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Ross Mathews shares ‘rossipes,’ cocktails, celeb gossip and more

New book ‘Name Drop’ is collection of his favorite happy hour tales

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Ross Mathews, gay news, Washington Blade
Ross Mathews brings his book tour to Washington Sunday night. (Photo by Ricky Middlesworth)

Ross Mathews ‘Name Drop’ Tour

Sunday, Feb. 9

7:30 p.m.

Miracle Theatre

535 8th St., S.E.

GA: $35

VIP (w/M&G): $100

helloross.com

Ross Mathews got his start on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” where he was known as “Ross the intern.” 

The fabulously out gay guru has since been seen on many shows such as “Celebrity Fit Club,” “The Insider,” “Celebrity Big Brother” and, of course, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” where he’s been a staple at the judge’s table since season seven in 2015. 

He launched his book tour for “Name Drop: the Really Good Celebrity Stories I Usually Only Tell at Happy Hour” (out Feb. 4) this week in New York and plays Washington Sunday night. Mathews, 40, dished on all that and more while driving to his second home (he lives mostly in Los Angeles) in Palm Springs last week. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: How are things?

ROSS MATHEWS: Good. I feel like everyone has this sense of optimism this year that has been lacking the last couple years. People were like, “Ugh, God — this year can’t end soon enough,” but now, I don’t know, everyone I’ve talked to feels great about 2020 and so far so good. Also I’m driving to my place in Palm Springs, so I’m like in heaven.

BLADE: How were your holidays?

MATHEWS: It was really nice. I got to be with my family in Washington state and it was super nice, then I got to be back here in California and I went to Puerto Vallarta, which is another one of my happy places.

BLADE: Tell us about your book. How did it come about?

MATHEWS: The idea came to me in the shower. I was just like, “Oh my gosh, I wish I could tell everybody the stories I tell my friends at happy hour,” but then I thought, “But that’s so name-droppy.” Then I thought, “Screw it, just lean in — those are the stories people want to hear.” So “Name Drop” really is filled with celeb stories I usually only tell at happy hour and since it’s all about happy hour and I do cook every day, I thought why don’t I include some of my original rossipes in there so people can actually have happy hour while they’re reading the book, ‘cause that’s what the book feels like. It feels like you’re sitting down with me, ordering a drink and a bite and we’re just gushing over celebrities.

BLADE: So it’s cocktail and food recipes?

MATHEWS: Yes, there’s cocktails and rossipes for every single one and I pair them up with a chapter so for instance, I give Celine Dion “My Artichoke Heart Will Go On.” For Faye Dunaway, I give you my rossipe for “Endamame Dearest,” and it goes on from there. 

BLADE: You had an encounter with Faye? Is she as scary as I fear she might be?

MATHEWS: I was too scared to ask her what I really wanted to ask her, but I thought it was so fascinating that I got to meet her, so I included it in the book. You know, some of these stories are when I had my dreams come true from people I’d loved forever, and some of these stories are about people who really disappointed me when I met them but I always say no celebrities were harmed in the making of this book. I tell the reader exactly what happened but I’m not out to hurt anybody.

BLADE: And these are all your own creations?

MATHEWS: Yes

BLADE: How did you get into that?

MATHEWS: So the cocktails are all sort of like my spin on cocktails that already exist and I make them original to me. The rossipes are all things I actually make. I’ve always loved cooking. I learned from my mom and I loved watching her. I love going to a restaurant and trying something and thinking, “Oh, I’d do it this way,” and then going home and cooking. I do that with Food Network too. I watch and go, “Huh — I would make it with this,” then I try it. Cooking is art — just another way to create.

BLADE: Do you have a favorite?

MATHEWS: Oh my gosh, I love them all. I make “Baked Ziti with a Z” for the Liza Minnelli story and that one’s really delicious.

BLADE: Please tell me there’s a chapter on Omarosa (she and Mathews were on “Celebrity Big Brother” together in 2018). 

MATHEWS: Absolutely! We do an Omarosa Mimosa and then just a TV dinner because that chapter’s all about reality TV. Which by the way, an Omarosa Mimosa is made with blood orange juice.

BLADE: What was going through your head in real time when she was telling you all that stuff during your little tete-a-tete on “Big Brother”? 

