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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vandy Vanity: Let me see you vogue

This safe space for queer students of color on campus honors the Ballroom and vogue communities.
Nikita Rohila
Vandy Vanity models strike one final pose to culminate their inaugural fashion show. (Hustler Multimedia/Nikita Rohila)

If your New Year’s resolution centered anywhere around becoming the absolute fiercest version of yourself, look no further than Vandy Vanity. Spearheaded by sophomore Qwynn Foster, the year-old fashion organization boasts itself as a self-confidence builder, as well as one of the safest and most supportive spaces on Vanderbilt’s campus.

“I want anyone who steps into Vandy Vanity to know it’s a home for them. Whether it’s for a long time or short time, I truly want everyone to feel that they are fashion,” Foster said.

From working as a model in their hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida to walking in Miami Fashion Week in 2018, the Ballroom and runway have been second homes for Foster for many years. Becoming a full-time college student wasn’t the seamless transition they had imagined.

“I felt really isolated. It felt like everyone was constantly on the grind,” Foster said. “It was like everyone had their shit together. I wanted to create an organization where it was okay for people to not have their shit together.”

From that sentiment, Vandy Vanity was born. Foster founded the fashion organization as a first-year student and now serves as its executive director. The first Vandy Vanity fashion show, themed “Our Heavenly Bodies,” was held in April 2022 as part of Vanderbilt Fashion Week, and after seven months of preparations, the first ball, “This is Halloween,” was held in October 2022.  

A mission of Vandy Vanity is to serve as an interactive safe space for queer students of color, furthering the original purpose of Ballroom. Emerging as a counterculture movement in the 1960s, the Ballroom scene celebrates Black and Latinx members of the queer community, originally ostracized by the drag show and performance circles.

The Nashville community has been an integral part of Vandy Vanity’s successful events and their goal to honor the Black trailblazers of Ballroom and vogue. Event organizer Tory Moody from the Ballroom House of Ebony has been a supportive community partner in executing the scale of the young organization’s past and future balls.

Led by founder Qwynn Foster, Vandy Vanity models dance and rejoice in celebration of completing their fashion show, "Our Heavenly Bodies." (Hustler Multimedia/Nikita Rohila)
Led by founder Qwynn Foster, Vandy Vanity models dance and rejoice in celebration of completing their fashion show, “Our Heavenly Bodies.” (Hustler Multimedia/Nikita Rohila) (Nikita Rohila)

“Vandy Vanity has honored the Ballroom community by creating a platform to present Ballroom culture to a wider audience,” Moody said. “With the upcoming ball in December, work is underway to create a panel of Ballroom legends, and there will even be classes that Vanderbilt students can attend to learn and practice the elements of vogue, runway, and much more.”

Guests traveled from far and wide to see Vanderbilt’s first exhibition of Ballroom culture. Local performers filled the seats, and up-and-coming ballroom icon Pandora West even took to the stage, to the excitement of hundreds of spectators. 

“I have never seen a room so Black,” Foster said. “We had 417 people, a mix of students and community members and it was beautiful. I had students, faculty and alum all reaching out to say how special the event was for them, how they wished they had an event like this during their time, and even a student saying the ball showed them a community that they didn’t know was possible on Vanderbilt’s campus.”

The ball featured several popular Ballroom categories, including face, performance and runway, and thanks to community contributions, the organization was able to give out $4,000 in prizes. According to Foster, Vanity also advocates against fast fashion by only dressing models in outfits from local small-business designers.

Vandy Vanity has served as a catalyst for its members to find opportunities beyond the campus walls. Modeling agencies have scouted Vanity members, and Foster anticipates those opportunities continuing in the upcoming events.

“I got scouted by Tribe Talent Agency while walking in last year’s fashion show,” said Vanderbilt junior Zen McGee. “Since I was little, being a model has always been one of my many desires, so it was really exciting to be scouted. All those years of watching America’s Next Top Model and practicing my walk in front of the camera paid off! Little Zen was deeply proud and excited for me.”

Vanity students are now preparing for their week-long fashion symposium coming in April, themed “Cyber Futuristic.” An even bigger event than last year’s show, Foster stated that they have prioritized team morale and support in the preparation process. They emphasized the importance of providing members with verbal support, especially since Vanity is an organization of predominantly minority students participating in the fashion industry, which is predominantly white. For instance, Foster leads Vanity members in repeating affirmations in a mirror before and after practices. 

“I would definitely take my hat off to Qwynn for contributing to such a wholesome environment within the modeling team. They’re really intentional about ensuring that models, while they’re learning to walk, are also learning to fall in love with their bodies,” said Zen. “That’s something I’ve never encountered before. Even I, as a model, never acknowledged how integral self-love was and is to what I do.”

Kira DelCore from the House of DelCore takes to the stage at Vandy Vanity's October ball, "This is Halloween," to the amazement of the judges. (Photo courtesy of Vandy Vanity)
Kira DelCore from the House of DelCore takes to the stage at Vandy Vanity’s October ball, “This is Halloween,” to the amazement of the judges. (Photo courtesy of Vandy Vanity) (Vandy Vanity )

Earlier this month, Tennessee state governor Bill Lee signed a bill banning drag performances in public areas. Now more than ever — and especially in Tennessee — Vandy Vanity aims to serve as a safe space for expression on campus. 

“With this law, we are being forced into hiding rather than celebrated for living our truth,” Moody said. “As a community, we constantly face obstacles, but we always overcome. We will continue to provide a safe space for members of our community, drag and trans queens included. We will also continue to push back against oppressors and we will overcome.”

Culminating with a final grand fashion show, Vandy Vanity’s week of events will take place April 1-8th. Events will include a thrift-a-thon in partnership with Buffalo Exchange and a panel on adaptive fashion that focuses on disability representation. 

“Many times those who have disabilities, seen and unseen, get looked over in the fashion industry,” Foster said. “What we’re trying to do is see how we can put these people in the front of this conversation. How do we uplift their voices?”

Looking to the future, Foster wants to continue growing the family that has come from their first-year dream.

“Vandy Vanity cannot solve the world’s problems. But what we want to do is uplift the communities that are affected by those problems,” Foster said. “We want to create a safe space where you know that, at the end of the day, there are people shouting your name out in the crowd as loud as we can.”

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About the Contributors
Elise Harris
Elise Harris, Former Senior Staff Writer
Elise Harris (‘26) is from Jonesboro, Ark. and is majoring in political science and communication studies with a minor in African American & diaspora studies in the College of Arts and Science. When not binging documentaries on the weekend, you can find her on the hunt for the best hibachi spot in Nashville. You can reach her at .
Nikita Rohila
Nikita Rohila, Senior Staff Photographer
Nikita Rohila ('25) is from a small town in Arkansas and is majoring in psychology and medicine, health and society in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Deputy Social Media Director. During her free time, she enjoys roaming around the city and getting cinematic-style shots for her photography account! You can reach her at [email protected].
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Jannar Davis
1 year ago

Congrats to Vandy Vanity! My spouse Douglas C. is an Old School Disco Dancer . Looking forward to your April events.