Before holding the iconic spot as MC and host of HBO Max’s Legendary, Dashaun Wesley had a fruitful career in the ballroom scene and entertainment sphere. Having started out in his early teens, Wesley fell in love with the passion of voguing and its community. As he got older, the entertainer continued to hone his craft, leading him to become a popular fixture in the ballroom world. In 2009, Wesley and his Vogue Evolution teammates brought voguing to the mainstream when they competed on the hit MTV series, America’s Best Dance Crew. His stint on the series led him to host the behind the scenes specials, while his charismatic personality and talent jump-started his career as a presenter and world-renowned dancer.
Fast forward to 2021 and Wesley is continuing to shine as the electrifying MC of the hit series Legendary. His presence and fiery hype sessions have mesmerised first-time viewers and ballroom enthusiasts alike. GAY TIMES was able to sit down with Dashaun and chat about everything from his ballroom inspirations, working with the iconic judges’ panel, his upcoming projects, season two of Legendary and more. Category is: Tea Time!
When did you first fall in love with ballroom culture?
I take it back to when I was 14. I came out at a very young age. My friends always told me about the West Village in New York City and the way you can be yourself in this one specific area. My very first day going out there I remember seeing this guy with a big old school boombox. He was playing some vogue music and he had a crowd following him. Young and interested in the word, I was like, ‘Let me go check this out.’ So I followed them to the piers and they created a circle and started voguing. It was so amazing to see that I came back the next day and kept going. Then I started making friends and that was my way in.
Were there any legends in the scene that helped shape you into the entertainer you are today?
I have Jack Mizrahi Gorgeous Gucci, who was one of the MC’s that was there before I ever started to come out onto the scene. He’s been one of my inspirations because he was one of the people on the microphone as well. There are plenty of legends probably; performers and dancers who I was looking up to and who I learned the craft from and who I surrounded myself with.
I want to throw it back to your and Leiomy’s time competing on America’s Best Dance Crew with Vogue Evolution. What was that experience like for you?
It’s interesting because when we were hit with season one of Legendary, the same people who were the showrunners for America’s Best Dance Crew were the showrunners for [Legendary]. So it kind of was a little bit of a reunion coming back. The same people you were on the show with you’re now working with them and now have the opportunity to showcase what we were showcasing on that show. Leiomy and I always have our moments where we sit back and we have our little chats and be like, ‘Baby, look what’s happened’, ‘Look where it is now’, ‘Look at what we’re doing.’ We also had the opportunity to share this moment because on this season another Vogue Evolution member was part of the House of Miyake-Mugler
So it was like a full-circle moment?
Definitely a full circle.
Do you feel that you and Vogue Evolution had a hand in the resurgence of voguing in the mainstream?
We definitely resurfaced it. We were watching television one time and came across America’s Best Dance Crew, I believe it was season one. And we saw this group called Fiysh N Chicks and they did the Leiomy move and we all called each other like, ‘Did you see this?’ We knew that people were watching us but when we saw that it confirmed like, ‘Okay we need to do something about this.’ So we started performing for Prides, we started going to different places and making sure we were in the scene. Then we had the opportunity to audition, not once but three times and it took the third time for us to make it on the show.
We need to give a shout out to your time on Pose as Shadow Wintour. What were some of your stand out moments while on set?
I think when it comes to being Shadow Wintour on Pose, I get the opportunity to be the ballroom bad boy that I’m actually not in ballroom. I get to make these rough choices, be this rough kind of dude, shake people up and be boisterous about what I do when stuff doesn’t go right. I’m able to create this character and like I said, it’s something that I don’t do in the ballroom scene but instead on camera. I can make him what I want him to be and I want to be this persona of this bad boy.
So it’s like your alter ego? Like Beyonce and her Sasha Fierce moment?
Let’s dive into your MC duties on Legendary. How was the series first introduced to you?
I was in Los Angeles, California, and I used to throw my balls once a month in LA and another event out there and one of the friends of the production people – someone always knows someone that goes to a ball – their friend brought them along. Once they got there they were like, ‘Oh my gosh this looks amazing’ and of course we were like, ‘Something needs to be done.’ So what they did was reached out to all the West Coast leaders and had us all sit down and were like, ‘We want to do something but what do y’all want to do?’ This gave us an opportunity to sit and speak with producers. I think a lot of people get the misconception that they came to us with a full written show – they came to us completely blank. We had the opportunity to let them know about what we do. They attended some of our events and they were there every day and it literally took two years for the show to actually come into play.