MATHEWS: Listen, I write all about that in the book. It was so surreal being locked away from the outside world for 30 days with cameras following us 24-7 and then Omarosa walks in and this was right after she had left the White House. I was fascinated by her and knew we had to talk about it or people wouldn’t think we were being real in that house. It’s impossible not to be real when they’re filming you 24 hours a day. So that conversation, to sit there and ask her those questions and what I was thinking and also what happened afterwards, which nobody knows about, that’s all in the book.

BLADE: Do you get a clothing allowance on “Drag Race”?

MATHEWS: No. I have to get my own wardrobe and of course, you have to step it up because you’re sitting next to RuPaul. I partner with Mr. Turk and I’m sucking up to friends who are designers. I’ve worked with Mr. Turk and Trina Turk for a long time and I’ve worn Tallia Orange before, so I try to find people who can partner with me so I’m not spending mazillions of dollars on these clothes.

BLADE: Is the stuff you wear on “Drag Race” the kind of stuff you wear in your private life or do you glam it up for the show?

MATHEWS: Well you have to wear something noticeable on that set. What am I going to do? Show up in corduroy or khakis? In real life, I love clothes but I’m not always in a suit. Usually I’m in like a jacket with a leopard scarf and a Gucci slide. When I go to Palm Springs, it’s elastic head to toe (laughs). 

BLADE: Do you do your own shopping?

MATHEWS: I’ve had stylists in the past. My partner all those years, Salvador (Camerna), was my stylist but lately I’m not using a stylist. It’s just me partnering with various designers and trying to express myself however I feel that day. The other day I had on ripped jeans and boots and I was feeling all butch, like green Army Surplus jacket and right now I’m wearing Gucci fur slides and a leopard scarf, so I’m feeling more Nellie today. It’s fun to express fashion, always a joy.

BLADE: Was there ever a “Drag Race” contestant you thought went home too early?

MATHEWS: Yes. I’ve never disagreed with the winner, but I have opinions on who should stay and who should go. That’s part of my job, I get to argue my point to Ru who makes the ultimate decision. So I have of course thought somebody should have stayed who went home at a certain point, but the cream always rises to the top and I agree with every winner who’s been chosen.

BLADE: Did you ever feel somebody who sashayed away should have won the lip sync?

MATHEWS: (long pause) Yes (laughs). But I don’t want to give specific cases. Ru is the Supreme Court and I defer to Ru all the time. But there’ve been a couple times when someone won and I go, “Huh — I didn’t see that one coming.” But that’s not my job to decide that. I’m just there to give my two cents.

BLADE: Do you hang out with Michelle (Visage) and Carson (Kressley) outside the show?

MATHEWS: Absolutely. Michelle and I just went to lunch in Calabasas the other day. She got gluten-free grilled cheese. She’s like a sister to me and Carson’s like a brother. I love them all. And we really just make each other laugh all day long.

BLADE: You’re all so chummy now but Michelle had a rather prickly relationship with (former judge) Santino (Rice). Does a little tension there help the show?

MATHEWS: Well, I can’t really speak to her relationship with Santino, but Michelle and I are like brother and sister. If we disagree, we’re not gonna keep it in. I’ll tell her she’s nuts, but we laugh about it later. We have absolutely had strong disagreements where we each draw a line in the sand and we’ll never agree on something but then we go to lunch afterwards. I’m not afraid of her.

BLADE: Who’s been your all-time favorite “Drag Race” guest judge?

MATHEWS: Oh my gosh, there are so many. I can’t believe the people we get to sit next to. I’ll come home and say, “I just sat next to Lady Gaga for like 12 hours,” or Miley Cyrus. I have to be careful not to say some of the names coming up ‘cause they’ll blow you away, but I’ll get in so much trouble. It’s one of the greatest gifts of the show the artists that Ru and World of Wonder allow me access to. It blows me away.

BLADE: Who would be your dream judges?

MATHEWS: Liza, Cher, Bette, Madonna — you know, the icons.

BLADE: Do you guys write all your own puns for the runway commentary or do you have help?

MATHEWS: No, we come up with it as it’s happening. As we see it, we say it.

BLADE: They’re pretty clever most of the time. I’ve always thought, “They must get some help with this.”

MATHEWS: No, we just try to make each other laugh. There’s no better feeling than making really funny people laugh. There are some stinkers from time to time and the editors help us out. 

BLADE: About how long does it take to tape a full “Drag Race” season?

