How did you start dancing?
I have been dancing since I was 3 years old. I was bouncing around the house and had so much energy that my parents wanted to find a way to hone it. I took ballet and jazz at a local studio, but I didn’t learn proper technique until I switched studios. That's when I began competing; I was a little bit of a late bloomer. I was never the best student. Without a doubt, I was the hardest working—but I was never the most flexible or the best performer. I never thought that I would be a professional dancer. It was a dream of mine, but I thought you had to be the best of the best to have a career in it.
When I was applying for colleges, I still wanted to dance, however I didn’t get into any of the programs I applied to. It wasn’t a big deal to me at the time, and I ended up going to Tulane in New Orleans on full academic scholarship. Because I missed dancing, I decided to give the dance team a try although I was a little reluctant. After one season, our coach convinced me to audition for the local NBA dance team, the Honeybees. I ended up making the team despite it being something that I've never even considered. Before my first game as an NBA dancer, I had never attended an NBA game before so I wasn’t even sure what the job entailed. I fell in love with it. I became a captain after two years. It was a really fun experience.
Upon graduation, I wasn't ready to settle into the corporate working world. Something was telling me to pursue dance. I accredit it to being selected to perform with Beyonce for the Super Bowl halftime show in New Orleans. She needed around a hundred extra dancers to storm the stage for “Single Ladies.” I was lucky enough to be picked, and that was insane. To be around other working professional dancers from New York and LA made me want to dance professionally.
Dancing for a NBA team must’ve been a pretty good side job for a college student.
It was great to get a consistent paycheck for doing what you loved. It didn’t feel like work. I got to see parts of New Orleans that some of my colleagues didn't often venture out to and I was able to get to know the locals. Tulanians are considered outsiders in the city, so it's awesome that I have friends that are still in NOLA.
What was it like to have a full-time job and school?
Here’s the thing: NBA dancing is considered a part-time job, but we always joke that it’s a full-time commitment. Needless to say it was difficult to balance with many all-nighters pulled and many energy drinks had. I was able to pull it off, but I think it all depends on the team that you’re on and the amount of work that’s involved. We only performed at home games, but there are plenty of other appearances as well. It became exhausting at times; I would sometimes skip my morning ballet classes because I was so tired from a game the night before. Somehow I managed to make it work. I wasn’t the most perfect student, but I graduated on time.
What made you move to New York City?
Ever since I was a child, it was always where I wanted to be. My hometown is an hour outside of the city, so moving here wasn’t this big, daunting move. Being in New York was always so exciting for me. Whenever I came to the city with my parents, I never wanted to leave. I was always so sad every time we had to go home! I’d look out the car window and see the skyline fading in the background. I thought New York City was the place where everybody moved to be something. Upon graduating college, it felt like it was where I was supposed to go. I am really lucky that it was like my backyard.
How was dancing with the Brooklynettes?
My last year in New Orleans was when the Nets moved to Brooklyn, and there was a lot of publicity around them. But it wasn’t the glitz that attracted me. A lot of their dancers were working dancers in the industry—they were on Broadway, TV, in music videos--and that's what I wanted to surround myself with. They were looking for dancers and not cheerleaders. People often mistake us as cheerleaders, but we’re always dancers first and foremost.
I thought it would be a great transition for me to get to know the business. I held them in such high regard, so much that I thought I wouldn’t even make the team. I didn’t want to mention that I was coming from another team because I wanted to prove myself. I ended up making the team, and by the next season I was a captain, which greatly exceeded my expectations.
Now after three seasons, I feel like I’ve achieved my goals. I've seen so many of my peers become successful in the commercial industry, and I think now is the time to devote myself to it solely. It's difficult to leave behind something consistent. That’s an immensely hard thing to do in this industry. For a lot of gigs, you’re rehearsing for a week, and then you perform and that’s it. So you have to figure out what to do during that in-between time.
What are your aspirations?
I’d love to book a tour. I'd say most dancers in the commercial world would love to dance behind an artist. It's so much more rewarding to dance for people who are there to see you. With the NBA, I was going out on the court, leaving my heart and soul out there for everyone to see, but at the end of the day, they paid to watch a basketball game. I am grateful for the experience, but as an artist it can suck the life out of you. I’d love to feel a different energy in an arena. I’ve had a tiny taste of it, but that was only the beginning—a little crumb. I want the whole pie.
What would be your number one advice?
This is the title of a book, but I’ve read it [laughs]—Feel The Fear, But Do It Anyway. I feel like I am so afraid of making a mistake or being wrong or judged. It prevents me from doing so many things. Fear has held me back in multiple areas of my life—not only in dance but in forming relationships with people. I think about all the things that I could’ve done if I wasn’t so afraid to do them. One of my goals is to really put myself out there in life. It’s a part of the learning process. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not on the path to success.
Toughest time as a dancer?
This is more of a personal struggle. We all have the financial issues and feel invalidated from time to time, but within the last few years my health has taken a toll. I’ve been incredibly stressed out, and it has greatly affected my skin. I’ve had strangers approach me and ask me what’s wrong with my face. Everybody wants to offer advice, and I've tried everything in the book to fix it. Luckily right now, I’ve been on the up and up. It’s been such an uphill battle.
I’ve actually been denied work because of my skin. Looks, unfortunately, are a huge part of this industry. If you’re not on point, someone’s going to say something. If your body or hair doesn’t look great, they will always let you know, and the same goes for your skin. If you're going to be on camera, it’s going to be all about your face. I've had makeup artists make insensitive comments to me and behind my back as well. That was really damaging to me and my self-esteem. I really took it to heart. Luckily, like I said, it’s improving.
Without a doubt, the Super Bowl halftime show. The process leading up to it was incredible. You’re in all of the rehearsals around the principle dancers. You see Beyonce working on her own, doing things over and over again and being a perfectionist. While we were on breaks, I would sit and observe—what do these people do that gets them to where they are today? I would watch her dancers and take mental notes. I also got advice from them, which I feel like was an important part in deciding my career path.
Is there any last thing you want to share with the world?
I feel like I am learning and discovering so much right now. The important thing is that you should never stop learning. I also believe it's important to surround yourself with people who support you. I’m extremely lucky to have parents who support me fully in whatever I do. Also, some of my closest friends are in the industry and knowing that we’re all in the same boat makes things a little bit easier. Much of my life has not gone the way I imagined it, but I can confidently say everything works out for a reason. Keeping a positive mindset is key. We’re all our own worst critics. The only person standing in the way of anything is you.