KJ: My summer was full of nonstop dancing! I kicked it off in June by attending Artist Simply Human (ASH) Nationals in Florida, which was fun and exhausting. From there, I went to California where I booked a job as a dancer in a Sia music video featuring Maddie Ziegler. I also booked a promotional video for CLI Studios with Teddy Forrance. I attended the Buildabeast Experience 2016 in Pomona, CA, but had to slip out for one day to go shoot with Teddy. Three hours after Buildabeast ended, I went directly into rehearsal with Suga N' Spice to prepare for our video "Basement Party." Two days after Buildabeast, I took a plane to San Francisco for the Joffrey Ballet School summer intensive with Josie Walsh. That about sums it up!
NLG: How did you campaign during the CMS voting process? Did you have any special strategies?
KJ: During the CMS voting process, I used my Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter accounts as well as the accounts of my mom, friends and family to get the word out. I sent emails and text messages to all the contacts in my phone and my mom's phone. My mom's job sent out an email to all the employees. When I attended ASH I asked any and everyone that I encountered to vote for me. I reached out to the choreographers that know and love me, asking them to support me, and they did by posting to their social media accounts. I campaigned for votes at my doctor and dental offices, from my classmates at Joffrey and my neighbors. I reached out to the convention owners in which I served as an assistant, both past and present, for support and they all posted my picture and the link to vote on their convention page. I belong to several dance crews and I solicited votes from all my team member and each director posted to the crew's social media outlets. The studio I attended in [my hometown of] Frederick, MD, also supported and posted the information on their social media and studio website. I gave the magazines I received from Dance Spirit to family and friends who used it as a tool to campaign for votes. My grandmother shared the information with her church members and I put my cousins to work, asking them to campaign for me with their college friends.
NLG: What was your favorite part of the CMS experience?
KJ: I absolutely enjoyed the entire process but my favorite part was seeing the Broadway show Finding Neverland. It was nothing short of incredible! The cast members made the entire experience feel like actual magic. In fact we even got to see a little bit of how that magic worked backstage after the show with some of the cast members. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
NLG: How have you grown since the CMS trip and what are you looking forward to next year?
KJ: Having to campaign gave me so much more courage to approach people and just be me. I've opened up more as young girls, especially young girls of color, are now reaching out to me asking me questions about how to become a better dancer. I'm so honored that they see me as a source of information and inspiration.
NLG: Do you have any words of wisdom for future CMS hopefuls?
KJ: Always believe in yourself, keep training and never give up on your dreams or the desires of your heart. And lastly don't worry about the things you can't control but don't let them control you.
It is with a very grateful heart that I say thank you to everyone that took the time out of their very busy day to vote and support me on this amazing journey. To the amazing staff at Dance Spirit magazine and the sponsors Sugar and Bruno, thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime. I enjoyed meeting each of you. I sincerely enjoyed meeting and spending time with Briar and Tatiana—we clicked immediately. I'm looking forward to continuing my friendship with these two amazing dancers. And lastly to my mom, thank you for all that you do and all the sacrifices you make for me. I would not be where I am if it were not for you. I love you.