Teenage hip-hop dancer Amanda LaCount opens up about body acceptance in the dance world

At the age of 19, Amanda LaCount has already emerged as a powerful body acceptance advocate, particularly within the dance community, typically known for its harsh and rigid body standards.

Credit: Amanda LaCount
Credit: Amanda LaCount

The hip-hop dancer, who also works as an actress, choreographer and model for brands like Savage x Fenty, showed the world she was a talent to be reckoned with during her 2020 audition for America’s Got Talent. She delighted the crowd — and particularly judge Simon Cowell — with an upbeat routine to Todrick Halls’ “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels.”

Although the Colorado native was later eliminated from the show, she’s now using her ever-growing platform to encourage body acceptance. With her social media movement #BreakingtheStereotype, she’s challenging stereotypes about what a dancer’s body can look like.

“Especially in the entertainment industry, and even more specifically, the dance industry, there is a standard of what you should look like and what a dancer’s body should look like,” LaCount explained to In The Know. “And I don’t fit into that.”

LaCount’s journey toward body acceptance advocacy began when she started dancing at just two years old and fell in love with the sport.

“I loved it,” she gushed. “I loved everything about it.”

But when she was around nine or ten years old, LaCount’s relationship with the sport began to change. She says she started experiencing body-shaming and bullying at the hands of her peers and even from her coaches. Looking back, she now describes it as “heartbreaking.”

“I was so young,” she explained. “Getting negative comments at any age from anybody is horrible, but especially when you’re so young and it’s a grown adult telling you these horrible things about yourself, it’s even harder.”

“When you have someone that you look up to — in my case, it was my dance instructor that I had been dancing with for a year — to have someone like that tell you, ‘your body is an issue and I don’t like it and you need to change it,’ it’s not fun,” she added.

LaCount continued to pursue dance and spent over a year training with a team in Colorado. But she was dealt a heartbreaking setback when she was kicked off the squad after the studio’s director told her she didn’t have the “right” body type.

“I actually got kicked out of a studio because my body type ‘didn’t fit his vision (for the team),'” she told In The Know. “And that was definitely an eye-opening experience.”

“Bullying, in general, is a difficult thing to deal with, but especially body-shaming,” she continued. “Your body is so personal, and when someone attacks it, it digs really deep. And it hurts really bad. It’ll stay with you for a long time.”

When LaCount was 13, her family relocated to Los Angeles so she could pursue dance professionally, which she described to The Coloradoan as “the biggest leap of faith.”

Although the move was major, it ended up paying off. LaCount has since amassed an impressive resume of high-profile gigs, including dancing in music videos like Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” and Lady Gaga’s “Stupid Love.”

In January 2018, LaCount went viral with an emotional Instagram video in which she danced to Keala Settle’s “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman on Earth. The video made international headlines and grabbed the attention of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where LaCount was later invited to perform.

As her career continues to reach new heights, LaCount has turned her focus to helping other dancers through her campaign #BreakingTheStereotype, which aims to dispel preconceived notions of what it means to “look” like a dancer.

“I created #BreakingTheStereotype because that’s what I do daily,” she told In The Know. “As I walk into the dance studio, as I walk into that audition, as I walk into that job, I’m breaking the stereotype of what dancers in the past were pressured to look like, and still are pressured to look like.”

LaCount explained that she started using the hashtag on her Instagram, where she regularly shares dance videos with her over 299,000 followers. Users slowly began to pick up on the trend and are “responding really well to it.”

“A lot of people can relate to feeling not welcome in a certain occupation or area,” she said. “And I wanted to inspire them to just keep doing what they’re passionate about, or to try something new that they’ve always wanted to try but always felt that they couldn’t because of certain standards.”

In October 2018, LaCount was even featured on the cover of Dance Spirit magazine, with her hashtag displayed right alongside her — a powerful culminating moment for someone who was previously kicked off her dance team for not fitting into a certain “look.”

Ultimately, LaCount hopes the visibility she continues to create for plus-size dancers — something she, unfortunately, says she didn’t have too much of growing up — will inspire younger generations to never abandon their passions just because there’s no one like them in the room.

“I grew up reading (Dance Spirit) and idolizing the dancers on the cover,” she said. “I would read every page of it, front to back, multiple times. And I can imagine that if I would have seen someone like me on the cover at my age, being so unapologetic and so comfortable in their skin, and not being scared to be ‘different’ — whatever that means — it would have helped me so much. And I would have felt like, ‘I can do this, I can be a dancer. Look at this person. They’re doing it. I can do it, too.'”

If you found this story insightful, read about why we need to stop using “fat” as an insult.

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