In the ball scene, community members join houses that function as surrogate families for some, chosen families for others, as well as teams for competition. Davanna’s first house was Jourdan-Zion. Of course, it was Timotheus Smart, who had introduced her to the scene, who selected the house for her. Next came House of Mizrahi, then run by Andre Mizrahi, Jack Mizrahi, and Kelly Mizrahi.
“They looked after me like I was their child,” Davanna recalls of the Mizrahis. They also taught her what it meant to be in a ballroom house: looking out for one another and building community. Ballroom isn’t always pleasant. There are sore losers and those who feel disrespected over perceived slights. “If anyone approached me, they would step in, especially Kelly.”
While ballroom can be “really hectic and very disrespectful at times,” Davanna was able to adjust, plant her feet and become a rising star quite quickly. At 12 years old, she was named the scene’s youngest legend, a title that typically takes a decade of work to achieve.
In the modern ballroom scene, being deemed a legend isa major decision made by a committee after careful deliberation. But Davanna’s big moment happened quickly after a victorious night battling at The Globe, a popular New Jersey venue. “That night was very hectic,” she says. “I went against like 20 people, and it was crazy processing all of them.” (In ballroom, ‘processing’ means to beat many people consecutively.)
“The fact that everyone was getting upset at the judges for choosing me over all these icons and legends,” Davanna continues. “It was such an insane feeling because why does everyone want to fight me just because I’m winning.” James Icon, who was hosting the ball, decided that night that he had seen enough and stamped her legendary status then and there. This year, at Davanna’s return to the Latex Ball, she was recognized as an Icon, one of the highest labels.
All of these experiences have led to the business and brand that is Diva Davanna, also known as Naomi Campbell’s “mini-me”, and the ballroom scene’s youngest icon. During the first year of the pandemic, Davanna came up with the idea of teaching runway classes, turning her talent into a business for herself. The first class sold out within a few hours. The rest is history.
“I think people trust me because of the work I’ve done and the people I’ve worked with,” she says. She toured state-to-state earlier this year before teaching classes overseas in countries like Spain and Belgium. With the help of her team, she has managed to build the foundation for what is safe to assume will be an empire in due time.
Davanna’s biggest goal as a coach is to instill confidence in her students. That same confidence she possessed since the age of four made her an icon in her own right.
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