Many of us remember choreographer Laurieann Gibson as “BoomKack” from her days as a coach on Diddy’s reality show, Making the Band. The former In Living Color Fly Girl (yes, she was!) has had an illustrious career, working as a creative director for Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj and choreographing TV and movies, most recently, Beyond the Lights. This week, as she prepares to return as a judge on season 4 of DanceOn’s Dance Showdown, she spoke with ESSENCE about lessons learned over two decades as a dancer and choreographer.

The biggest risk I have ever taken is: I’m taking it right now.

I’m glad that I never… stopped fighting the negative opinions of others and the reactions of those who have been intimidated by my gift.

The moment I knew I made it was when: Every moment is making it but I’m still chasing that moment.

My greatest joy in life right now is: Family, friends, my dreams and my relationship with God.

My everyday mantra is: Dream Warriors, we don’t budge.

I could never have predicted… that I would still be single, never married, no kids and a dog.

The hardest lesson I’ve learned: You must be truthful and maintain your truth even at the cost of jobs and friends. And manage your schedule properly.

The key to my happiness is: Giving and receiving unconditional love, and trying to have no judgment towards myself and others.

I get all my strength from: The passion I have to pursue and fill my God-given purpose and dream.

Being in the public eye has taught me: To be conscious of really being who you say you are. And never leave home without a lip gloss.

Today’s dancers will never know: What they’re missing as a result of not going through the obstacles that myself and those who came before me had to endure. What happens for them based—via youtube, social media, etc—can be blessing as well as something we need to be mindful of. That’s why I put my dancers through an old-school type of dance rehearsal and training.

Dancing for a living has been: The best life I could have ever imagined living.

Dance Showdown premieres this Friday on Vessel.

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