From ballroom to DJing, artist BabiBoi wants to make a name for themselves in the music industry

Dorian Delafuente before a DJ-ing gig at Austin's Coconut Club
For their upcoming debut mixtape, BabiBoi has drawn on the weekly sets they did as DJ Dorian Delafuente, above, for inspiration.
(Cat Cardenas / For De Los)

One of the driving forces behind central Texas’ booming queer ballroom scene, Dorian Delafuente lived a dozen lives before settling into their latest transformation: up-and-coming popstar BabiBoi.

Growing up in San Antonio, Delafuente first pursued the viola, thinking that one day they would be part of a chamber orchestra. By the time they left for college at the University of Texas at Austin, they were studying theater, hoping they would become an actor.

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In the years that followed, they joined a performance group, co-founded Austin’s House of Lepore, stomped down runways, started DJing in local clubs, and now, they’re gearing up to release their debut mixtape.

“I’ve been performing my whole life,” they said. Wearing 6-inch-tall, lethally sharp heels and a glittery green dress, they were gearing up for the first of four back-to-back DJ sets at Austin’s Coconut Club in late September. These sets are more than just performance opportunities, they’re a chance for Delafuente to study exactly what people respond to, and incorporate that into their music.

Dorian Delafuente, 27, of San Antonio, TX., holding a ballroom trophy at Austin's Coconut Club on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.
Dorian Delafuente holds a ballroom trophy at Austin’s Coconut Club on Thursday. They have been a driving force in the growing queer ballroom scene in central Texas.
(Cat Cardenas / For De Los)

Brash and bold, Delafuente spits innuendo-laden lyrics over thumping, club-ready beats, incorporating a mix of house, hip-hop and hyperpop elements throughout songs like “Miss Bitch” and “Sweat.”

Over the last few years, they’ve performed alongside Charli XCX and Dorian Electra, and more recently, they joined “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Cynthia Lee Fontaine on Miguel St. Michael’s queer cumbia bop “La De Mala Gente” and headlined Las Vegas Pride.

But to understand how the 27-year-old artist got to this point, you have to go back to their hometown.

While they were in college, they joined a San Antonio-based performance group called the Plastik Collective. Though the group was short-lived, it introduced Delafuente to the world of vogueing — a dance style born out of Harlem’s ballroom culture, where primarily Black and Latinx competitors from different houses would go head-to-head in a variety of fashion, beauty and performance-based categories.

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Dorian Delafuente, 27, of San Antonio, TX., before a DJ-ing gig at Austin's Coconut Club on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.
“Ballroom helped me find who I am as a person,” Dorian Delafuente says.
(Cat Cardenas / For De Los)

In 2019, unlike in nearby Houston and Dallas, Austin and San Antonio didn’t have much of a ballroom scene. So when the group disbanded, Delafuente teamed up with former Plastik Collective member Natalie Lepore to create Austin’s House of Lepore in 2020.

“Natalie immersed me in the Gulf Coast ballroom scene,” Delafuente said. “That’s how it all started. We started bringing that energy over to Austin.”

Over the next few years, the Lepores facilitated the rise of the city’s nascent ballroom scene, hosting weekly balls and even putting on the first official ball for South By Southwest festival in 2021. The House of Lepore continued to expand, becoming a home to models, DJs, dancers, drag artists, photographers and more.

As a family, the group evolved together, sharpening their ballroom skills and helping each other find their passions.

“Ballroom helped me find who I am as a person,” Delafuente said, adding that they saw it do the same for others. “Whenever new [members] would come in initially, they were like me, just still figuring things out. But after maybe a year, they would have their own style. They would walk into the room with confidence, shoulders back, head high. Sometimes, as a queer person, that’s really scary to do, but ballroom really helps you push through that.”

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“You have to take things with a grain of salt, and whether you get a 10 or chop, you know that you’re that b— regardless of what anyone says,” they said. “That’s what ballroom is about: Just having the bravery to walk is commendable.”

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Though ballroom is an art form rooted in queer liberation and expression, Delafuente said that many of its traditional categories do rely on some kind of gender performance, whether in “Realness” or “Sex Siren.”

Dorian Delafuente, 27, of San Antonio, TX., before a DJ-ing gig at Austin's Coconut Club on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.
For Dorian Delafuente, ballroom is really “about the music. It’s what I’m best at, and it’s the best way for me to lend myself to ballroom culture.” Under the name BabiBoi, they’ll soon release a mixtape.
(Cat Cardenas / For De Los)

“It can be gendered because of the context and the time that it came from, and it should remain loyal to those roots,” they said. “But now categories are popping up for different types of queer people.”

The last year has been a whirlwind for Delafuente, who left the House of Lepore and joined the San Antonio-based House of Juicy Couture in September. Though they’re still close with the Lepores, the move was partly prompted by Delafuente’s decision to pursue their DJing and music career more seriously.

San Antonio’s House of Juicy is headed up by Akasha, a competitor on Season 2 of Max’s “Legendary” and someone Delafuente calls “the ballroom DJ of Texas.”

“I love walking, but it’s not my passion,” they say. “For me, it’s not about the trophy, it’s about the music. It’s what I’m best at, and it’s the best way for me to lend myself to ballroom culture. It feels like all of my interests met at a crossroads, and I finally keyed into what I was meant to do.”


But in addition to the opportunity to be mentored by Akasha, Delafuente was also drawn in by the idea of joining a house in their hometown.

“I feel like a lot of people based in San Antonio leave their city to go somewhere bigger, and they stay there,” they said. “But sometimes, you have to leave somewhere to learn, to grow and to bring things back.”

Though Delafuente’s journey of self-discovery really took off in Austin, San Antonio serves as the inspiration for their sense of style, which is largely drawn from the women they were raised around.

“My biggest source of inspiration is growing up in the West Side,” they said. “The feminine energy I would see was very chola. I had cholas in my family, and that’s what I knew as fierce and feminine.”

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Since they started DJing, Delafuente has been immersed in Austin and San Antonio’s club scenes. With their upcoming mixtape, they’re hoping to create a project that doesn’t just showcase their own diverse tastes but feels representative of the different clubs they’ve established themselves in.

Right now, they’re still based in Austin and have been trusted with recruiting more members to the Austin chapter. “Ballroom is about competition,” they said. “I want to bring Juicy’s name here so that people can catch on and learn about different legends. It makes things more interesting.”

Dorian Delafuente, 27, of San Antonio, TX., before DJ-ing at Austin's Coconut Club on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.
“I was hiding from myself for a long time, but it took a family of queer people to break that wall,” Dorian Delafuente says.
(Cat Cardenas / For De Los)

And as Austin’s ballroom scene continues to grow, they want to be a part of bringing that momentum down to San Antonio. With the state’s queer community grappling with increasingly hostile laws from the Texas legislature, creating more safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people to express themselves and have fun has been one of Delafuente’s biggest motivators.

“Everything goes back to community,” they said. “I know that when I go back to San Antonio, it might cost me more time, more money, but what I do pays off in a cultural way.”

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For a time, Delafuente says that their queerness and Latinidad felt like contradictory ideas, parts of their identity that might not coexist. But as they began to feel confident, performing for crowds and putting out music like their latest single, the pop-driven “Be Free,” they feel more compatible than ever.

“I was hiding from myself for a long time, but it took a family of queer people to break that wall,” they said. “When it came down, it was just: This is who I am. I need to live in this truth.”

Cat Cardenas is a Latina writer and photographer based in Austin. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, GQ and other publications.