MATHEWS: Well, there’s a lot going on. I don’t want to ruin it for people but of course, it takes longer than just what you see. There are outfit changes and you have to stop for production and sometimes there’s a lighting cue that goes wrong you have to redo. There’s a lot that goes into a production of this size but as someone who loves showmanship, I don’t want to give too much away.

BLADE: What’s the biggest thing being behind the scenes on these kinds of shows that stands out to you that you’d never have thought about as a viewer at home?

MATHEWS: Well, like the first time I went to the Oscars, I was staring at all the stars on the red carpet then you turn to the left and see 12 portapotties. I was like, “Wow, I didn’t know those were there,” they cut those out of the shots for TV. Or being in the “Big Brother” house and hearing the camera operators in the wall saying, “I’ve got a close up on Ross’s face, he’s going to bed.” I was like, “Oh my god, I didn’t think about that.” Or there’s a microphone hanging over the toilet, the one toilet you share with 11 other celebrities. It’s not all glamorous but it’s all a piece of the puzzle. 

BLADE: Have you seen Ru’s new Netflix show?

MATHEWS: I have! Michelle and I went to the premiere. We were basically wearing the same red suit, it’s on my Instagram. It’s so great, I’m so proud of Ru. You know, Ru refuses to be put in any box. You think you know what Ru can do, then Ru goes, “Oh, I can also do this.”

BLADE: When Ru was on the cover of Vanity Fair in December, the article suggested he’s only knowable to a point, down to earth and candid in some ways — I’m paraphrasing — but also with a bit of aloofness, like he only lets you get so close or never totally lets his hair down. Is that your impression?

MATHEWS: Um, I can’t really speak for other people’s impressions of Ru, but I can tell you what Ru has been for me. Ru has been so kind and so supportive and so welcoming and you know, there’s one quote on the cover of my book and it’s a quote from Ru and that’s on purpose because for this phase of my career, Ru’s been the one who has sort of given me a platform and said, “Hey, look at this guy, he’s really funny.” ‘Cause Ru could have picked anybody for that seat next to him and so for me, he’s a mentor and a friend.

BLADE: You’ve made self-deprecating cracks about your sex life on “Drag Race.” You gettin’ any these days? Or dating anyone? 

MATHEWS: (laughs) I am dating a lot actually. I never did this before. I didn’t really date in my 20s because I was figuring out how to be a famous person and I felt like a clown a little bit, so I felt like I had to choose between being funny or sexual. Then I got in a relationship and we were together for 10 years and now I found myself out dating again and I’m really confident now in who I am and I’ve never been single and confident at the same time, so I’m having a really good time dating. I find people fascinating. I like meeting people and I like learning from people and I think if you’re inquisitive and confident, you’re a really good dater.

BLADE: Reality TV and media can be rather soul sapping. And Ru is always spouting great spiritual wisdom. How do you refuel spiritually yourself?

MATHEWS: Not to sound cheesy, but I’m really fueled by living my dream. I don’t need anything else. 

BLADE: Good luck with your book and tour.

MATHEWS: Thanks! Please come out. It’s just an hour and a half where we shut the door on the world,  ‘cause everything’s fucked right now …

BLADE: Yeah, especially in Washington!

MATHEWS: I know, right? We just shut all that out and have some laughs. 

Ross Mathews combines his love of cooking, cocktails and Hollywood in new tome ‘Name Drop.’ (Photo by Ricky Middlesworth) 
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Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington celebrates 40th anniversary with virtual concert, retrospective

Veteran choir soldiers undeterred through pandemic with Zoom rehearsals

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Members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington gather in front of the Supreme Court on Sept. 3, 2013. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

GMCW Turns 40
Streaming begins Saturday, June 5 at 7 p.m.
Available through June 20
Tickets: $25
gmcw.org

Discussion of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington quickly becomes emotional for its members both veteran and newbie(-ish). They’re the kind of strong feelings that only exist when one has sacrificed and invested in something.

“It’s an experience that touches our soul in a way that not that many LGBTQ+ people get to experience,” says tenor Javon Morris-Byam, a gay 28-year-old music teacher who joined three years ago. “We have music tying us together and in the end, we make a product that we can share with the public and that’s a humbling experience.”

