Strike a pose: LGBTQ+ Nigerians thrive in underground ballroom

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12/20/2023

LAGOS, Dec 20 (Openly) – Behind a tall metal door in a suburb of Lagos lies a world of fun, fashion and flamboyance that most Nigerians have never seen. Men dressed in elaborate drag outfits – sequins, silk and ruffles – sashay in heavy make-up on the highest of heels, striking provocative poses on a pulsing dancefloor. Their desire: to give voice to their sexuality through costume and dance and be free to be themselves in a rare safe haven in socially conservative Nigeria. Same-sex relations are punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Africa’s most populous country, so these balls held in Lagos can only thrive by existing deep underground. As the beat changes, a fashionable crowd clears the centre of the floor for the category presentation, the crowd’s fingers snapping to Afrobeats music as they fill the hall with a thundering chorus of “give me face, face, face” – lyrics from Beyonce’s song Heated. Oge Classic, a famed Nigerian drag queen with 24,000 followers on TikTok, and the throng of dancers fold their bodies into an elaborate set of moves: elbows rigid, kicks high and graceful pirouettes.

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