The world of underground ballroom competitions might not be a subject everyone's familiar with, but the HBO Max reality competition series Legendary is aiming to change all that. At a virtual panel during an eventful Friday night at the annual ATX Television Festival, two of the show's judges, Jameela Jamil and Megan Thee Stallion, said they weren't exactly familiar with it when they first got involved, either.
"I jumped at the opportunity because there isn't enough representation in this culture," Jamil explained. "Most of the art we love in this world, most of the music, the dance, the fashion, the language even, so much of mainstream pop culture has been siphoned from ballroom. I think it's really important that the world knows exactly where it came from. I came on board as the supportive outsider, who is the window in to learn with the audience."
The underground ballroom scene was initially founded by black and Latino LGBTQ+ people in New York City. Decades later, Legendary takes its inspiration from the community, where teams, known as "houses," compete in various elaborate dance-offs where they showcase their unique twists on dance and fashion so they can achieve "Legendary" status, hence the name. Along with Jamil, and Megan, the judges include fashion designer Law Roach and Leiomy Maldonado, a pillar of the ballroom community.
The Good Place star also admitted that viewers "might not be familiar" with the underground ballroom scene. However, she added that her and Megan Thee Stallion are both learning "the ways of ballroom" as they go. "We are there just to pay homage to this community, and just make sure the right story is told," Jamil added. "It's not just about the glitter and the sequins and the feathers and the shade. It's about the love and the heart of ballroom."
Similarly, Megan Thee Stallion was somewhat familiar with ballroom, but "didn't know what it meant." Although that changed after she was asked to be part of the judging panel. "When I actually did my homework and my research, it really just blew my mind," the rapper said. "When I saw how hard they go, and the passion behind it, and the things that everybody stands for and what they represent, I felt like I saw myself in that. When I got into it, it made me appreciate the community more."