Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals, Pose follows drag ball culture in New York City during the AIDS Crisis in the 1980s. The series began in 2019 on FX and centers around a cast of LGBTQ, Black, and Latino characters who live for and compete on the city’s ballroom circuit. Mj Rodriguez, Indya Moore, and Dominique Jackson star front and center as the transgender women behind the House of Evangelista.
Pose is groundbreaking for its use of trans actors to portray trans characters on screen. The show grapples with numerous issues from racism, transphobia, and misogyny to capitalist consumer culture and the stigma surrounding sex work. Because Pose touches upon so many real-world events and problems, many fans have wondered whether the series is based on real people.
Here’s what we know.
Pose: True story, or convincing portrayal?
Pose’s creators initially considered basing the show on the actual people featured in the 1990 documentary film Paris is Burning, which documented the New York ball culture from 1986 to 1989 and acted as a launch point for the drag scene to enter the mainstream. Much like Pose, Paris is Burning examines how issues of gender, class, sexuality, and race influenced the events of the time and the experiences of marginalized people who lived through them.
It’s clear that Ryan Murphy, who is also famous for his work on American Horror Story and Nip Tuck, drew a lot of inspiration from the classic documentary film for Pose. Murphy, however, said he ultimately decided to center the story around fictional characters as he worked with Falchuk and Canals on the concept.
“I sort of felt that it was very difficult to take those people that were iconic and make sort of fictionalized versions of their lives,” Murphy said during a press tour for the series in 2018, according to Into. “So then we put it aside, and then we got Steven’s script that he had written, Pose, which is this story.”
Even with the fictional elements of the series, the show is acclaimed for remaining true to the reality of what LGBTQ Americans experienced during the 1980s. The series accomplished this by employing the help of consultants like Grandfather Hector Xtravaganza, whose House Xtravaganza was featured in Paris is Burning, and Jack Mizrahi, who was a ballroom emcee. Some of the consultants even had the opportunity to play themselves at different points throughout the series.
Pose was the first time some of these consultants were ever given the chance to work in Hollywood, and they gave input on costume and set design as well as casting and makeup. There’s a ton of attention to detail in every scene, and the show’s creators undertook a massive effort to ensure its authenticity.
Pose wrapped up its final season earlier this year. All episodes are now available on FX and Hulu.