Steve Herman, 79, is a founding member, though he doesn’t sing. One of a group of “non-singing members,” he joined in June 1981 and has helped over the decades painting scenery, designing ads, serving on the board and more. His partner at the time had joined the chorus as a singer.

A Gay Men’s Chorus performance in 1983. (Washington Blade archive photo by Leigh Mosley)

Now retired after 47 years in the federal government, he says the Chorus “has been a major centerpiece of my life.”

“This may sound corny, but I couldn’t imagine my life without the chorus,” Herman says.

The chorus is celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend with a streaming concert simply dubbed “GMCW turns 40” that can be streamed starting Saturday, June 5 at 7 p.m. and can be viewed until June 20.

Selections will include “From Now On” (from “The Greatest Showman”), “Rise Up,” “Make Them Hear You” (from “Ragtime”), “Truly Brave” and a new song called “Harmony’s Never Too Late!” written for the occasion by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, composers of “Ragtime.” Video clips of past performances will also be included in a montage. Tickets are $25 at gmcw.org.

Thea Kano, the Chorus’s artistic director since 2014 (she was associate director for a decade prior), says “Make Them Hear You” has “kind of become our anthem over the last 10 years,” so contacting its composers for a commission made sense. They premiered it last summer virtually at the Chorus’s Summer Soiree, a COVID-induced postponement of its usual Spring Affair.

Thea Kano, center, joins members of the Chorus at the United States Supreme Court on the day of the Obergefell v. Hodges marriage equality decision in June of 2015.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Kano, a straight ally, directs the Chorus with aid from Associate Conductor C. Paul Heins, Assistant Conductor Joshua Sommerville and accompanist Teddy Guerrant. Justin Fyala has been the Chorus’s executive director since 2016. Staff also includes Craig Cipollini (director of marketing), Kirk Sobell (director of patron services) and Alex Tang (accompanist).

Under the main Chorus umbrella are five ensembles: 17th Street Dance, a 14-member performance troupe started in 2016; Rock Creek Singers, a 32-voice chamber ensemble; GenOUT Youth Chorus, a teen choir of about 25; Potomac Fever, a 14-member harmony pop ensemble; and Seasons of Love, a 24-voice gospel choir.

GenOUT Youth Chorus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Musically, the Chorus’s repertoire is eclectic.

“(We sing) everything from spiritual to glam rock to punk to traditional classical, and everything in between,” Morris-Byam says. “I love when the chorus is all together and able to produce a big powerful sound.”

Kano says working with Fyala is “a dream” and says under his leadership the Chorus is “in a very healthy financial place, which is wonderful and a very humble thing to be able to say right now particularly given that we’re in a pandemic — that’s not the case with a lot of arts organizations.”

The D.C. Chorus is a quasi-unofficial spin off of its San Francisco counterpart. During an early ’80s national tour, the San Francisco group performed at Washington’s Kennedy Center and had a profound effect on local audiences. Marsha Pearson, a straight woman who lived in Dupont Circle at the time and enjoyed hanging out with gay men, was one such person.

“I couldn’t believe we didn’t have one of these,” she told the Blade 10 years ago for a story on the Chorus’s 30th anniversary. “I thought, ‘We’re the nation’s capital, how come we don’t have this?’”

The Chorus performs at the popular gay nightclub Tracks in 1984. (Washington Blade photo by Doug Hinckle)

She hand wrote fliers — four to a sheet — had her sister photocopy them at her office, cut them up by hand and passed them out at Capital Pride in 1981. Accounts vary about how many showed up to the first practice at the long-defunct gay community center (no connection to the D.C. Center) on Church Street. Pearson remembers about 30. Others say it was more like 15-ish. It was June 28, 1981 and, by all accounts, an innocuous beginning.

Pearson never sang with the group — it was exclusively a men’s chorus. She asked if anybody had any conducting experience. The late Jim Richardson did and became the first director.

“I still remember the first chord,” Pearson told the Blade in 2011. “It was just a simple thing, you know, like do, mi, so, do, but I just got goosebumps. I was just elated that even one note came out, I was so excited. I got those same goosebumps at the anniversary concert last weekend. I put their CDs on and I get the same thing, especially on certain things they sing. You just can’t believe it sounds so great.”

Click here for more about the history of the group. A bio/history is also available at gmcw.org.

COVID has, of course, wreaked havoc on the operation. Thankfully, Kano says, no members have died from it, though a handful (she says fewer than 10 that she knows of), including Kano, have had it and recovered.

