Inside the Fola Francis Ball: Glam, beats, and bold defiance

Sequins catching the dim hangar lights, a bassline vibrating through the concrete floor, laughter echoing like defiance – the Fola Francis Ball wasn’t just a party, it was a sensory assault on the norm. Held on the outskirts of Lagos on June 9th, 2024, it was a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, a vibrant tapestry woven from music, fashion, and the electric pulse of freedom.

Image via Folafrancis ball Instagram

About the Fola Francis Ball

With a keen eye, the jury – Lucy of Weiz Dhurm Franklyn, Daniel Obasi, and Ashley Okoli – scrutinised the performances. Onstage, a kaleidoscope of colour exploded. Synthetic wigs in every shade imaginable danced alongside sequins that shimmered under the spotlight. Drag makeup, bold and daring, accentuated the defiant spirit of the performers.

Image via Folafrancis ball Instagram

Their bodies moved in a captivating blend of neo-goth poses pulsating to the energetic beats of Afrobeat legends like Ayra Starr, Niniola, and Tiwa Savage, seamlessly interwoven with global pop icons like Beyoncé, Madonna, and Pink. The crowd erupted in cheers, a vibrant symphony celebrating self-expression.

Image via Folafrancis ball Instagram

A haven for expression

Six months ago, Lagos became Kim’s refuge. A 27-year-old trans woman, she’d traded uncertainty for a glimmer of safety. But safety wasn’t enough. Kim craved expression, a way to shout her truth to the world.

Image via Fola Francis Ball Instagram

Enter the Fola Francis Ball. Here, amidst the pulsating music and dazzling costumes, fashion became her voice. Each piece she donned wasn’t just clothing; it was a defiance of traditional norms, a celebration of her femininity, a declaration of who she truly was. Kim’s story wasn’t unique. Here, fashion wasn’t just a trend; it was empowerment.

Image via Folafrancis ball Instagram

Nigeria’s laws may cast a long shadow, but the ball offered a defiant ray of light. “It’s tough being queer here,” Kim confided to the Guardian, “but the positivity is powerful.” And in that positivity, Kim, and countless others, found not just solace, but a platform to be undeniably themselves.

Image via Folafrancis ball Instagram

Fashion remains a crucial tool for the LGBTQ+ community to express themselves and their choices, especially in a country where being gay can lead to imprisonment for up to 14 years. For nearly 20 years, these balls have provided a vital safe space.

Event organiser Ayo Lawson described her first ballroom experience to the Guardian as transformative, emphasising the importance of these gatherings: “People underestimate how privileged it is to hold your partner’s hand or kiss them in public. These events create a necessary safe space for us,” she said.

Image via Folafrancis ball Instagram

This year’s ball paid tribute to Fola Francis, a trailblazer in the queer fashion scene. Fola broke significant barriers as the first transgender person to walk the runway at Lagos Fashion Week in November of 2022. Her bold and eclectic style, coupled with her work with various notable designers, left a lasting impact on the fashion industry.

Before coming out as a transgender woman in 2021, Fola had already found success in fashion, though her visibility as a queer individual led to instances of ostracism and discrimination. Unfazed, she founded her own fashion brand, Fola Francis Official, offering gender-neutral clothing and custom apparel.

Image via Folafrancis ball Instagram

The Fola Francis Ball served as a testament to the resilience and spirit of the LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria, celebrating their identities and advocating for their rights amidst challenging circumstances.


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