Through his journey of adversity to the joy of the Ballroom scene, Nunoy Revlon is helping foster a more accepting community in the Philippines
Too many of the narratives within the LGBTQIA+ community have remained untold and are just now starting to find their voices.
One vibrant facet of the LGBTQIA+ community is “Ballroom”—the underground phenomenon that emerged in the 1970s blending dance and competition. It highlights voguing, which draws inspiration from fashion poses and catwalks in fluid, precise movements.
When dance is something you can control with your own body, Ballroom celebrates being comfortable in your own skin.
The subculture has extended beyond the dance floor and into the realm of a surrogate family in “Houses,” each with its unique history and traditions. Whether suffering from illness or discrimination, your “House” becomes your home. It’s more than a scene, but a sanctuary.
Ballroom has since become more mainstream with stars like Beyonce and Madonna incorporating their moves into their dance choreography. In recent years, shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, POSE, and Legendary have also shed light on the continuously growing phenomenon.
Nunoy Revlon is one such person who has participated in bringing the culture of Ballroom to light, both locally and on a global stage.
Sitting with Nunoy on the top floor of the Virtue and Vice bar in Poblacion, we catch him on his last day before he flies out to host a ball in Malaysia. In the next few weeks, he is flying to China, Thailand, and then Japan, to teach workshops and judge walks alongside Asia-based Ballroom royalty.
Afterward, Nunoy returns to organize the upcoming Revlon ball on October 15th at the Camelot Hotel in Quezon City—the first ball in the history of the Philippines where all the judges visiting are from outside of Asia, from Paris to Poland, Switzerland, and New York.
From intense challenges during his formative years, to the glamour of Ballroom, Nunoy Revlon shares how he is creating a larger community of acceptance in this exclusive interview with LIFESTYLE.INQ.
From Small-Town Struggles to Dance-Fueled Triumph
Nunoy Revlon grew up in a small village in the Netherlands. He describes it as “Mormon-like” with little technology and no television, where Biblical stories are taken as literal history.
Nunoy, who was adopted, had both of his adoptive Dutch parents practicing conversion therapy on him from an early age. This pseudoscientific approach aims to alter gender identity using psychological or physical methods, even involving electric shocks. His uncle, a priest, sometimes used prayers with anti-gay slurs. Nunoy recalls,
“I underwent conversion therapy the minute they discovered I was gay when I was 11. You can call it physical abuse. It made me believe that I was wrong for existing, you know?”
On top of that, Nunoy was physically abused on a regular basis by his peers in school. This led to a serious altercation when he was 16—when he finally fought back and ended up in juvenile prison. While the bullies who instigated the fight were free to go, the racist and discriminative small-town legal system led Nunoy to serve 240 days in a youth jail.
However, in spite of what you would expect from serving time in juvie, it turned out to be a positive experience for him. He recalls,
“I thought it would be the most horrible experience of my life, but it wasn’t. Prison was the place I got to discover people of color, people from the LGBTQ spectrum, people that are open-minded, with different beliefs and religions.
It was so eye-opening for me that after I came out of jail, I knew I had to leave.”
On Nunoy’s first day of freedom, with hardly a penny to his name, the young teen hopped on a train. He was on his way to the Dutch Capital: the thriving, vibrant city of Amsterdam.
For a few years, he lived on the streets scrambling for food. Yet he recalls relishing the freedom and exposure. At one point, Nunoy found a job working shifts at a restaurant at the airport, and he was able to survive while studying Mathematics.
One evening, a buddy from the youth jail dared Nunoy to come to a dance audition. Without any former dancing experience, he was accepted to the University of Dance, Arts, and Entertainment College in Amsterdam. After the impulsive introduction to dance, Nunoy became more participative in the local ballroom scene. It was also around this time that he discovered his previously-unknown Philippine heritage through a DNA test at 19.
As it all came together, he shares, “Together with the ballroom scene and my university, I was able to really accept who I am—Filipino, flamboyant, gay, everything.”