Would you say that you all were the creators of this project?
People have to understand there’s not just one creative. It takes a team to do this and create such a great platform. Like I said, if it wasn’t for people like myself or Leiomy who did the work within the community, even outside of the community and the other individuals who did the hard work as well, we wouldn’t have this opportunity. We’re now being put into places where we now need to educate ourselves [with production] so we can still make sure our community is being told correctly.
What’s the work dynamic like between you, Law Roach, Megan Thee Stallion, Leiomy and Jameela Jamil?
It’s amazing, to be honest. In season one we got the opportunity to try and feel what it’s like to be around each other during this opportunity of giving a house $100,000. With season one we got that love, that formation of a family. With season two now it’s like, ‘Oh my god I miss you, let’s go at this again!’ Now that we’re friends and are able to communicate with each other in such a way. Yes, ballroom is shade but we’re still friends when we’re throwing shade. That’s just what friends do. We kiki, we throw shade, some might get mad, some might not. That’s how it goes.
I can imagine it must be so much fun for you on set with these legendary stars – are there some fun behind-the-scenes secrets you can tell me?
It’s so interesting, I don’t see the house members go through their interactions until they get to that stage. Everything has to fit within a certain time, but baby the things that we miss, oh you would love! Especially when it comes to the shade or the conversations. Behind the scenes, you get the real juice. Now, some of the house members like to release their own footage on their social platforms to let people know what goes on behind the scenes. They’ll post rehearsals and what happens on stage.
What has been your favourite experience on the show so far?
My moment is that I have the opportunity to get dressed up. I just love to get dressed up and I have these creative ideas. For the [Pop Art episode] I had seen a fashion show and one of the guys walking had an outline. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh that’s very unique.’ That inspired me to be like, ‘I want my own outline.’ I thought about that way before [the episode] so when they talked about the Pop Art theme I was like. ‘Oh my gosh I’ve been looking at something, look at this!’ and brought it to life.
It’s so great that you brought that up. The fashion on Legendary is so incredible. How important is the fashion element in the series?
If you’re ever in the ballroom scene, you always want to look good at every moment. You always want to look your best and that you are presenting yourself in the best self that you are. And if you don’t – be ready for the people to come out there. On this show, we have the opportunity to be as creative as we want, to take what we do on a norm and push it to the max.
We are well into season two of Legendary, how does this series differ from the first?
We have a different showrunner and now we have the opportunity to be seen differently. In season two, we’re changing things up so people have a better understanding of what’s going on. Compared to season one and season two, no one knew when the judges were scoring. No one knew in season one. Now, season two a judge is giving you a score so you can see how the numbers are going. We are now changing things so that it can be easily accessible.
Did you find it challenging to host the series with no audience this time around?
I’m not too mad at the audience not being there. Yes, you’ll get action from the audience and how everyone reacts when a good move happens, but now you get to see how a person feels. It took a different perspective. You get to see everything now and aren’t distracted by a crowd. Although a crowd is still awesome. I wasn’t really mad at it because I’m sure it will change in the future. One thing about the ballroom scene is we know how to get through when we need to get through. Because even though there was a pandemic, we were still having virtual balls.
Legendary and Pose have both brought ballroom culture and Voguing culture into the mainstream – how do you want both shows to impact the industry moving forward?
Moving forward I want [Legendary and Pose] to let everyone in the world know that this is a community that has been around for so long. For so many years people never knew about us. We’ve been existing for years and years and years and now we have the opportunity to represent ourselves. I feel like Legendary and Pose now present a space for more shows to come. It presents more platforms for shows who are part of our culture and our scenes to move on and be better and great. I’m hoping that even more shows come about this and more stories are being told.
What can we expect next from Dashaun Wesley?
I’m working on a lot of Pride stuff right now. I’m doing a Pride campaign that’s coming out and also on top of that I’m working on music. As I get people hyped and excited when these redemption battles go on, I’m sitting there being an MC myself. I want to show people my creative side when it comes to music and I’m going to have the opportunity to expand that in the days to come.
The second season of Legendary airs every Thursday in the United States on HBO Max.