Roach as a judge has developed a presence that’s almost like American Idol’s Simon Cowell. He’s not afraid to tell it like it is, when he gave the House of Balmain kudos for their Tomo Koizumi inspired costumes before admitting that their set left him bored, the audience erupted in boos. Roach knows that the fanbase can mistake him for the villain due to his frankness. For him, the social media critiques mean he’s keeping things real. “I don’t mind because we’ve all hated someone on TV—it’s the Simons and the Omorosas are who we love to hate, but can’t stop watching,” he says. “I’m not putting it on for television, I’m being myself and giving the same kind of honest commentary I’d give if I were viewing at home. People may not like it, but they can’t deny it!”

Photo: Zach Dilgard, Courtesy HBO Max

Though he was actively rooting for the House of Lanvin all season, Roach acknowledged each house’s skills—even those that went home early. “[Lanvin] were the most memorable for me and the strongest. Since episode two, I thought they would be in the final,” he says. “For season two, it would be great to see some people come back. House of West was eliminated in the first episode, and there was such an outpouring of support for them on social media. I’m a fan of Buffy West and would love if we could grandfather them in for season two, so we can see more from them.”

With houses taking their names from European luxury giants and performers dressed to the nines, the connection between ballroom and fashion feels obvious. Still, the industry has yet to tap into the scene’s potential. In a moment where influencers and niche celebrities are regularly tapped for campaigns, Roach thinks it’s time ball culture gets its due. “These kids idolize mainstream fashion, and they’ve been helping to build the fantasy these luxury brands sell for years. They’re the ones purchasing,” he says. “I would love for those companies to reach out, embrace those kids, and thank them. They’re competing, giving blood, sweat, and tears to hold up these names. Fashion reaching out and helping to elevate this community would mean so much. It’s aspirational, inspirational, and they can afford to do it.”

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