Pride Month: House Of Lepore

Diego Artea

Pride Month: House Of Lepore

Taylor Wallce

The Ballroom Scene has roots dating all the way back to the mid-19th century on the east coast through Drag Balls. It’s always been a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community to socialize, commiserate, support each other, and show off. While most of these balls were integrated, they were usually only integrated in the sense that people of color were allowed to be there. Most weren’t allowed to actually walk and the ones who were rarely went home with accolades. So, starting in Harlem in the 1970s, those disaffected members started their own subculture, and thus, the Ballroom Scene was born.

all rights reserved The House Of Lepore

Within the scene came Houses. These are chosen families of traditionally Black and Latino family members. Houses are led by a Mother and Father, and these Houses throw balls, a spectacular event where competitors go walk in a number of categories including Labels, Face, Bizarre, Realness, and the one those outside of the culture are most familiar with, voguing. And they are as big and glamorous as you can imagine. The northeast remains the capital of the Ballroom scene, but there are other houses on the west coast, Chicago, and now, Central Texas, thanks in large part to Natalie Sanders AKA Natalie Lepore.  

all rights reserved House Mother Natalie Lepore

Natalie Sanders was born in Philadelphia and moved to San Antonio in 2011. There, she helped start Houseofkenzo and art collective the Plastic Collective. Through the Plastic Collective, she met Dorian Delafuente, better known as the hip-hop artist and DJ Babiboi, who we’ve profiled before. Together they founded House of Lepore in 2020, and it’s been all milestones and opening stage floors from there. They quickly grew their family, including House Father Tarik Lepore and Marcus Lepore, who operates as the main support artery for all things for the House. Together, they’ve built a bonafide power house in the national Ballroom scene.

all rights reserved BabiBoi Lepore

House of Lepore threw the first official SXSW Ball, the Big Stage Ball, in 2022 and a ball at the Paramount that summer. They also host monthly Austin Vogue Nights at Swan Dive. There, walks happen, people are seen, and trophies and cash prizes are won. In its young life, House of Lepore has grown to have satellite Houses all over Texas and even has members in the Ballroom capital, New York City. Natalie testified against Senate Bill 12 in 2023, meant to restrict minors from attending drag shows. She led the first Trans Pride March for the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020, and has earned legendary status from the Gulf Coast Kiki Alliance.

House Of Lepore during SXSW 2022

She’s also the founder of the Orisha Mere Project, which offers a wealth of resources and support for those in the queer community including housing, food assistance, gender affirming care, education, and hugs.


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