by Brittany Higgs
The timing couldn’t be better for an all-Black kiki ballroom house to come to the spotlight. The Royal House of Noir is a house of talented and devoted performance artists and community activists in the greater Seattle area. There are currently a total of six members: house parents Lü (she/they/Queen), Chi (they/she/Queen), and CarLarans (he/they/King) and children Avery (they/he), Aísha (she/her/goddess), and Elle (she/her/duchess) Noir. These six individuals are taking the community by storm with their intentionality, mindfulness, and focus on community safety and liberation.
Ballroom and house culture have a very rich history dating back to 1920s New York City. At its start, ballroom was a setting where performers, mainly white drag queens, communed and competed in pageants. Black and Latino/Latina/Latine people seldom participated and, when they did, faced discrimination.
By the 1960s, Black and Brown LGBTQ+ folks, mainly Black and Latino/Latina/Latine, created their own underground ballroom scene where people would come together in community to walk various categories. It became a space for Black and Brown queer youth to feel safe and celebrated in being themselves, find and share resources on how to navigate this world as intersectionally margenalized people, and be in spaces with others who shared their identities. With this came the formation of groups, called houses, where queer and trans community members manifested a very tangible sense of family by stepping into parental roles and opening their hearts to queer youth in need of community, familial love, and support.
Ballroom today, both here and around the world, would not exist without Black and Brown trans people, especially Black trans women. Violence and discrimination against Black and Brown queer and trans people, coupled with the epidemic of parents and guardians kicking their queer children out of the house, continues to make ballroom and house culture very necessary.
The story of how The Royal House of Noir came to be, and how they aid Seattle’s QTBIPOC community, starts with house mothers and lovers Lü and Chi Noir, also known as iconic drag duo Lüchi. Lü Noir says Lüchi is a drag performance duo created “within love and [the] urge to share love within the community, and specifically the QTBIPOC community.”
Their involvement in Seattle’s nightlife and drag performance scene branched into the couple becoming involved in ballroom and joining the House of Luna (2017–2018), formed by Diego Jose and Jade Dynasty. There Lüchi met CarLarans, who became their dearest friend and current father, king, and coparent of The Royal House of Noir.
When the House of Luna separated, Lü and Chi Noir had an urge to start a new family. “CarLarans was the perfect person to collaborate with,” said Lü Noir, so the three decided to form a house. “It was prime time for an all-Black house that specifically focuses on Black trans spaces and creating and cultivating those spaces for the community,” explained Chi Noir. Before officially naming themselves a house, the members spent a year in a “dating period” getting to know each other and strengthening their relationships before officially presenting themselves to the community as a family and house. In November 2018, in Lü and Chi Noirs’ old apartment, they wrote their mission statement and walked their first ball as a house.
Their mission statement states:
“The Royal House of Noir builds visible community, and provides space and resources through our talents for the BQT community.
The Royal House of Noir aspires to excellence and success within themselves and fellow BQT folx in hopes to inspire others.
The Royal House of Noir is a house where you can be who you are in a safe environment and feel uplifted, empowered, and celebrated.
The Royal House of Noir centers trans black people, their experiences, their livelihood, and their continued existence.
**Specifically Black Trans Womxn have paved the way and are vital to the future of our culture.
WE BLACK, WE QUEER, WE TRANS”
When asked where they feel the most pride about their house, Lü Noir talked about their ability to stick together through each other’s hard times: “The people that really love you, the people that are really in those relationships with you, are going to stay with you during those bad times.” Chi Noir extended this sentiment to community, where The Royal House of Noir sometimes has taken the role of mediator. In addition, children Elle, Avery, and Aísha Noir work in community organizations that tackle the systems of oppression often causing those hard times.
Each house member reaches out to community in their own way, and they are finding members of community they didn’t know existed. As a house, they want to bring forward that same discovery. “If you ever need help, come to Noir. We will definitely help you out and take you in even if it isn’t joining the house. We will definitely guide you around this community until you find your own family,” says Chi Noir. The house members can be reached at their house email firstname.lastname@example.org and their Instagram page @theroyalhouseofnoir. Reaching out to individual members’ Instagrams from there is also acceptable. Lü Noir says, “Hitting us up individually is a great tactic to get to the house.”
Members of The Royal House of Noir participate in community outreach individually and as a house. Lü and Chi Noir are an active part of Seattle’s nightlife scene, which includes sex workers, strippers, go-gos, drag queens, and burlesque performers. CarLarans Noir works with QTBIPOC in the music community. Aísha Noir is connected to the dance community. Avery and Elle Noir are involved with many trans-led organizations locally and nationally, including the Washington Black Trans Task Force. Elle Noir also offers solace and advice to trans women and girls in Seattle about how to navigate the city as a Black trans woman. “Our number one way of community outreach is being out in the community and physically meeting people. I think that making that connection is grassroots. That’s what Jade Dynasty used to do,” CarLarans Noir stated.
As The Royal House of Noir becomes more known and recognized in the greater Seattle area, they hope to find those pockets of QTBIPOC folks in the area who are searching for the very community they and so many other houses are creating, maintaining, and building. “I think it’s so important to have these kinds of families, these kinds of representation so people that don’t get that experience get to experience people that are very similar to them,” says Lü Noir.
The current dream is to expand the house and have a physical space housing various programs, events, and kiki sessions to create and or access the systems of support and care catering to and caring for the QTBIPOC community. They are creating a roster of queer lawyers, counselors, therapists, and other professionals they didn’t know existed in the community. They also look to expand by adding more members locally and, potentially, internationally. “I definitely envision it growing to different chapters, different cities. I want it to continue to be a collective group that can constantly just be creating spaces in Seattle and abroad and to be that all-Black representation in the ballroom scene,” said CarLarans Noir.
To experience the love and care of The Royal House of Noir is to experience warmth. The love members have for each other — the mothers as lovers, the father as a dearly loved friend, the relationship between the children, and the relationship between parent and child — truly radiates to the community they’re trying to reach. Their dynamic is a seamless blend between friendship and parental and sibling mentorship.
Keep an eye out for The Royal House of Noir as they make history alongside other houses in the Pacific Northwest kiki ballroom scene, cultivating space for QTBIPOC not just to survive in this world, but thrive.
“I hope we [as a house and a region] become legendary,” concludes Chi Noir.
Brittany Higgs is a Black, queer, non-binary, and disabled freelance writer, educator, and visual artist born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Join them on Instagram @ebonyvisionart to take part in a community that centers Black art and radical vulnerability.
📸 Featured Image: The Royal House of Noir. Left photo by Momma Nikki. Right photo courtesy of The Royal House of Noir.
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