The Royal House of LaBeija Interviews

Part One
The First Family of Ballroom
By Karen Giberson and Sophia Strawser
Photographed by Andrew Egan

Queen Mother

Vivian LaBeija
Queen Mother
Categories: FQ Face, Labels, Foot & Eyewear

It’s easy to understand why Vivian is so beloved by the Royal House of LaBeija — she is a sweet soul who instantly makes everyone around her feel comfortable. The moment she walks into a room, her 6’5” stature and chic, sophisticated style commands attention. An icon in her own right, she has an air of confidence and is a respected leader. Vivian first discovered ballroom in 1995 when, as a teenager, she saw a transgender woman walk the Latex ball. Until that point, she had no idea that she could make her outside feel like her inside.

Despite the challenges of her stature, she worked very hard on her transition. “I began my physical transformation at age 19. I had to learn to walk in my new skin and find new ways to carry myself,” she explained. “I have always enjoyed the best. I didn’t transition to shop at Rainbow.” Her path to The Royal House of LaBeija was precipitated by a heartbreaking event. A violent home invasion changed the course of her life; her husband, who rushed to protect her, was killed in the attack. After the murder trial, Vivian, a Philadelphia native, moved to New York to start over and escape the bad memory. That was seven years ago. She credits Jeffrey, Marcus, and Junior for embracing her and helping with her healing process.
In her role as queen mother, Vivian is responsible for the entire LaBeija family — she offers advice, a shoulder to cry on, is a confidant and dedicated leader nurturing her chosen family. The queen role is of utmost importance and respect, and one that carries on the legacy of Crystal LaBeija, as well as the first overall mother Pepper LaBeija, both leaders in establishing the first House in this phenomenon we call Ballroom.

When we met Vivian, she was busy helping the LaBeija team do their make-up for the ball. A self-described “beauty junkie,” the 43-year-old spends her days as a prestige beauty advisor at Ulta Beauty and hopes to earn her degree to further her career. She’s an avid collector of high fashion and uses her keen eye to find clothing, jumpsuits, and shoes that sparkle and glitter. She has won many trophies throughout the years for FQ Face and is an inspiration and a walking testimony to the young girls in the House. She brings her fashion sense to ballroom and has won Grand Prize in the Foot & Eyewear category. Follow the journey at @VivianLaBeija on Instagram.

Marcus LaBeija
New York Father
Categories: MF Best Dressed, MF Executive Realness

Marcus LaBeija grew up in Rochester, New York and learned at an early age that if he wanted to get ahead, he would need to work hard. Driven to thrive, he attended acclaimed HBCU Tuskegee University, was a member of the army reserve, and received two graduate degrees from Long Island University — a masters of arts in media arts/production and a masters of fine arts in film directing.


He first learned about ballroom in college when he watched “Paris is Burning,” a 1990 documentary that chronicles ballroom culture in New York City. “Ballroom created a space for the LGBTQ community to be together, to uplift and empower — instead of being associated with shame, guilt or remorse. In ballroom, the community was celebrated and winning cash and prizes.” Inspired by meeting and observing the previous overall father, icon Freddie LaBeija, Marcus decided to make a documentary on the paternal role of father of the House. To prepare, he interviewed, followed, and documented Freddie’s work as a ballroom father, and was soon sharing his own ideas and suggestions on how to run the House more efficiently. When Freddie eventually stepped down, Marcus was nominated and unanimously elected NYC Father.

Together with his husband Jeffrey, Marcus was instrumental in building the current infrastructure of the House, including creating an application to join. With the assistance of Tiffany (who’s also his best friend) he was also instrumental with scripting a handbook that outlines the House’s values, membership expectations and acceptable conduct. “Ballroom is a business that requires structure and discipline. We have regular meetings and work very hard to serve the House.”

As the New York father, his role stretches from parental to business leadership. “It’s about providing whatever the need is for that individual — from emotional to spiritual to financial support.” He assists with issues including housing security, addiction, self-esteem, and overall wellness.

