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From the Ballrooms to the Big Time: Leiomy Maldonado

Leiomy Maldonado

Renowned vogue superstar Leiomy Maldonado is more than just her hair toss.

In order to become what many deem "iconic," not only do you need to be an original, but your life must also reflect the art you preach. Vogue dancer and instructor Leiomy Maldonad, has become more than an artist, icon, and inspiration for artists like Beyonce and Britney Spears. She's on her way to become legendary.

Known as "La Mujer Maravilla" or the "Wonder Woman" of vogue, Maldonado came from humble beginnings. A Bronx, N.Y., native, she was first introduced to the world of voguing through the city's underground ballroom scene--where stars like Twiggy Pucci Garcon reign supreme. Dominated by LGBT people of color, ball culture and has given rise to a youth-driven Kiki scene, where young LGBT voguers flock for community and a sense of self.

Maldonado remembers all too well what it was like trying to find her tribe at 16, while also physically transitioning into the Wonder Woman she was destined to be.

"It was exciting to watch [voguing] on VHS tapes and just the energy and everything about it was what intrigued me," she shares. "Starting to learn how to vogue was kind of hard because I didn't really know the fundamentals of what voguing was supposed to look like. Throughout mimicking, and trying to learn how to dance, and competing, I received a lot of backlash because my style wasn't what voguing usually looked like. It took me a while for me to learn more about the elements."

That wasn't the only shade thrown her way. "When I was in the ballroom scene I dealt with a lot of negativity because of my body type," Maldonado explains. "I'm more athletic and they're used to trans woman being more 'soft' and more 'womanly' to their expectations, so I dealt with a lot of backlash." Although she credits "two mentors that were there for me," Maldonado says in the end, "I built myself. Everything I've gone through I've done it myself."

In 2009 Maldonado showed the world what she'd become, making history as the first trans woman to appear on MTV's America's Best Dance Crew in the dance troupe Vogue Evolution. After Maldonado's epic appearances on America's Best Dance Crew, she quickly garnered the attention of Hollywood hitters--many of whom were entranced by her hair-whipping style, which has since become a trademark. Maldonado appeared in Willow Smith's 2010 music video for "Whip My Hair," and her hair-whipping moves also inspired choreography performed by Britney Spears and Beyonce. In 2014, the Museum of Modern Art chose Maldonado to be one of five dancers for a special showcase. More recently, she starred in an amazing Nike ad.

One of the best compliments she's ever received sums up her relentless energy to create: "I danced with one of executives from MAC, the cosmetic brand," she shares. "While I was dancing with him, he leaned over to my ear and told me that dancing with me, he felt like the best dancer in the world. That made me feel [like] my talent is able to uplift people and to connect people in so many different ways."

In the ballroom dancing scene, Maldonado is also known as the head of the House of Amazon, who focuses on "unity" within her community and aims to show "love, compassion, and just bringing the true art of what houses are supposed to be about; which is family."

Nowadays, she attends house balls to support her kids. "I go out there, I support them, I help them get ready for the balls and things like that and I just sit back and watch and I just do what I need to do and I take my talents to places where they actually appreciate it."

But, Maldonado admits, sometimes all she wants to do is dance. "Voguing is a high energy style dance where people can basically find themselves or be whoever they want to be. ... A lot of times, I literally black out," she quips. "I feel like I literally become Wonder Woman at that moment and I just dance. I just feel the most free when I'm dancing. That's when I feel connected to myself a hundred percent."

A woman of grit, authenticity, and true talent, Maldonado continues to leave her audiences awestruck, traveling throughout the country and world teaching classes and dancing professionally. And she has no plans of slowing down. "It's my passion," she says. "I love voguing. I genuinely love voguing. I've loved it since day one."

Learn more about Maldonado at


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