The Chorus continued its Sunday evening rehearsals via Zoom, which, because of the precision required for musical performance, was tougher to take online than, say, a business meeting. It never occurred to the Chorus leadership to take a hiatus.

“I look back now like, ‘Why didn’t we take some time off,’ but I think off the top of my head at the time it was like, “We sing and we’re a social justice organization and community is such a big part of who we are,’” Kano says. “And so for suddenly, with no notice, to have something that we love so much and are so passionate about …. to suddenly just turn the lights off, that wasn’t even an option.”

A GMCW rehearsal in 2007. (Washington Blade file photo by Henry Linser)

With the Chorus and dancers and GenOUT, there are about 200 current volunteer performers. It’s been slightly higher at times. Some were deterred by the thought of rehearsing via Zoom although some former members no longer in the D.C. area — even a few overseas — rejoined when virtual participation became possible.

The murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement last summer and beyond was a galvanizing event. The Chorus responded with its “Let Freedom Sing” concert, which Kano says celebrated the intersection of Black and LGBTQ people.

Featured soloists perform in ‘Let Freedom Sing.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“It was our way of saying we raise our voice in solidarity with those facing injustice,” Kano says.

But does that get messy at times? Surely not everyone in a choir of this size is on the same page politically, even in a progressive city like D.C., right?

As a nonprofit, the Chorus avoids anything ostensibly political. Kano says the issue did arise when they were invited to sing at a Virginia-based gun-reform event last year. They participated, but carefully.

“So anytime you mentioned guns, it becomes political,” Kano says. “It’s not about whether or not we support the Second Amendment. It’s us standing in solidarity with those who have been victims of gun violence.”

Kano says there’s “a very good chance had this been a non-pandemic year,” they would have been invited to sing at the Biden-Harris inauguration, which she says they “absolutely” would have agreed to.

“We did wonder, though, a few years ago what we would have said if 45 were to ask us,” she says. “We didn’t spend a lot of time on it because we knew that wasn’t gonna happen,” she says with a chuckle.

The holiday shows for the Chorus often involve elaborate costumes, as in this scene in 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Herman says performing at big, pro-LGBTQ “statement”-type events is woven into the Chorus’s history and is understood.

“Every Christmas Eve, we’d sing for the patients at NIH,” he says. “We still do, only then it was primarily AIDS patients. We sang special concerts when the (AIDS) Quilt was first displayed and when there was a March on Washington. We did a lot of community work and outreach at a time when it was really needed.”

Morris-Byam says even today, with so much progress having been made, the Chorus still is needed. He, by the way, calls Kano “one of the most brilliant musicians I’ve ever met.”

“I believe the Chorus is a strong political statement in itself,” he says. “When we’re making a strong, joyful noise, it’s celebrating everything we are, what we can be, and everyone who has gotten us where we are.

The Chorus celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in a performance at Lincoln Theatre in 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

There have been challenges over the years — finding new office space, patching together individual vocal parts for virtual performances — but no warring factions. Kano is, by most accounts, extremely well liked.

The future, Kano says, is bright. She hopes to resume in-person rehearsals in the fall. She spent a big chunk of early lockdown transcribing a Puccini “Gloria Mass” for tenor/bass chorus. She plans to program it with works by Cole Porter eventually.

Ultimately, Kano says, her goals for the Chorus are about making great art.

“Art comes first,” she says. “Because that’s how we deliver our mission. And if we put great art first, it’s going to attract great people. It’s going to both as members and as audience members and patrons, and therefore it’s going to attract great funding, and then all that goes right back into the arts we can further our expansion and our ability to get the mission out.”

Craig Cipollini leads the ‘Grease’ dance auditions in 2010. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
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Billy Porter talks about his HIV diagnosis and keeping secrets

The Tony, Emmy, and Grammy-Award winning actor revealed the secret he’s been keeping for 14 years in the Hollywood Reporter Wednesday

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Billy Porter appearing on Tamron Hall's show Wednesday (Screenshot via YouTube)

NEW YORK – Daytime talk show host Tamron Hall welcomed Broadway icon and star of the hit tv show “Pose,” Billy Porter on her show that aired Wednesday. The Tony, Emmy, and Grammy-Award winning actor revealed the secret he’s been keeping for 14 years that was made public in a piece for the Hollywood Reporter published Wednesday.

