Sean Anthony | Buffalo, NY

My name is Sean Anthony. My very first Ballroom name given to me was “Baby”. I was the youngest in the house and had a baby face, still do til this day lol. As I grew older I changed my name to Kharma, I gave myself the name because I am a firm believer in the theory of “karma”, I added the h for a little spice. Which leads me to my newest name “Salsa”. This name was given to me by one of my house brothers from the House of Ebony. He said the way I vogued reminded him of salsa dancing, and that name has followed me since. 

Who introduced or inspired you to attend your first ball or vogue night?

I started off walking face at the tender age of 17. I started voguing around 2010 and the rest is history. I’ve been involved in ballroom since 2008. An ex friend, who shall rename nameless, brought me to my first house meeting without me having much knowledge. I went to my first ball because I liked the idea of what they were discussing and was quickly intrigued. I was literally pushed out onto the runway to walk BQ Face and you guessed it, I won Grand Prize.

Ballroom has many different meanings to me. Family and friendship being first. I realized I had the control of creating my own intimate family. Friendships that still stand to this day have seen developed, many of which I now call my brothers and sisters. I love the creativity of ballroom, the challenges it faces you with, and the confidence it forces you to have. Trust me it takes a lot of nerve to walk a ball. I feel like ballroom has helped me develop extreme confidence in any room I walk in, and it made me fall in love with myself. I was timid beforehand, now you can’t tell me nothin! 

How does “support” actualize within your family structure?

I remember the first time my real mother saw me in a pair of heels, it wasn’t pleasant. I felt defeated and discouraged. I was 17 years old. Fast forward to this day she now comes to me and says “did you see those pumps?! I think they’re so hot” I even feel comfortable enough to actually show off any of my new purchases. My mother is one of my biggest fans, I’ve even taught her how to catwalk and give a little hand performance here and there. My family loves to watch me vogue, and many family gatherings I always hear “Sean pump a beat!” And we just go awfff!!!

How important are conversations around sexual health and exploration in your family? And why should these conversations exist?

I’ve actually opened the door to many of those conversations. My mother lost one of her younger brothers to HIV/AIDS in the 90s epidemic. I always felt she feared I would face the same fate seeing as I too was gay. She always loved her brother but never truly understood what it meant to be gay. I’ve always seen it as my business to open her eyes to always see “me as me”. Just because you now know who I like in my bed, that doesn’t ever change my heart. 

Is there a place for HIV prevention within the ballroom scene? If so, how do you think the HIV/AIDS Epidemic affected Ballroom?

Ever since I joined ballroom, the conversation has always existed. From the parents always telling us “make sure you wrap it up” to witnessing news that another friend was now positive, it has always been prevalent. From on site testing, to condoms constantly being handed out at events, there is definitely space for knowledge and education within our community. 

Is it vital to offer direct HIV preventative services at balls? Why or why not?

My thoughts teeter when it comes to this. I’ve never personally been tested at a ball because I’m simply there to have fun. How devastating would that be if I just so happened to receive bad news right before I went to compete, when my confidence needed to be at the most high! Now I do however love the idea of the education and conversation being there in the room, but sometimes people are scared and we just never know, ya know. 

Is there anyone who you would love to pay homage to or dedicate this story to?

My uncle, my godfather, Daniel Arroyo. He was the first vision I ever had of a confident gay man. I remember when I was younger watching him sashay through the living room while listening to “Groove is in the Heart” twirling his scarf, singing and dancing without a care in the world. I miss him oh so much and I always wished he was there to witness my coming out at the age of 15. I do know that he is my guardian angel, and I know he watches and protects me from the heavens above! I love you Tio Daniel Bendicion! May you forever sleep peacefully! 

Sean Anthony 
(he/him/that bitch)
Buffalo, New York

interviewed by:
David Sell
gran varones fellow 

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