Winning ballroom involves strategy, he said. “We first make sure we are at the right balls, those that match the mission of the house. It takes many weeks and months to prepare for a ball and excel in your category.” Marcus walks the Executive Realness category and his favorite, the Best Dressed category. He’s only been walking for two years and has already been to more than 15 balls and won several trophies. Follow the journey at @MarcusLaBeija on Instagram.

Jeffrey “Kiddie Liddah” Bryant
Overall Overseer
Categories: Old Way, Labels, Foot & Eyewear

Jeffrey Bryant, the overall overseer for the Royal House of LaBeija, was the lead fashion stylist for this shoot bringing his keen eye, impeccable sense of style, and ballroom savvy to ensure that all the models were well-appointed. We met the dapper Bryant in New York City where he shared his meticulously designed mood boards outlining a look for each of the models. We then hit the streets with Bryant, visiting showrooms to select the perfect outfits and accessories.


The 57-year-old Bryant grew up in Los Angeles in a chaotic house with seven siblings. He had a challenging relationship with his mother, who abused drugs and suffered with mental illness. He grew up loving play production and was often bullied for being “girly.” He learned to cope by using wit and sarcasm as a weapon. At 18, he came out and was promptly kicked out of his mother’s house — ending up homeless on the streets of West Hollywood.

“Life on the streets was rough,” he said. Bryant experienced racism, started doing drugs, and did what he needed to survive. He was embraced by an LGBTQ Center that offered services and helped him find a job. Through its Job Core he found a position and moved to Washington D.C. It was there that a friend introduced him to ballroom. Bryant was immediately taken with the music and voguing and soon was invited to join the House of Khan (one of the notable ballroom houses of the 80s). Bryant moved around a bit with stops in Virginia and Philadelphia, but ballroom was one constant in his life. Ballroom life suited Bryant. “I could be me,” he explained, adding that he eventually walked in over 30 balls in a variety of categories including Schoolboy Realness. Bryant lived a double life at the time, working during the day at a family-owned diner — where he was treated like family — and hitting the clubs at night.

Addiction continued to be a struggle for Bryant, but after the death of his mother, who he never reconciled with, he found a grief counselor who helped him into a 12-step program. He’s been off hard drugs for 20 years, and gave up marijuana seven years ago. Bryant has blossomed in those years — he met his now husband Marcus, (New York father LaBeija) and has a steady job working in the hospitality industry. The role of overall overseer is like a chief marketing officer and he is fiercely dedicated to the branding and business of the House, while securing partnerships and controlling the narrative of the brand. He trademarked the name and holds the IP of the Royal House of LaBeija and is a key stakeholder in organizing the business of the international house. Follow the journey at @JeffBryant66 on Instagram.


Samil LaBeija
New York Mother
Categories: FF Body, FF Best Dressed

Samil LaBeija was appointed the first chapter mother of NYC in December 2019 and since then has been supporting, organizing, and mentoring the members of the House. Born in the Dominican Republic, Samil moved to NYC as a child. She has spent the last 12 years working in the non-profit space. While working at a community outreach event, Samil met the previous father of the House who invited her to one of the iconic balls. She was immediately hooked and with her fitness background began walking the Body category. She has taken home many Grand Prizes all over the country and in 2019 was nominated and honored with the award OTY title for the category. She has recently debuted a new category, Best Dressed, and became a Grand Prize winner her second time walking the category.

Outside of the House, she has been featured in Taco Bell ads, “Law & Order” episodes, and booked numerous modeling opportunities through her agency Ezes Casting. As a certified fitness trainer, Samil dedicates her life to helping others on their fitness and wellness journeys. In 2024, she’s ready for a year of greater opportunities, exposure, and growth — for herself and for the House as a whole. Follow the journey at @Samill.LaBeija on Instagram.