Akira Armstrong doesn’t look like a dancer. In fact, when most people look at her they assume she’s a singer. Most people assume so because she’s a big girl and big girls can’t dance, right? Wrong.
Armstrong created Pretty Big Movement in 2008, a full-figured dance company that is here to change that notion that dancers have to be thin, petite beings to be captivating.
“I wanted to get representation from a dance agency so I could book more jobs and no one would represent me because of my size,” Armstrong said in a video for The Scene. “I want to be the pioneer for plus size women.”
And a pioneer she is.
The New York City native told ESSENCE that she’s always had confidence and loved to dance so she put her skills to the test–despite her size and society’s attitude toward it.
“I started dancing at the age of eight,” she shared. “My mom put me in dance school in the Bronx, and I just fell in love with it and it has been my passion since.”
Her passion for dance has allowed her to conquer fears and accomplish major feats, like to dance alongside Beyoncé.
“In 2007, Beyoncé held auditions at city center for her tour at the time. I said, ‘you know what it’s not going to kill me to go.’ I was already big and I didn’t care about that, I know I can dance. I always had confidence. So I went and of course I didn’t get chosen for the tour but she was working on her B-Day album and they chose me to be one of her personal dancers in her videos as one of the plus sized mamas. And from there I just was like you know what, nobody wants to represent me, nobody wants to give me a chance, I’m going to create my own path.”
While life isn’t always kind to Armstrong, she admits dating has its pitfalls and she has her own moments of self-doubt. What gets her through is knowing that she is indeed beautiful.
“It may sound like a cliché, but I tell myself, ‘you are beautiful’ because if you feed your mind negative words, then you start to believe it,” she says. “So if you tell yourself that you’re beautiful everyday whether you look a hot mess, you going to start to believe it. You know what I’m beautiful even on my good days, even on my bad days. Just know you are beautiful, and no one should define who you are, not a man, not a woman, not a child, only God.”
Amen to that.