top of page

DejYAH's story

I never felt like I was enough. But as an only child, my parents did all that they could to ensure that I never felt lonely or unimportant. I was super involved as a child. From the age of five, I was involved in dance classes. I loved dance and I enjoyed making new friends at dance outside of my friends at church and school.  At around the age of 10, I started competition dance. It was also my dream to audition for the competition team and compete in several dances at these competitions. At my dance academy, there were levels to the competition team that you could make. For the first two years of my competition dance experience, I was on the pre-competition team which was a tier below the competition team. I liked how I was still able to enhance my skills while still being able to compete on the local and regional levels.


But once I became a teenager, I felt that I had exemplified great work ethic and drive to be able to make the official competition team. Each year, every one had to re-audition to make certain teams so I just knew that all of my hard work and dedication to my craft would pay off. I had also been a shining star at everything I set my mind to. I was the token black girl at my conservative, private, Christian school. I was everybody’s favorite at church; there’s no way that I would not achieve greatness at my dance academy too. But this was my first experience dealing with rejection. Feeling like I had given my all to something and yet, I still wasn’t good enough. Thus beginning my journey of wondering if I was always  destined to just be good, and not great.


So I gave it my all. My last year auditioning for competition team I put in the extra work. I attended all of the conditioning sessions. I linked up and rehearsed with the more tenured girls who had been on competition teams for years. I even attended extra practice sessions to ensure my spot on the sought after competition team. So much time and effort I put in just to be denied once again for the spot I thought I deserved. Why was I never good enough?


I told my mom that if I didn’t make the competition team that I was done. I was tired of being denied what I thought was my rightful place on the competition team. I thought maybe I would never achieve what I thought I could so I should try something else. Dance became my life. Dance had taken up all of my free time. Dance had consumed the life of my family. All passive income went towards tuition, costumes, dance shoes, and travel. It didn’t feel worth it to me to continue throwing money towards somewhere I didn’t feel valued. So I quit. After 8 years of dancing, I threw in the towel and tried other things.


For once, I would be able to play sports at school. Participate in plays. Actually spend time with my friends. I was super excited for this new chapter for my last year of middle school. Being the token did come with its perks. Everything I tried to do, I excelled at just because the bar was set so low for little black girls at this time. So I auditioned for the school play. Usually middle schoolers don’t make the high school play, but I did. You could say that this was the boost of confidence I needed. I started playing school sports. You could say I brought life to the track program for the girls. It was only three of us at the time, and I was the only girl sprinter, and the only black girl on the team. It excited me to know that I had potential that could be enhanced on the high school level at my middle school age. I was happy to see that someone other than my family saw the potential I had to be great.


But of course being a young middle school girl came with its distractions. Boys. How many boys like you? You haven’t had your first kiss? Why don’t you have a boyfriend? And all of the awkwardness and insecurities that encompassed that subject. My school was small. And it was even smaller for the black community within the school. So realistically, there were only a handful of boys to choose from. And of course everyone liked the same ones. Who was he going to pick? It introduced the concept of competing for male attention. It also introduced the concept of wondering what was wrong with you if you weren’t picked. That ended up being the norm for me. Placing me in a state of comparison. I knew I was pretty, but was I pretty enough? Somebody always ended up having the upper hand over me. Someone always ended up getting what I wanted. And I was left feeling like last week’s leftovers. If you’re hungry enough, you’ll go for it; but you’ll never be the first choice or even considered.


So I decided to focus on what mattered - my sports and my grades. Getting on Honor Roll was never a huge accomplishment for me. Of course I received the praise for it, but I always felt like why should I receive praise for doing what I was supposed to do. It never felt like a huge win for me. Ex