On Friday night in Auckland, people from all walks of life came together to relive their ball night. But this time, they actually felt comfortable to be themselves. 

For many young people, especially the rainbow community, the school ball felt awkward and unsafe - or it never happened at all. 

Some were banned from bringing a same-sex date, or were expected or to wear a dress or a suit. The night wasn’t nearly as liberating as all those cheesy high school movies promised. 

That’s why, as part of Auckland’s Pride Month, Proud Centres hosted Our Authentic Prom, an event to relive the night exactly how you want to. 

Men arrived in heels and floral frocks. Women wore suits and kissed each other on the dance floor. Drag performers strutted around in nine-inch platforms.  

Re: went along and spoke to some of the attendees about how this night compared to their first school ball.

Princess Richard (They/Them)

Take me back to your first school ball, what was that like?

Weird. Awkward. Bad dancing. Bad bad outfit. 

What did you wear?

I wore suit pants, business shoes, a white shirt. And a black jacket, but not like a blazer - it kind of looked like a windbreaker but made out of blazer material. Disgustingly hot. 

How do you feel tonight in comparison?

I feel cool. It is nice to be DJing. Back then all I was worried about was the social interaction part of the night. Tonight I don’t have to. 

Mike Sheeran (He/Him) (left)

What was your first school ball like?

I never got my ball. I was just jumping from school to school, I was just waiting to find cliques and friends and people to relate to. And then in fifth form, I left just before our ball happened, so I never got to know what it was like. 

So I thought right, I need to make this night a memory of a ball that I want to remember.

And how is it going so far?

I love it. It's so beautiful and so dreamy.

I feel like this is the type of ball all balls should feel like. You feel safe and comfortable with who you are. This is the first night I've ever worn heels. I just said “fuck it, let's give it a go. Tonight is the night.”

I know my family wouldn't really accept it, but that’s okay because I know the people here will. 

Dajah Mclver (She/He/Them)

How was your first school ball?

I love dressing up in a theme, so I actually enjoyed mine. But it was ridiculous how girls weren’t allowed to wear a suit. That really pissed me off. It’s so cool seeing so many women embrace their masculine side here. 

What makes this school ball different from your first?

There are a lot more friendly people around tonight. High school wasn’t the greatest of times. A lot of people felt pressured to fit into certain stereotypes and it felt really exclusive and cliquey. But tonight everyone is just vibing together, no one feels like they need to hide in the corner. I feel like a lot of the people here don’t care about that kind of thing anymore, or they never did.

Vanessa LaRoux (They/Them)

What was your first school ball like?

I didn’t go. They weren’t letting same-sex couples go together - this was back in 2014. It was like “you must take a girl” and I was like “huh, nah.”

So me and my boyfriend kept persisting and eventually got special permission to go together. But the day before the ball he broke up with me and took my high school best friend. Yes, he took her to the ball instead of me.

So I was like, you know what, go fuck yourself, and I didn’t go. 

How does it feel to be here tonight?

It is so freeing. It feels like a true ball where I can be who I am. Back then I was so confused. 

But being in drag is the heightened version of myself. I feel complete confidence when I put this on and perform. It’s amazing to get a re-do on a night that made me mad for so long. 

Izzy Folan (She/Her)

What was your first ball like?

It was okay. My friends - I love them - but it was scary because if I let slip anything about my sexuality not being conventionally straight, I didn’t know how they would react and I didn’t want to lose them as friends. 

But ironically, that was where I met my ex-girlfriend. We were just the secret gays in the back of the hall. 

What did you wear that night?

I wore a basic ball gown really. I wanted to wear a suit the last time I went, but I didn't end up going because a lot of my friends stopped going. So it's really cool to have things like this that you can come to and do what you wish you had done, be what you like and actually feel comfortable.

Adriana Bamberger (She/Her) 

How was your first ball experience?

The only school ball I ever went to was just electric music the entire night, no words. It was just a rave. Me and my friends were in the back, clearly the queer kids in the school, saying “we thought there would be ballroom dancing!”

Everyone was dressed up the nines in the same fancy dress from H&M, everyone looked the same. Looking back it is kind of sad, because no one was expressing who they were. 

How do you feel in comparison tonight?

Amazing. I make costumes, so it’s an excuse to wear something fun and feel good.

Miss Trinity Ice (She/Her)

What was your first ball like?

I never went to the ball. I’m from a small town in Hawke’s Bay, so I never had anyone like myself or anyone to look to, to try to find who I was as a person and my place in the world. 

So when our ball came around, I dropped out at sixth form, and I watched all of my closest friends go to the ball together. I would have loved to have found myself to be able to go as just me. But at that time, I didn't know who I was. It was a confusing time.

How does it feel to have tonight as do-over?

I always loved the idea of reliving my ball again, purely because I now know what it's like to figure out who you are and what you are. I wish I was this back in the day. 

But I’m glad that now I get to live my truth and be authentically myself, not only as a transwoman but as a drag entertainer. Tonight is amazing. I’m actually a bit overwhelmed.