“Wellness shouldn’t be a privilege for the fortunate; it’s a vital need for all,” renowned dancer and choreographer Jasmine Harper says, for her and close friend—fellow professional dancer and former longtime Beyoncé dance captain—Ashley Everett, the two ladies found that they often put the needs of others before themselves, especially when it came to their careers. But it was during the pandemic—when the world was forced to slow down—that they realized it was time to choose themselves for once.
For years, the two women have graced the world’s biggest stages as lead dancers for some of our favorite entertainers. Everett is most recognized as Bey’s right-hand woman for over a decade, and Harper serves as the face of the Carters’ “Everything is Love” album and a fan favorite on So You Think You Can Dance. And, of course, many wondered if the “Single Ladies” dancer would again be front and center once the Renaissance World Tour was announced. But, to the world’s surprise, she decided to step into a new chapter.
“The pandemic was a huge shift for me. It was the first time I got the chance to sit down at home, and I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything,” Ashley Everett tells ESSENCE. “Growing up as a dancer, we’re always taught to move on to the next thing, and we never really get to celebrate what we just did. You never know when the next job will or won’t be there, so we just say yes to everything. There’s no balance, it’s just go, go, go.”
“The pandemic allowed me to prioritize and choose myself. I really dove into the health and wellness space, specifically fitness. My boyfriend is a personal trainer and fitness just brought so many mental health benefits beyond achieving six packs and toned physiques. I learned I didn’t need to work so hard and that I just needed to give energy to the right areas of my life,” Everett adds.
“For me, my soon-to-be 2-year-old daughter was really what forced me to sit down and prioritize myself. I have to make sure I am intentionally pouring into myself so that I can then pour into this tiny human I am responsible for,” Jasmine Harper shares. “And, it was hard because I have been dancing since I was 3-years-old. That’s all I’ve known, so this has been the biggest shift for me. And, I think a lot of people can relate to that.”
After recently sitting down together to talk about their respective career experiences, along with close friend and celebrity publicist Randy C. Bonds, the trio found that being able to be vulnerable with a community was also a vital part of what was missing for their well-being. That community allowed them to be transparent within a safe space and provided a certain level of accountability that forced them not to shrink themselves at the expense of others. Thus, Be Greater Than (Be>) was born.
“On social media, you see the highlight reels, and people have these opinions of the lives that we live,” Randy C. Bonds says. “As we were reflecting, the conversation about being humble came up. And honestly, if you look at the true definition, being humble means to ultimately shrink yourself. We all work behind the scenes; they’re dancers, and I am a publicist. But, from the world’s perspective, we’re associated with certain people and entities, and they think we’re living our best life. But what they don’t understand is it’s easy to have imposter syndrome and that we struggle with feeling that we need to hide or shrink so we don’t come off as ‘doing too much.’
“When we thought about that, we decided to form Be Greater Than to not only encourage ourselves to embrace self-love to a different degree but others as well. So this is our way of assembling people to do just that,” Bonds adds.
According to the three founders, the name is a call to action to not place limitations on ourselves. It’s a reminder to live authentically and that you can be more than the titles that the world and society puts on you. The wellness brand will host a series of inclusive and interactive retreats and workshops to bring people together within a safe space while teaching the importance of taking time for self through modalities like dance, breath work, yoga and more. Additionally, Everett, Harper, and Bonds will launch a podcast to share these vulnerable conversations with a greater audience.
While this is certainly a new chapter for Jasmine Harper and Ashley Everett, the two pro dancers make it clear that this is in no way a goodbye to what they love. In fact, the ladies are both still flexing their talents on “Masked Singer.”
“I don’t think we will ever be able to cut off dance completely. Dance is rooted in us beyond what people see it as—our career,” Harper explains. “It’s about knowing that our self-worth isn’t valued by the last job we did or even the next job and that we are so much more than just a title. And now, we want to pour that into others.”
“I feel like I will be dancing until the wheels fall off, honestly. Now, we’re just adding on. That is the point and purpose in life: to continue to grow and be greater than you were yesterday,” Everett adds. “We’re going to incorporate dance into this next chapter too, because it’s just in us.”