Porter discusses his HIV diagnosis from over a decade ago which the actor said he felt a sense of shame that compelled him to hide his condition from his castmates, collaborators and even his mother, and the responsibility that now has him speaking out. “The truth is the healing,” Porter said.

“I was on the precipice of obscurity for about a decade or so, but 2007 was the worst of it. By February, I had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By March, I signed bankruptcy papers. And by June, I was diagnosed HIV-positive,” he wrote. “The shame of that time compounded with the shame that had already [accumulated] in my life silenced me, and I have lived with that shame in silence for 14 years. HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God’s punishment,” the actor wrote.

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Final season of ‘Pose’ is must-see TV that matters

Groundbreaking FX drama has left its mark

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When the COVID pandemic hit in the early months of 2020, there were certainly more pressing and essential worries for us to grapple with than how it would impact the next season of a TV show. Yet it’s a testament to the power of “Pose” that many among its legion of fans were at least as concerned about the show’s disruption as they were about the possibility of running out of toilet paper.

The powerhouse FX drama — which spotlights the legends, icons and ferocious house mothers of New York’s underground ball culture in the late 1980s — had already made history. Not only did it feature the largest cast of transgender actors in regular roles, it boasted the largest recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever included in a scripted series. In its first two seasons, the show racked up accolades and honors (including a Primetime Emmy for Billy Porter as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series) while breaking new ground for the inclusion and representation of queer people — and especially transgender people of color — in television, both in front of the camera, and behind it. With the end of its second season in August 2019, fans were hungry for a third — but thanks to COVID, its future was suddenly in question.

So, when word came that the show’s third season would have its debut on May 2, it was the best news since finding out the vaccines were finally going to start rolling out. But it was bittersweet: Along with confirmation of the series’ imminent return came the sad revelation that the new season would also be the last. “Pose” would be coming to an end with a final, seven-episode arc.

As any viewer of show can attest, there were a lot of threads left hanging when last we saw its characters. That means there’s a lot of ground to cover in these last chapters in order to give everyone — characters and audience alike — the closure they deserve.

The show’s official synopsis goes like this: It’s now 1994 and ballroom feels like a distant memory for Blanca, who struggles to balance being a mother with being a present partner to her new love, as well as her latest role as a nurse’s aide. Meanwhile, as AIDS becomes the leading cause of death for Americans ages 25 to 44, Pray Tell contends with unexpected health burdens. Meanwhile, a vicious new upstart house is emerging in the ballroom world, and the members of the House of Evangelista are forced to contend their legacy.

Obviously, there are a lot of details left hidden in that broad overview, and fans are undoubtedly full of questions about what they can expect to see.

Fortunately, the bulk of the show’s main cast convened on Zoom last week (along with show co-creator and Executive Producer Steven Canals and Executive Producer Janet Mock) for a press conference to discuss their “Pose” experience, and while they didn’t exactly give away any spoilers, they definitely dropped some tantalizing hints about what’s in store for audiences in the farewell season.

In truth, most of the discussion was dominated by reminiscences and expressions of mutual appreciation, sure signs that the feeling of family we see onscreen is something that has taken hold off screen, as well. But in between the affectionate banter, the cast and creatives addressed several questions that might be most on viewers’ minds.

Perhaps the most pressing of these — why, after only three seasons, is the critic-and-audience-acclaimed show calling it quits? — was taken on by Canals, who explained:

“I always knew what the beginning and what the end of the narrative would be. And when Ryan Murphy and I first met in September of 2016, we felt really strongly that that particular narrative made sense. And so, while we certainly could have continued to create narrative around these characters and in this world, and we certainly had a conversation in the writers’ room about it … I think we all agreed that it just made sense for us to ‘land the plane,’ if you will, comfortably — as opposed to continuing to give an audience story that just simply didn’t have any real core intention or a real thrust towards specificity.”

Also of interest was the obvious subject of how the parallels between the current pandemic and the AIDS crisis that looms over the show’s narrative might be reflected in the new episodes. While he didn’t hint at any direct connections in “Pose,” Porter used the subject to underscore a theme that has always been one of the show’s most important elements:

“I think the parallels are quite profound. I know that as a Black gay man who lived through the AIDS crisis, I have been dealing with a lot of PTSD during this COVID time. It’s very reminiscent of what it was like then. The best news about that is that I survived. We got through it, and there is another side to it. We can get to the other side.