Finding His House of Revlon Family
In 2015, Nunoy met the Parisian Chapter of the House of Revlon. He remembers the first time he saw them together,
“They were so tight, so familiar. They were such a family and that is something I always resonate with the most—family.”
When the Paris chapter of House of Revlon joined the third season of the HBO Max original reality-competition series “Legendary,” Nunoy had become a thriving member and House Prince. Two weeks before the show aired, the members were interviewed to talk about their personal stories.
Out of respect, Nunoy called his mother to explain he would be sharing his story on air. He recalls the emotional conversation,
“At one point my mom said, ‘Know that I still love you even though I know we’re not going to see each other again.’ Then we closed the chapter. We were able to close the book beautifully. Even though it’s a sad story from the outside, for me it’s a beautiful story because I was able to become the strong person that I am today, and to also find forgiveness.”
As the show aired, the Parisian chapter of the house led by their Father Vinii Revlon, won third place after physically staggering performances and mind-boggling creative themes.
Despite the success Nunoy was experiencing abroad, he wanted to pay it forward. And so he decided to take a significant risk. Just last October, Nunoy Revlon saved up and moved to the Philippines, continuing the House of Revlon tradition with a new chapter.
The Anatomy of a House: The House of Revlon Philippine Chapter
There was definitely a sense of culture shock at first. “From January until May, it felt like I was stuck… One doesn’t immediately adjust to a place,” Nunoy says. While initially difficult, finding the members of his family helped with the transition.
Currently, seven of the House of Revlon children move in and out of his apartment in Mandaluyong. Nunoy oversees the children always have food, that they study, that their home situations are okay, and that they can talk about anything with him; making sure the House takes care of each other not just on the runway, but going through life’s waves. He gushes, “I am just so grateful for everything: having my chosen family [The House of Revlon] who I consider my blood family (while still considering my family in the Netherlands no matter what).”
Nunoy still describes the LGBTQ+ community members in the Philippines as regularly “classified” while the artists remain underpaid, a normal but particularly stark reality. Apart from managing a house, he works as a dancer and choreographer. He also keeps active in the nightlife scene as a performer at Nectar and LGBTQ events, while doing commercial work as a model (Spot him on a couple of billboards for Silverworks!).
While the ballroom scene is steadily flourishing in the country, Nunoy Revlon shares some reflections on how it can be even better:
“When I arrived in the Philippines, I noticed that the ballroom scene was focused on competition, celebration, and just having fun. For me, my biggest intake in ballroom is that it’s also a place where you can release all your tension, all your frustration, all the hate, discrimination, racism—that you feel you can release everything. It’s a form of therapy. I’m still teaching the kids that ballroom is more than just fun and being creative with costumes.”
An Inclusive Future Vision
Despite the struggles that Nunoy encountered growing up, he expresses understanding for the community that never reciprocated the same kindness. He acknowledges that sometimes people are so isolated, they are not exposed to wider perspectives, “For example, the understanding that people of color are equal to people who are Caucasian. Or that being gay is okay,” he says, “My parents still took me to go back home. I want to believe that my parents did this out of good because those are their beliefs.”
Since the day Nunoy Revlon ran away from home, he has had the same goal: to create an even bigger home, with free accommodation, for LGBTQ teenagers who have run away or gotten kicked out. It would be a place to focus on studies and brighter futures. He reflects,
“In the LGBTQ community, we already have so many obstacles in life. If I can ease the burdens and the pain in some way, I want to do that.”
From performing on stage to managing the local chapter of the House of Revlon, to his multi-faceted freelance work, Nunoy Revlon always seems to represent his artistry in its best form. He states, “Whether I’m getting paid or not, I still give everything that I have.”
As Nunoy Revlon steadily works toward his vision, it’s easy to see that success is within reach, driven by a mission that continues to foster a thriving community of warmth and acceptance.