I wasn’t sure whether or even how to approach Livingston’s 1990 documentary Paris is Burning. Set in the ballrooms of New York amid the beginnings of the HIV/AIDS crisis, Paris is Burning has been a central (perhaps even foundational) text for queer theory (e.g Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Bodies that Matter) as well as queer culture more broadly (Rupaul’s Drag Race, Pose, and perhaps queer language itself). The foundational role of Paris is Burning is less a credit to Livingston and more so to the people they documented across their travels within ballroom subculture. Watching Paris is Burning, you cannot help but feek cheated by how little screen time Juniopr LaBeija, the emcee, gets. There’s something so unapologetically Black, queer, and shady about Junior LaBeija that is infectious. She tells it like it is, still. And at 63, I’m also struck by her caution about what it means for people outside her world to tell the story of Ballroom. While thre has been so much celebration for shows like Pose, I am often, like LaBeija, ambivalent about the fact that folks like Ryan Murphy not only have creative control, but reap the benefits of stories they have never lived (see Janet Mock’s recent missive about Hollywood). LaBeija’s own obscurity even as Billy Porter continues to collect torphies for playing a role based on her, is also a haunting reminder of how easily real people can become replaced by their fictionalization. Seth Abramovitch’s 2021 profile of Junior LaBeija, especiall for those unfamiliar with LaBeija, is an excellent entree into learning about someone who has been so pivotal to the culture. It’s also a reminder that not all heroes get the accolades they deserve.