“I feel like that’s what ‘Pose’ really accomplishes this season, reminding the public that it’s when we come together and when we lead with love [that] we get to the other side.”

Mock elaborated on the theme of resilience by discussing the importance of showing the strength of House mothers like Blanca and Electra (Dominique Jackson), who hold together — and lift up — their entire community:

“It’s that matriarchal power and lineage that I think the ballroom is, and what trans women are to one another, that then feeds everyone else and enables them to shine and have all the things that they want in the world. For me, it is [about] that celebration […] of Black trans women — that they’ve created this space, that they brought everyone else in with them, and that, at the end of the day, they are often the ones most often forgotten.

“I think with this season, I want everyone across the industry, the audience, to realize that. I think it’s essential, and it’s important.”

Mock also talked about the way “Pose” focuses on the small, day-to-day lives of its characters as much as it does the larger-than-life splendor of the ballroom culture in which they participate:

“We wanted to ensure that we show the everyday, mundane moments, as well as the great, grand celebrations. The ballroom is are presentation of what it means to congregate and share testimony and to love on each other, and our show is a celebration of the everyday intimacies. So, for us, while we were plotting these big, grand moments […] we wanted to bring in traditions — weddings, matrimony, all this stuff — that our characters get to engage in. We wanted to be a part of the tradition of that, and all the moments that a family shares together. We wanted to make sure that all of those things were celebrated in this.”

When discussion turned to the unprecedented level of support and collaborative inclusion with which the show’s queer cast were bestowed by Ryan Murphy and the rest of the creative staff — from the presence of trans women like Mock and Co-producer Our Lady J in the writers’ room to the extensive reliance on the insights and talents of real-life members of the ballroom community — Jackson was quick to add that besides giving the show its ferocious authenticity, it gave her an increased recognition of her own worth:

“I will never, ever, ever walk into a space thinking that I need to impress them […] I will never walk into a space being fearful of my identity stopping me from anything. Because of this journey, when I walk into spaces now, my identity is not because I’m an abomination. My identity is a plus. My identity is my value. So, when I walk into spaces now,they need to impress me. You can be the biggest Hollywood director, producer, whatever, but you’re not going to take my story or relay stories that are reflective of my life or my existence and make them into anything you want, because of ‘Pose,’ because of Ryan, because of Steven, because of Janet and Brad [co-creator/executive producer Falchuk), because of Our Lady J, because of my cast members.

“I will never walk into spaces or live a life or an existence thinking that I need to impress anyone.”

Porter concurred, adding:

“There was never, ever a space in my brain to dream what‘Pose’ is, what Pray Tell is. I spent the first 25-plusyears of my career trying to fit into a masculinity construct that society placed on us so I could eat.‘Pose,’ and Pray Tell in particular, really taught me to dream the impossible […] the idea that the little, Black church sissy from Pittsburgh is now in a position of power in Hollywood in a way that never existed before. You can damn sure believe that I will be wielding that power and there will be a difference and a change in how things go from here on out.”

If the cast members themselves have found themselves feeling more empowered thanks to “Pose,” so too have the millions of LGBTQ people — and allies — who have tuned into it since its premiere in 2018. The show is one of those rare entries into the cultural lexicon that simply allows its queer and trans people to live authentic lives, giving long-withheld representation to countless viewers who were able to see themselves reflected back from the screen for perhaps the very first time. It’s that powerful sense of validation provided by “Pose” that keeps it standing tall in an entertainment market now providing so much LGBTQ inclusion that it’s becoming dangerously easy to take it for granted.

Whatever moments of heartbreak, joy, and celebration “Pose” brings us as it plays out its final act — and there are sure to be many — we can all be sure it will leave us with a message expressed through an oft-heard line of dialogue that Mock says she found herself writing “over and over again” during the series’ run:

“You are everything, and you deserve everything this world has to offer.” It’s that nurturing sentiment the “Pose” has been instilling in us from the beginning, like a mother to us all.

And that’s why so many of us can’t wait until the first two episodes of its final season air at 10 p.m. (both Eastern and Pacific), Sunday, May 2, on FX.

The final season of “Pose” will begin to air on FX on Sunday, May 2, at 10 p.m. ET. (Photos courtesy of FX)

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