Ryan Jamaal Swain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ryan Jamaal Swain
Born (1994-03-13) March 13, 1994 (age 28)[1]
Alma materHoward University
  • Actor
  • dancer
Years active2017–present
Websiteryanjswain.com[dead link]

Ryan Jamaal Swain (born 13 March 1994) is an American actor and dancer. He is known for his role as Damon Richards-Evangelista, a homeless gay dancer, in the FX television series Pose.[2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Ryan Swain was born to a single-mother household in Orlando, Florida on March 13, 1994.[1] He is the eldest of four children and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama.[1]

Whereas his family members geared towards the healthcare field, Swain showed an affinity for the arts at a young age. He began tap dancing lessons at the age of 4 and expanded his repertoire to include ballet, jazz, modern and hip-hop dancing. During his childhood, Swain worked with the Alabama Dance Academy, Alabama Ballet, Red Mountain Theatre Company, Birmingham Children's Theatre and Virginia Samford Theatre.[3]

He began catalog modeling at the age of 8, and did not pursue acting until his freshman year of high school at the Alabama School of Fine Arts.[5][6] At the time, Swain was initially seeking an internship— as he was training to become a professional tennis player.[1] He would go on to earn his B.F.A. from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and study at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, U.K.[7] Swain relocated to New York City upon completing his studies.



While attending Howard University, Swain appeared in productions such as Anything Goes.[3][8] He has also performed in plays including Six Degrees of Separation and Thoughts of a Colored Man, as well as starring in several Off-Broadway productions such as Kill Move Paradise at the National Black Theatre in New York.[3][9] Despite his small screen debut, Swain still gives back to the theater community. In 2018, it was reported that he hosted an impromptu acting workshop at the Forma Arts + Wellness studio in Birmingham.[10]


In 2017, Swain was cast as Damon Richards in Ryan Murphy's FX television series Pose.[11] The series premiered on June 3, 2018, and attracted critical acclaim.[12][13] The first season boasted the largest cast of transgender actors ever for a scripted network series,[11] with over 50 transgender characters.[14] On July 12, 2018, it was announced that the series had been renewed for a second season, which was set to premiere sometime in 2019.[15] Due to his Southern background, Swain had never heard of or been exposed to the ball culture depicted in Pose. Swain based his performance on his viewing of the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning during his college years.[2] He also drew upon his experience of moving to New York City with just "50 dollars in his pocket" in order to pursue his dreams.[16] Swain's character returned for the first episode of the third and final season, but was written out for the second half of the episode, which was filmed during Swain's exit from the series due to the death of Swain's real-life sister.[17]


Swain's first major foray into writing was in 2014 when he wrote and starred in A Negro Writer, a one-man show about the life of American writer Langston Hughes.[3] He announced plans to write a teen fiction book about a Southern teenager.[1][18]

Personal life[edit]

Although Swain's family has been largely supportive of his artistic endeavors, he has still experienced his share of adversity. During Swain's childhood, his stepfather became physically and emotionally abusive towards him due to his sexuality.[19] Swain's sister, Raven Lynette Swain, was shot and killed in Birmingham, Alabama on July 28, 2020,[20] which precipitated Swain's desire to exit from Pose and his character being written out of the series after the first episode of the third season.[17] Swain identifies as queer.[21]



Year Title Role Notes
2019 Engaged Elliot Short film[22]


Year Title Role Notes
2018–2021 Pose Damon Evangelista 18 episodes


Year Title Role Notes
2019 Thoughts of a Colored Man Love Syracuse Stage, Baltimore Center Stage


  1. ^ a b c d e f "RYAN JAMAAL SWAIN". ISSUE Magazine. Retrieved October 10, 2019. BIRTH DATE: 03/13/1999 BIRTH PLACE: Birmingham, AL WDE" "Where are you from? I'm from Birmingham, Alabama. I was born in Orlando, Florida, but I moved to Birmingham when I was six." "I was going to public high school and had been training to become a professional tennis player." "What's next? Writing my teen fiction book about a young man finding his voice in the south—love and experience get mixed up there.
  2. ^ a b Saxena, Jaya (2018-06-19). "Ryan Jamaal Swain on the Universality of 'Pose'". GQ. Retrieved 2018-08-02.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Ryan Jamaal Swain as Damon Richards in POSE on FX". FXNetworks. Retrieved 2018-08-02.
  4. ^ "'Pose' Star Ryan Jamaal Swain Urges Madonna to Appear on Second Season". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-08-02.
  5. ^ "Ryan Jamáal Swain". Real Talk. 2012-07-04. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  6. ^ Reign, Eva (20 July 2018). "All Hail the Beautiful, Black Gay Love on 'Pose'". them. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  7. ^ "ryan-jamaal-swain | BIO". ryan-jamaal-swain. Retrieved 2018-08-02.
  8. ^ "'Anything Goes' at Howard University - DC Metro Theater Arts". DC Metro Theater Arts. 2015-03-09. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  9. ^ "FX's Pose - TCA Winter 2018 panel bios" (PDF). 2018.
  10. ^ ""Pose" Actor and Birmingham Native, Ryan Jamaal Swain, hosts Pop-Up workshop in city". The Birmingham Times. 2018-07-26. Retrieved 2018-08-16.
  11. ^ a b Andreeva, Nellie (October 25, 2017). "FX's 'Pose': Ryan Murphy Sets Largest Transgender Cast Ever For Scripted Series". Deadline Hollywood. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  12. ^ "Pose: Season 1 - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  13. ^ "Pose: Season 1 - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  14. ^ "New Ryan Murphy Musical Dance Series POSE Gets Full Season Order". BroadwayWorld.com. December 27, 2017. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  15. ^ Otterson, Joe (July 12, 2018). "'Pose' Renewed for Season 2 at FX". Variety. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  16. ^ "'Pose' Star Says Show Is 'Art Mirroring Reality': 'I Was Broke'". Alton Telegraph. 2018-07-19. Retrieved 2018-08-16.
  17. ^ a b "Pose Showrunner Breaks Down Damon's Sudden Exit in the Season 3 Premiere". 3 May 2021.
  18. ^ "Alabama's Ryan Jamaal Swain earning rave reviews for breakout role on 'Pose'". AL.com. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  19. ^ "Ryan Jamaal Swain On How 'Pose' Helped Him Heal From Personal Trauma". NYLON. 2018-06-07. Retrieved 2018-08-02.
  20. ^ "'Pose' actor mourns sister killed in Birmingham: 'We will have swift justice'". 30 July 2020.
  21. ^ Teeman, Tim (December 3, 2018). "'Pose' Star Ryan Jamaal Swain on Abuse, Fame, LGBT History, and Defining as 'Queer'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  22. ^ Engaged (2019) - IMDb, March 2019, retrieved 2019-07-25