Marquis Clanton is Everything

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To watch Marquis Clanton vogue is to witness a force of nature. Dramatic, glamorous, and high energy, he moves with sharp and tight technical precision. His performances are theatrical, costumes vibrant, and choreography unmatched. 

An international vogue dancer, choreographer, and icon in the famed House of Revlon, the East Baltimore native travels frequently to perform and judge ballroom at home and abroad. The House of Revlon—in which Marquis is a “father” and hall-of-famer—arrived in Baltimore in the early ’90s, and Marquis joined in 1998. The house has chapters throughout the US and in other countries, with more than 200 members.

Marquis came to voguing as a member of the New Edition Community Marching Band under the leadership of the director, Ms. Anna Hart. He got into the ballroom scene and the House of Revlon through his friends and peers. One day after band rehearsal, they went to Club Bunns, a downtown gay bar that closed at the end of 2019. “Bunns was an iconic club that just highlighted the safe space for us to be outsiders,” Marquis says. “Voguing was something I’d never seen. It was an expression I knew nothing about. It was a feeling, it showed how happy everyone was doing it, and I just wanted to learn.” 


“When you wake up in the morning and you look at the mirror, validate yourself. Tell yourself you are amazing. Tell yourself you are everything the world needs to see."
Marquis Clanton

In the years since Marquis mastered his craft, he has also shared his knowledge by mentoring and advocating for young performers in Baltimore. His mentorship includes life lessons to students beginning their journey in voguing. “It’s easy to be misled,” he says. “It looks glamorous, but once you get inside of it, it’s not always glamorous.” 

Ballroom is an inherently competitive environment, and being judged for your performance is meant to sharpen your skills. “You have to figure out who you are as an individual, who you stand for, what you stand for, what your morals are, and figure out how do you navigate through the scene and through the community and be strong,” Marquis says. One piece of advice that he shares with mentees is to learn how to validate yourself, and to remember that opinions are just opinions. “When you wake up in the morning and you look at the mirror, validate yourself. Tell yourself you are amazing,” he says. “Tell yourself you are everything the world needs to see.”

One mentee is King Kory Kruze, an up-and-coming vogue dancer who is well respected in Baltimore and now getting traction abroad. (He is also a model in BmoreArt’s upcoming Issue 14.) “I laid eyes on Marquis when I joined the New Edition Marching Band. I felt like he was everything I wanted to be coming into the gay world,” Kruze shares. “I was attracted to his drive, talent, and perseverance. I felt like I was looking at myself! He has always been a positive mentor in ballroom, knowing how to play the game and not let ballroom play him.” 


To make it in the wider world of ballroom, one has to first make a name for themselves in their own city. Once Marquis was able to establish himself in Baltimore, and then he started competing in New York, which enabled him to expand and compete internationally.

Despite taking his craft all over the world, Marquis has never forgotten his roots in Baltimore, whose ballroom scene is like family. “Coming into the ballroom scene and into that community, we all kind of understood each other,” Marquis says. “It became your chosen family outside of your family.” 

He also credits his mother, who always encouraged his creativity, kept him out of trouble when he was young, and continues to be a great support. “I’m proud of my growth and the man I’ve become. I’m proud I trusted my process and remain consistent and true to me. I’m also proud that through my journey I represent Baltimore in a positive light and inspire others to live your dreams,” Marquis says. “We can support each other, uplift each other, and motivate each other. Where you come from and your upbringing was like doesn’t mean that’s the individual you will become. We have the power to change the narrative.”


Mirror suit and wardrobe by Jonathan Rashawn and MUA: Dee Harris

Mirror suit and wardrobe by Jonathan Rashawn and MUA: Dee Harris

This story is from Issue 12: More is More, available here.

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