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The Colour Ball polaroids Flavia Daniele Jimi Urquiaga
Ryan Roachie Instagram @mx.roachie Photography Flavia Daniele

In pictures: what New York’s drag scene looks like right now

In a series of vibrant polaroids, photographer Flavia Daniele and creative director Jimi Urquiaga celebrate the diversity and individuality of New York’s drag community

“A word that I would use to describe New York beauty would have to be ‘cunt’,” says Jimi Urquiaga. “My fellow drag artists in New York just have the it-factor – each person is a style icon in their own right and they serve it severely, making the New York scene a melting pot of what is current. New York is the moment.”

If there’s one person who knows about serving cunt it’s Urquiaga, who at just 20 was awarded the first-ever title of Las Vegas’s ‘Best New Designer’ by Caesar’s Palace. Since then, the creative director, costume designer and drag performer has been working to document and celebrate LGBTQ+ artists and creatives in the fashion world. Urquiaga’s latest project, The Colour Ball, is a love letter to the community and showcases vibrantly the diversity and individuality of the queer fashion and beauty scene in NYC.

In a city known for its melting pot of culture and identities, each person depicts their own unique character. The shoot showcases the range and diversity of the queens and how they use beauty to express themselves. Make-up and beauty have long been a euphoric tool to express the inner world outwards, particularly in the queer community. The series brings together 33 different artists including Urquiaga’s drag persona Missleidy Rodriguez, Domino Couture and Dahlia Sin. From pageant to gender-fuck queens, Urquiaga uses the colour spectrum to capture the breadth in style and identity of each person. “I wanted to highlight everyone’s individual artistry and at the same time show how it all comes together to create a vibrant landscape of beauty,” he says.

Serving cunt can be about boldness and taking up space in the world even when faced with ignorance, but ultimately to serve cunt is to always honour uniqueness in beauty. There’s not just one road to individuality and it’s not always easy to discover alone. Sometimes you need to be embraced by a community before you can feel assured enough to embrace yourself.

Below, we speak to creative director Jimi Urquiaga who made the shoot happen. See the gallery above for portraits by Flavia Daniele which capture this bold, refined, and unified community.

I absolutely love the series. What inspired the project?

Jimi Urquiaga: The community always inspires me – there are so many talented fashion designers, hair stylists, make-up artists, nail artists and performers and I wanted to showcase their artistry in this series, which encapsulates what the queer fashion and beauty scene looks like right now in NYC. I wanted to highlight everyone’s individual artistry and at the same time show how it all comes together to create a vibrant landscape of beauty. The colour spectrum is so vivid and contains so many individual shades I knew I could use the rainbow to mirror the array of talent and style I see within the queer fashion and beauty scene in New York City.

The unity of the cast is so powerful, how were you able to bring everyone together?

Jimi Urquiaga: I have the honour of working with a wide variety of drag queens, kings and artists daily so when I had the idea for this concept it was easy to come up with the perfect cast. I sat down with my drag daughter Citrine Cash Collins and we made a long list of everyone I wanted and then strategically built groups for each shade of the rainbow, making sure each group had a variety of style and aesthetics that would both contrast and compliment one another.

After that, I created Instagram group chats for each of those colour groups and explained the project to them and I asked everyone to claim a shade – I do this to initiate an energy of collaboration from the beginning where everyone can share ideas or sketches of their look as we all start to work towards the day of the shoot.

How was the experience of shooting, how would you describe the energy in the room?

Jimi Urquiaga: The energy in the room is wild! I get the honour to work with each of these performers in different performance spaces but there’s something magical about being on set. When we are at the gig it’s very much being ‘on’ – working and performing for the audience. At photoshoots, it’s a rare moment where we just get to be together, celebrating, connecting and enjoying each other in a creative space. A few personalities together is a party, so imagine what it feels like when you get 33 of us together in one room. It’s definitely a moment!

How important is the role of make-up and beauty in the community?

Jimi Urquiaga: Make-up and beauty means something different to each artist. For some, it’s an artistic outlet; for others, it’s a way to experience gender euphoria; and for some, it’s a way of being able to experience first hand whatever fantasy they want to experience on that particular day. For many, it’s a mix of all three. Ultimately I think it’s a form of joy.

What did you want to capture with the images?

Jimi Urquiaga: My goal is always to showcase the individuals who are pushing the conversation forward. These artists all have distinct points of view and this series captures what is hot at this very moment. My hope is that this series inspires people to look and highlight queer talent more – there is an abundance of creativity that I think should be seen on more fashion week runways, more beauty campaigns and in front of and behind the cameras of major productions. Everyone knows we are always on the mood board, but we are still underrepresented in the industry. We deserve to be included not just as a novelty during Pride month, but year round.

Creative Director, Producer and Casting Director: Jimi Urquiaga - @jimi_urquiaga/ Missleidy Rodriguez - @missleidyrodriguez 

Photographer: Flavia Daniele - @pasteltraces

Hair Director: Vidana - @das.vidana

Set Designer: Maya Sassoon - @massoon

Art Director: Camille Bernsten - @coolstuff_worldwide

Set Dresser: Ryann Snook - @ryannsnook

Styling Director: Fausti - @sofausti

Styling Assisstants: Michael Ray Solis - @Cholulalemon

Production Assistants: Fred Diaz-Wang - , Clovice Holt - @devilstaco , Ru Jing Lu - @a_doodleroo , Mati - @no_guey_back_nao

Location: SMASHBOX BK - @smashboxstudios