Dashaun Wesley rose to fame through the underground ballroom scene, eventually breaking into television with the reality competition America’s Best Dance Crew. Appearances in film and TV followed, with Wesley taking on featured dance roles in Magic Mike XXL, The Wiz: Live, and with a recurring role as Shadow on Pose. Wesley achieved full-blown stardom by landing the hosting job on Legendary, HBO’s ballroom competition show which debuted in 2020. The series streams on HBO Max on Thursdays.
As the host of Legendary, Wesley offers commentary and direction to the different dance “houses” on the show, announcing each episode and bantering with the celebrity judges. The show also gives him an opportunity to show off his own fabulous fashion sense, and to occasionally his own dance gifts.
We spoke with Wesley about all things fashionable, ballroom and Legendary just ahead of the Season 2 finale. The season finale of Legendary streams on HBO June 10.
So, I’ve seen episode 10, and there’s a lot I want to talk about that we probably can’t print just yet. That said, how do you feel about how the season has played? Do you feel like the most deserving house won?
Yeah, this season really kicked up the competition. You know, overall, everyone has their favorite houses that they love, but I think the deserving house won. You’ll see that in the episode.
Has it been harder to keep up the energy this season without a live audience due to COVID?
You know, I know COVID brought us to a completely different place in terms of how ballroom is run. The audience gives a completely different feel. You get excitement from the audience. But because of the COVID rules, it brought us to a different place: an intimate kind of vibe for the show. So now, not only do you get to see the performances, you get to feel it in a completely different way. That’s one thing about ballroom—even though there was a pandemic going on, there was no stopping us from having a ball, even if it was a virtual ball from home. This is just a little step back into a more intimate kind of space.
And I have to say, I’m blessed to work with such an amazing Legendary family. I’m blessed to have had such a great season. I also have to say I’m excited to start my own house on the show as well. Father Basquiat is ready to go.
Amazing. I have to say, I envy you. It seems like hosting the show is one of the coolest jobs in the world. Tell me how you prepare for a show. What do you do to warm up? Are your quips always off the cuff?
Well, you’re right about the job. It’s kicked up more from Season 1 to Season 2. But I can tell you that ballroom allowed me to prepare for this opportunity. It’s sort of like I’m just running a regular ball like any other I’d host or commentate. Ballroom prepared me—I host events all over the world. Now, it’s just directed to make those at home who may have never seen a ballroom follow it. So yes, there is a script I go by, but that’s just to make key points so people can understand what’s happening.
Besides the category breakdowns, everything is natural: me with the judges, me reacting, me sending someone off the runway. A lot of it comes also from the authentic stuff that goes on. It’s the natural flow of things. And honestly, I love it. It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like another day of dressing up and having fun with my friends.
That’s so awesome. Now, we need to talk about your wardrobe, which is amazing. This is one reason I envy you.
I get to play and get into my creative side in the fashion world too. I have a wonderful stylist, Eric Archibald. We get to talk about everything I’m going to wear in each episode when we get provided with our themes. It’s so great: who doesn’t like to get dressed up? That’s one thing about Legendary—we like to get dressed up with the themes. I’ve always had a fashion side to me. So why not do it on the Legendary stage as host?
How much input do you have to what you wear? Do you have total creative control?
Oh, I have total creative control. Anything I want, I get to fit in. I make all the decisions about how I dress. I get to get dressed up in high-fashion brands, couture brands. I get to express my creativity.
Do you have a favorite outfit this season?
All of them.
I love all of them. I want to wear every last one every day of my life.
I encourage you to do so. They’re way too cool not to. I want to ask, because of the popularity of the show, and because of the popularity of Pose, ballroom has become quite mainstream. How do you feel like the public perception of you has changed in the past two seasons? How has celebrity changed your life?
Oh, it’s changed from Season 1 to Season 2. I had my first trip to New York City in a long time. As I was walking through Harlem to this job I was doing, I got stopped by a couple people who were like hey, I’m on the phone with my cousin. She loves you. So, this is the process. I can’t just walk around anymore and pretend it’s ok. But to have the opportunity to have people recognize me, to have a great response on my outfits and how I present, or how they connect with me—the job became bigger. I’m able to let people see who I am, to put my little Dashaun-isms into the show.
How have other career opportunities changed for you? Do you get more offers?
Well, right now, this moment, I’m getting calls because pride is coming up. It’s a celebration month. Pride, this whole month, will be a big thing for me. I was just in New York to do a campaign that’s going to be coming out. I’m excited for everyone to see it. And now that everything is opening up, it presents the opportunity for me to work more as well.
Do you get the same creative satisfaction from hosting that you do from acting or dancing?
You know, it’s interesting. I come from such a unique world. I think, when I have the opportunity to dance—I love to dance, that’s still my passion. I’m not giving that one up.
When I do have these opportunities to for people to see me move—and I am a mover—I love that. But I’m able to expand too. I have an avid team of dancers in Los Angeles as well called The Shady Gang. But that’s a ballroom thing as well.
You have a pretty sweet gig going here. Where do you see yourself going after the show? Obviously, we want the show to run like American Idol or something, where its on the air forever. But what do you see yourself doing after hosting? How do you evolve?
Well one thing I also see myself doing: I’m not in a space where I can expand in different ways. I’m learning as I’m doing. So I want to tell stories I’ve experienced. I know there are ballroom documentaries out there, but there’s still so much that needs to be told. So I see myself producing and directing some ideas I’m putting into place. I’m also about to venture off into music as well. In the future, people will be able to see that too.
And Dashaun the actor, he’s still out there.
I’m being presented with some offers to expand my career into acting. So I’m excited about that. I wish I could say what it is, but you know how that process goes.
Can you give us a hint? Movies? TV? Stage?
We’re talking television. It’ll be coming soon. As soon as I can, I’ll give you a heads up.
So…can I ask a silly question? I’m almost embarrassed.
Go for it.
Watching the show, seeing you dance, you’re in impeccable shape. How do you maintain that?
I am completely active. I have a gym membership, but I don’t go to the gym. If I move, it has to be dancing. I’m also not a bad eater. I don’t eat pork, I don’t eat red meat. I’m not a soda drinker. I stick to my water regimen. So I make sure the Dashaun—inner and outer—stays great at all times. I’m an active person. I just got a brand new dog, so he keeps me very active. He’s a Doberman pincer.
Oh my. I’m sure he does.
He’s a big dog. He’s active. Everyone’s always like how do you do it? I’m 36, and I don’t know where the 28-inch waist comes from, but I’m blessed to have it.
Tell me about that creative satisfaction. What is it about dance that you find so inspiring or cathartic?
Well, from childhood I’ve always been a dancer. I think for me, when I found voguing and this world I made my way into, I realized dance is expression. But it’s also communication. I’m lucky to travel around the world and teach people in completely different languages and we still communicate through movement. So for me, it’s communication—me telling a story and how I feel. It’s my way of showing people what I have, or what I’ve done, or what I’ve learned or the legacy I’m trying to continue. I’m excited to do it anytime, and I’ve had opportunities to work with wonderful people. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to still dance, still move, and still take it out on the runway. I can do that on many a platform. Dance is a place of comfort for me.
The season finale of Legendary streams on HBO June 10.