Television

‘Pose’: An ode to 1980s New York, diversity, and a time when Donald Trump was just a businessman

The new American television series brings a little-known queer subculture to the mainstream.

American drama series Pose recreates New York City of the 1980s – a time when ballroom culture, an underground subset of the LGBT movement, was at its peak. Peopled mostly by queer persons of colour, the ball was an eclectic mix of modelling and dancing competitions that promised monetary compensation and bragging rights to the winner.

Participants in the ball belonged to different “houses” – family-sized communities of queer people ruled by a “mother”. Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) is a black trans woman who dreams of starting her own house so that she can be freed of the influence of Elektra (Dominique Jackson), the mother of the Abundance house of which Blanca is a member.

Pose was premiered on FX on June 3. At the beginning of the first episode, Blanca learns that she is HIV positive. The virus, still to make its impact on the LGBT community fully known, returns as an omnipotent threat in other episodes. Determined to strike out on her own, she begins to seek out members for her nascent house. One of these is Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain), a gay teenager crazy about ballet who has been kicked out by his parents.

Even within the genre of LGBT programming, Pose is different because it focuses on people of colour. In a moving scene, Blanca and a trans friend are asked to leave a gay bar that caters exclusively to white men. Blanca, determined to protest this unfairness, returns repeatedly to claim her place at the bar until she is violently removed from it.

Pose also juxtaposes the underground LGBT scene with the more conventional, demandingly aspirational lifestyle of the 1980s – and in doing so, harks back to a time when Donald Trump was known only as a real estate mogul. This intersection happens through the story of Angel (Indya Moore), a trans woman who makes a living as a sex worker and Stan Bowes (Evan Peters), a manager at the Trump Organisation with a wife and child.

Unsure about his feelings for Angel, Stan both ignores and pines for her, even as he struggles to live the life of a senior executive. In one scene, he denies his wife’s request to buy a dishwasher because they have splurged on a $900 gown that Stan believed she needed to be seen in at an important company dinner.

Ryan Murphy, who headlined American Horror Story and the musical Glee, has said that through Pose, he was keen to bring out an aspect of LGBT culture that has so far remained hidden from mainstream content. This makes Pose a many-themed show, reiterating the mix of serious and flippant that marked LGBT lives.

One instance of this is the importance with which Blanca and Elektra take the Legendary Runway category at the ball, reserved for house mothers. The viewer may find an initial dissonance between the struggle of their private lives and their tendency to fight, cat-like, for a showy title. But look deeper, and the dissonance dissipates. The ball, the house, the adopted families are all communities LGBT people formed by sheer force of will. Disowned by families, torn between their selves and their god, unsure how to love and make love, these men and women teetered on the brink of physical and emotional security. What looks like feline behaviour from the outside is really a way of establishing turf in an intimate world.

When Damon returns from a night out with a date, he finds Blanca waiting up for him. What follows is a jovial but also deeply maternal conversation on safe sex between two people who are related by nothing but their queerness. In so comparing and contrasting the many strands of LGBT lifestyle, Pose offers a messy but also rich portrait of a community struggling to be of some consequence.

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Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

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Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.