I thought, "what if there was a space for us to get to live our Paris is Burning fantasies?" So I started Banjee Ball and about a month or two into doing Banjee Ball, I got introduced to the actual ballroom community. That is almost like a secret society, especially back then and even before I got involved, it was almost impossible to find it. It was a subversive culture. I found the community here and at that point, I got bit by the vogue bug and Banjee Ball became sort of a staple for the ballroom community in LA and is now part of its history. I've probably thrown over a hundred functions and now there's been a couple generations of voguers, some of whom were on Legendary as well, who walked their first ball at Banjee Ball. It started off as "white girl's throwing this party" to "Banjee Ball raises generations of ballroom kids in Los Angeles." So I'm pretty proud of it.
Q: I saw you're judging an online ball – what's that been like, seeing everything go online?
A: It's been a weird year because I started off filming in Connecticut for Legendary, so I didn't throw any functions and I had a bunch of stuff planned for the summer and then [the pandemic] happened. I'm actually judging a ball being thrown by a collective in Vancouver BC, so it's actually a Canadian Ball. That's what's kind of cool about this phase that we're in for ballroom where everything is having to be virtual – ballroom's already been international, but now it's on another level. You don't have to buy a plane ticket to walk a ball anymore, you just log on.
Q: Speaking of online ball formats, the Banjee Ball is online this year. How is it coordinating an online zoom event and balls via the internet? It seems unprecedented.
A: It is. I think I was one of the first or second balls to actually happen on Zoom – there's an app that a lot of the ballroom kids are doing their balls on called Vigo [editor's note: the app is Vigo Video and is similar to TikTok]. It's pretty niche specific but it's almost like a video game and I'm old so I was like, you have all this stuff flying around; it's great for the kids because there's some way in which they make money through it like when people send you things they're sending you money. So that's been great during this period. But for me, so many of our meetings and interviews and my husband's work all moved to Zoom, so it's like that's where the adults are going to throw a ball. It's not perfect, but it's satisfying the itch for now.
Q: I know you organize and judge balls, but are you still walking?
A: Walking balls is almost like a drug – it's very addictive. I do plan on walking, especially after being on Legendary – there's sort of two attitudes: there's the "oh, now I'm a big deal and I'm not going to walk because they're going to try me and be funny on the judges' panel" but really that's coming from a place of fear. The flip side is, in order to really become legendary in ballroom, you have to walk balls, and coming off of Legendary you really should walk a ball. Even if you lose, just the E for effort, it's a lot – it says a lot. I'm getting close-ish to getting my legendary status and so I do have to prove myself, at least prove I have the balls.
We've got a lot more ballroom coming your way, so be sure to come back for part 2 of our 3 part interview series with Isla Ebony. If you're curious about the Banjee Ball, it's happening online on August 15 and more information can be found on their Instagram and Facebook. If the music of Legendary is more your thing, there are four compilation albums that Purple Crush contributed to – all four Legendary Battles albums are available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.