Blanca’s jubilant lip-sync to Whitney Houston’s performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the season finale of Pose reminds us that minority communities will always flourish in the face of adversity.
The second season of Pose has drawn to a close, and after laughing, crying and tugging on our heart-strings, the ballroom sisters of the House of Evangelista have gone their separate ways. Damon is pursuing his burgeoning career in dance, Ricky has secured a gig on Paula Abdul’s new tour, and Angel and Lil Papi have sealed their love with an engagement.
For House mother Blanca, played by Mj Rodriguez, it’s been an especially turbulent run, as her “children” have flown the nest, she’s struggling to keep her nail salon going in her apartment, and on top of everything, she’s fighting to stave off infection.
But by the season finale, Blanca’s fortunes are on the up, as she wins her ballroom category with a triumphant lip-synch extravaganza to Whitney Houston’s iconic performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Meanwhile, two homeless 14-year-olds, Chris and Chilly, turn up outside the ballroom, giving Blanca a chance to continue the House of Evangelista.
In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, director and executive producer Janet Mock, who also directed the season finale, explained the narrative decision to extend Blanca’s chosen family, who she describes as a “singular heroine”, with two new Evangelistas.
“It’s about her questioning her mortality, her questioning her purpose and dreams,” Mock explains. “It’s, ‘My purpose is done. I can move on now because I ain’t got no kids.’ And it’s like, ‘Girl, there’s more kids. There’s many more kids’”.
“With this episode, it really was to reawaken Blanca’s drive to say, ‘These kids that I love, you know, they’ll always be in my life,’” she continued. “They’ll never be in my household again and now I have to figure out what does my new house look like, what does the new Evangelista look like?’”.
The talking point during the final episode, was, of course, Blanca’s sensational lip-synch performance, which Mock and Pose creator and director Ryan Murphy debated during the process of writing the season finale.
“He was like, ‘Oh my God! Can we do that? Is it politically okay for, you know, people of colour, to sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’?’”, Mock said. “And then I was like, ‘It’s a reclaiming - it’s fine’”.
Mock went on to explain that Blanca’s defiant rendition of the anthem was an important way of subverting toxic narratives about minority communities, and restoring them with a sense of belonging, pride and inclusion.
“We’re reclaiming it in this super subversive way by having black and brown queer and trans characters, like there’s a shot that where she lip-syncs ‘for the land of the free’ and then we pull out to the wider entire ballroom. This is our country as well. We deserve to take up space. This is ours.”
In an increasingly hostile political climate that is fanning the flames of racism, sexism, Islamophobia and homophobia, Blanca’s victorious lip-sync is a reminder that the transgender community needs no permission to live and love openly. And looking ahead to season 3, it’s almost certain that the House of Evangelista will continue to thrive. As Pray Tell wisely intones, “Houses are homes to all the little boys and girls who never had one. They keep coming every day just as sure as the sun rises.”