You might not think drag queens and frat bros have much in common. But Johnny Milan of House Milan, the longest-running commentator of the annual POP Ball, begs to differ.
“The way I explain it [to my straight friends] is that we’re like a gay fraternity,” he says of the
Johnny has been involved with POP — short for "Power of the Pussy" — since it was created more than 15 years ago by his good friend Oso Milan (also of the House of Milan) and Yenti Valdes. The POP Ball has become the go-to party in the ballroom scene during Miami Beach Pride. Johnny came onboard as a host in 2007.
“Oso was a young eager kid ready to throw balls in Miami. He had just joined a house and was hungry to be enveloped in ballroom culture,” Johnny says. “One night, after hanging out with Yenti, they decided to throw a ball for women in order to make women feel more empowered, so they came up with Power of the Pussy.”
In the beginning, many of the categories during the POP Balls were geared toward women's empowerment, femme queens, and cisgender women. Over the years, the ball has evolved. One year, they threw a Power of Prevention party to raise awareness for PrEP, a drug treatment that can greatly reduce the risk of HIV infection. Its success inspired the organizers to continue the theme, making HIV prevention and awareness their number one goal moving forward.
“POP originated as the Power of the Pussy, but a few years ago we decided to branch out and switch it up a bit... It’ll always be the Power of the Pussy, but we decided to make it the official Pride ball,” Johnny says. “So now, every year, we throw POP for Pride in April so those kids who come from out of state during Pride know they will always have a home in the ballroom scene... But our goal is to be an awareness ball and to eventually get to the main stage at Pride on South Beach." He adds that the team hopes to become a nonprofit in order to do outreach within the community.
There was a brief period between 2009 and 2014 when POP went silent after its founding father, Oso, moved to New York City. Oso eventually moved back to Miami, and the party picked back up. Now POP is celebrating ten years on the scene, making it an official legendary ball.
“We’re throwing a major ball [for the tenth anniversary] and giving out $3,000 in cash prizes,” Johnny says.
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If you’re new to the ballroom scene, the host recommends you “sit back and take it all in for your first time.”
In comparison, Catwalk, which is organized by Johnny's house daughter, Andrea Gooddroid, is like an introduction into the ballroom scene, Johnny says. “Catwalk is like a mini-ball with three to four categories, but POP is a major ball with over 30 categories and thousands of dollars to give away.”
The event this year will be hosted by Oso, along with Cash Mizrahi, Angel Yamamoto, and Danny Ebony.
POP X. 8 p.m. Friday, April 5, at Renaissance at the Gables, 2340 SW 32nd Ave., Coral Gables; facebook.com/miamipopball. Tickets cost $30 at the door.