As Dominique Jackson, star of the much-acclaimed TV show Pose, stood in her beautiful, fitted, dramatic Greta Constantine dress with the other models at the brand’s New York Fashion Week show, Kirk Pickersgill, one of the label’s designers (alongside Stephen Wong), let out a proud, contented sigh.
“The Mother of the House of Abundance, there she is,” he said, looking at Jackson commanding the attention in the main room of what was fashion designer Halston’s New York home. “I love her.”
The brilliantly written and directed FX series, about a group of trans and gay people of color fighting to succeed and survive in a straighter, harsher, more everything-phobic 1980s New York, while looking fabulous, helped inspire Greta Constantine’s show, and its spirit cheered attendees up who had escaped from the horrendously soupy New York heat outside.
The show features Jackson as the wicked-sometimes-not-so-wicked “house mother” Elektra. Jackson is one of the show’s trans actors playing a trans character—a welcome and radical act of casting in itself.
“Being on Pose for me has now allowed me to realize how important my culture is,” Jackson told The Daily Beast. “It’s made me realize how important the struggles that everyone has gone through are, and now we are able to tell that story. Mr. Murphy [Ryan Murphy, the show’s co-creator and executive producer] has been absolutely amazing with it.”
For Jackson, thanks to public figures like Janet Mock (besides much else a writer, producer, and director of Pose, and responsible for one of its best episodes), Laverne Cox, Trace Lysette, and Isis King (the first trans woman to compete in America’s Next Top Model) views of and understanding towards trans people are both evolving.
“The doors are slightly opening, and Mr. Murphy has opened these doors really wide,” Jackson said. “We’re saying, ‘Yeah, we're here.’” A show like Pose sends out a strong statement, she added. “These are people, they are human beings, and they can act, and if they can act we book them. If they can tell the story, we allow them to tell the story.”
The response internationally, from Australia, Asia, and Croatia, has moved and inspired Jackson.
Filming the ball scenes was a particular honor, Jackson said. “This show gives life to so many people who have passed on, people we have lost in the AIDS pandemic. This show gives the world an inside look into culture that existed which so many people did not know about.”
Greta Constantine’s titling of the show “Black Dynasty,” in homage to one of the ball contests in the show, makes Jackson recall “how we idolized Dominique Deveraux in Dynasty (played by Diahann Carroll). We thought to ourselves this was something to be embraced and loved. To be embodied.”
If you do or don’t know Dynasty, savor Dominique’s first confrontation with Alexis (Joan Collins).
Jackson looked up at the outfits on the models: shoulder-pads, ruffles, metallics, dramatic angles abounded.
It was just like being back at La Mirage again, with the added appeal of being in Halston’s actual home, itself redolent of a certain era’s glamour. There were portraits of Liza on the wall; she and Bianca Jagger used to use the spare room.
“A woman reveals so much by what she’s wearing,” said Jackson. “When I saw Greta Constantine I thought, ‘That's something I can wear.’ Some pieces reminded me of something Michelle Obama would wear because she’s so stylish and fancy, and then I see Regina Hall in some of the clothing. And then I came in saw some of the sparkly stuff, the jumpsuits and odes to the ’80s. I really love it. Stephen and Kirk are absolutely amazing.”
“Look at the green and silver metallic there,” said Jackson. “The dress I’m wearing has wonderful shoulders, it has an accentuation of femininity, of understanding the body and still being strong. It is able to worn by everyone from the first lady to the woman in the club having a great time, but all eyes are going to be on her.”
Looking on with pride at Jackson, Wong told The Daily Beast that Pose “will go down as one of the most important LGBT stories on television in terms of making people see things differently and changing perceptions. It wouldn’t be the same series without Janet Mock. I haven’t been as attached to a series in decades.”
“We lived through that era,” added Pickersgill. “Our nephews, nieces and our younger staff see HIV, AIDS, and all the hassle around being LGBT and ask us if it was really like that back then. And we tell them it was. We lost friends to AIDS. And even in fashion back then, you had to hide who you were.”
The men make the same younger people laugh when regaling them with their tales of ’80s excess, too. A lot of the models weren’t alive back then, but wearing the clothes gave them “an association and connection” with the era, Pickersgill said.
Somewhere, you felt as the disco pulsed and models posed, Halston was smiling very happily indeed.