‘Pose’: This Chilling Storyline Was Inspired By an Iconic Character in ‘Paris is Burning’

FX‘s groundbreaking series Pose has brought stories to the silver screen that have never been told before. The Ryan Murphy drama highlights the ballroom scene in New York City and tells its story through its vibrant characters. It’s in many ways a fictionalized version of the iconic documentary Paris is Burning, but there’s one real person from Paris is Burning who inspired one of Pose‘s most grisly storylines.

FX Network's "Pose" cast
(L-R) Hailie Sahar, Angel Bismark Curiel, Indya Moore, Dyllón Burnside, Mj Rodriguez, Angelica Ross, Dominique Jackson, Ryan Jamaal Swain, and Billy Porter attend FX Network’s “Pose” season 2 premiere on June 05, 2019 in New York City | Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

‘Pose’ takes place in the ballroom scene in New York City

The ballroom scene consists mainly of Black and brown queer and trans people as they compete in various categories for trophies and cash prizes. Pose takes viewers into this world in the 1980s and ’90s as the HIV/AIDS crisis ravaged the globe.

When Pose premiered on FX in 2018, it made television history with five trans women of color in leading roles: Mj Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Angelica Ross, and Hailie Sahar.

Dominique Jackson
Dominique Jackson attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City | Dia Dipasupil/FilmMagic

Many ‘Pose’ characters and storylines were inspired by real life

While the events and characters in Pose are entirely fictional, that doesn’t mean they weren’t inspired by real life.

In season 2, for example, Angel became a successful model who eventually got outed as a trans woman and faced backlash and lost career opportunities as a result. The story resembled that of Tracey “Africa” Norman, the first Black trans model in the fashion industry: Norman rose to recognition on Clairol’s boxes and had her own contract with Avon in the 1970s, but after being outed on the set of a photo shoot, her modeling career was over.

Another unfortunate real-life parallel on Pose was the death of the beloved Candy (played by Angelica Ross) in season 2. Many fans of the series found Candy’s murder at the hands of a john in a dingy hotel room to be eerily similar to that of Venus Xtravaganza, the beloved performer from the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning.

One of the most chilling parallels to Paris is Burning in Pose involves Mother Elektra (Dominique Jackson).

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Elektra’s dead body storyline has some similarities to Dorian Corey from ‘Paris is Burning’

Paris is Burning was a never-before-seen look into the world of ballroom at a time that gave viewers a taste of what real life was like for the members of the community at the time. One of the iconic performers featured in the film is drag queen Dorian Corey, who educates the uninitiated on the art of shade and reading.

After her death from AIDS-related complications in 1993, a mummified body was discovered in her apartment. Investigators determined the body had been dead for nearly 25 years. Violence against trans people by their partners was common at the time, and it was speculated that Corey acted in self-defense against an abusive ex-lover.

In season 2 of Pose, while Elektra is working as a dominatrix, she encounters a client who overdoses on drugs and dies in her custody. She knows how the police and legal system would treat a Black trans woman in the situation, regardless of if she was guilty of killing him. Just like Dorian Corey, Elektra — with the help of a few friends — stored the corpse in a trunk in her apartment. Finally, in season 3, she dumped the trunk into the river, never to be seen again.