"Kevin Ultra Omni"
an interview by Aaron Avant-Garde

reprinted from CUT Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 4
October 1992

 
When you first started going to the balls, what was it like?
 
That was in '79... They were colorful, very "Las Vegas showgirl", very "Cabaret", full of entertainment. People knew how to sew their own garments, and took pridee in being able to pay for what they put on their backs.
 
When did Omni start?
 
1980. We've been through a lot together- weathered many storms. All the way to '88, it was just "Omni". Then in '89, we figured -Omni meaning "all"- why not go beyond "all". So we slapped "Ultra" in front of "Omni". We just wanted to say "beyond all" without being... full of ourselves. We just opened up the House of Omni Philadelphia in '91.
 
Who's the Father?
 
Michael Wooten. He's a dancer and a singer, and he's doing shows all over New York and new Jersey in various clubs- mainly straight clubs...
 
Was he the original father?
 
He was appointed by me in 1988.
 
Before that you were...?
 
I was everything you wanted me to be...
 
The Mother, the Father...?
 
The sister, the brother...
 
(Ki-ki!)
 
CEO, y'know... I'm there for everything from spiritual guider to silly questions like, "should orange go with blue"... I believe in being real, because you can't hide from yourself.
 
What is your house about?
 
Let me get into this... Let's see, we're family oriented: we have picnics and rollerskating parties annually, given by LaRose Omni, the godmother... we do a lot of fashion shows, outside the ball world- like for the City Universities of New York... We've even done shows at the Statler-Hilton for Ralph Lauren... We have a multi-talented house.
 
Who came up with the name "Omni"?
 
That was Thomas "Dimples" Baker. Y'know, the one that went through the dictionary and said, "We're gonna call ourselves..." He's also a recording artist and his group is Soul Fortune...
 
A lot of singers!
 
Yeah... We have Dino, Denise Renee and Deborah Rivers, and also Lyn Depino. We have two dj's- Wayne Smith, who plays at Zanzibar in Jersey and WBLS in New York... Legendary Andre Collins- a 17 year veteran on the turntables- Better Days, Tracks and the balls...
 
What other kinds of talent?
 
We have Ford models also- Virginia Slims and Chet Omni -a "real man", not a butch queen... we have designers who incorporated their own line of clothing, Heritage International Sportswear, giving three shows annually- this is Derrick Omni and Collin O'Neil.
 
Any community work?
 
We've done AIDS benefits along with Cindy Crawford, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper...
 
The Love Balls?
 
Yeah. Not many New York houses were included- maybe 5 out of 20... There was another affair called The Grandest Grand March Ever at the Palladium. It was beautiful. We helped raise at least a million dollars and opened up apartments for homeless people with AIDS...
 
That's good to hear.
 
Some of our house members participate as volunteers, for those that are too sick to go shopping, etcetera.
 
How do you select members?
 
Well... one, they have to have a personality, and two, a job or school- we prefer all three...
 
What does "legendary" mean to you?
 
It's more than ten trophies in a particular category... To me, it's also giving balls successfully- starting on time, everybody had a good time, and nobody fought- helping others without being selfish, and sharing knowledge obtained, OK? When you can give something back to the community, then you've become legendary! A lot of people throw that name around and say, " Well, I've won five trophies." What year, honey? And was it five balls in a row that made it all that? How many balls did you give, and better yet, how old is your house? You won twelve trophies in one year, back-to-back, and yet, we haven't heard from you in the last ten years.
 
(Ki-Ki!)
 
In my opinion, the legendary houses of New York are Dupree, Pendarvis, Corey, Ebony, NY Omni, St. Laurent, LaBeija, Princess, Christian, Chanel and LaWong. Now these houses have been in existence for over ten years and are still going. LaBeija's about 22 years old, and still turning it out.
 
Some gay people I've talked with, as far as balls go, have the attitude, "Why include straight people, when they don't include us?"
 
First of all, you have to be diversified. I used to win contests at straight clubs, like "Best Dressed Man", competing with straight guys and I didn't wear a sign saying, "I'm a butch queen". At my balls, my family supports me: my mother's always there, and my sisters come... my brother, my sister-in-law and cousins. And my categories have always listed "Male Face"-that means if you're a man, PERIOD. You can be a butch queen with permed hair, switching in pink pants. If you have a male face, then bring it. Or "Male Body"-who's to say a butch queen's body is different from a man's? Give me a break! If you're getting out there in the real world, and you're a model, you're gonna get out there as a man and not come in a dress: butch queen or whatever! I try to refer to people accordingly.
 
Different areas are going to have different opinions about that, still...
 
Yeah, like they just recently started throwing balls in Connecticut.
 
It would be fun to have an interstate ball...
 
And get people to sponsor you. There's a lot that can be done from this. Y'know, I've been trying to get the media to see balls, not as a seedy, sordid affairs, like they're depicted in "Paris is Burning". And to let the world know we're here- breathing, working, paying taxes, getting beat up...
 
(Ki-ki)
 
So why not give us some coins, too.
 
What kind of media contact have you had?
 
I had MTV, VH1 and VH8 at my "Tracks Ball" in '89... and Omni's been in print in local papers and magazines, here and in Europe.
 
Anything else you'd like to make a statement about?
 
Yeah. It's a shame, with all the gay bashing, AIDS, and all the other things that are wrong in this world, that the gay community seems to have the most jealousy, animosity, visciousness and vindictiveness amongst the kids, when they should try to treat each other right, because as fast as the kids are dying, no one knows what tomorrow may bring.
 
Copyright 1992 Aaron P. Brown. All rights reserved.
 
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