Considering this past weekend’s Women’s March, I wanted to highlight a group of women who inspire me for not only breaking down barriers, but because their mission is to empower women to believe that they can do anything in life. Pretty Big Movement is a full-figured dance company based in New York that specializes in hip-hop, jazz, and ethnic dance. Founder and CEO Akria Armstrong was once told that she could not pursue her dreams because of her size, but she didn’t listen. Instead, she created a platform for women dancers with curves within today’s mainstream media.
Armstrong wasn’t just a woman who wanted to dance; she was a dancer. She trained at the acclaimed Ailey School before performing for Jennifer Hudson and in two Beyonce videos. After her appearances with Beyonce, Armstrong tried to get an agent to book additional jobs, but no one would represent her because of her size. It was this moment that fueled Armstrong to take matters into her own hands and form Pretty Big Movement. While auditioning for Full-Figured Fashion Week, Armstrong met two more members with the same passion. Today, Pretty Big Movement has seven official members and performed for Ladies of Hip-Hop, Salt N Pepa, and were featured in Lane Bryant’s #PlusIsEqual campaign. Currently, the group is busy filming their own reality show. During an interview with Revelist.com, Armstrong said, “Growing up in a dance environment, I did feel like my body was a negative thing. I couldn’t fit into costumes, and my costume was always different from everyone else’s.” Now, Armstrong and her squad show girls that it’s OK if your costume doesn’t look like everyone else’s, as long as you feel the music and dance.
The dancers in Pretty Big Movement range from ages 24-32 and all considered curvy women. The way you look doesn’t really matter to Pretty Big Movement though; it’s all about your personality. In order to be a member, Armstrong said a woman has to know who she is and be confident. Watch this video as Armstrong narrates the story of how Pretty Big Movement was born, and now, what the troupe represents.
All of the women in Pretty Big Movement have day jobs and various levels of dance training. In fact, Armstrong’s day job as a make-up artist led her to work for Salt N Pepa, but her ultimate dream would be for Pretty Big Movement to be her full-time job. Right now, Pretty Big Movement offers classes and workshops, and they also book parties and events in the New York area, but Armstrong’s dream spans worldwide. She would love for the troupe to go on tour and even start a summer camp. This fierce lady is determined to make an impact on lives and inspire the next generation of dancers, no matter what they look like.
Pretty Big Movement’s dance videos showcase everyday women that people can relate to, which is the main reason why this group went viral. Some people look at full-figured women and assume that they can’t dance as well as thin women, but Pretty Big Movement singlehandedly shatters that stereotype. These women obviously know their bodies and know how they have to transfer their weight to dance.
After Pretty Big Movement became an Internet sensation, the troupe took a chance and auditioned for NBC’s America’s Got Talent on season 10. Click here to watch Pretty Big Movement’s audition piece for America’s Got Talent.They were eventually cut in the Judge Cut round, but more than anything, America’s Got Talent gave this group the media attention it craved. After their appearance on the show, they were featured in several New York media outlets, and now they have their own reality show in the works. Not bad for a woman who initially couldn’t get an agent to represent her.
To relate to their younger fans, Pretty Big Movement launched #IAmPrettyBig on Instagram and Twitter. Here, the troupe posts videos of rehearsals, performances, and body-positive selfies and group shots. “At the end of the day, we dance. Aesthetically, we may not be the proper body type that America would love to see, but we dance. It’s just been challenging because of how we look,” said Armstrong in an interview with Daily Dot. I might be in the minority, but I love to see Pretty Big Movement dance, and more importantly, I love to see the message they are sending to our youth. Rather than judge someone for how they look, you should take that energy and focus it into something that can make a difference, like dance.