Akira Armstrong, CEO of Pretty Big Movement empowers women to love their body through dance
The summer has officially started and everyone is ready to show out. People are looking for a way to get and stay fit and dancing is the way to go. Professional plus-size dancer, Akira Armstrong is a Bronx native who has proven that she belongs in the dance industry. Armstrong started dancing at age 8 and hasn’t slowed down since. She has been the artistic instructor for Leaps and Bounds Dance School, Harlem School of the Arts, and Alvin Ailey’s Arts and Education Program. She has performed as a principal dancer in two of Beyoncé’s music videos, “Greenlight” and “Get Me Bodied”. In 2008, Armstrong took her dance career into her own hands and founded the Pretty Big Movement and created a platform for other ladies to have an open and safe space to feel comfortable with their bodies through the art of dance. Pretty Big Movement has been featured in a Lane Bryant campaign, American’s Got Talent, MTV’s Lip Sync Battle, and at the VMA’s with artist Lizzo.
At the end of May, the ladies of Pretty Big Movement hosted a dance party and celebrated their partnership with Athleta at the New York Metro store on 86th street. It was an extremely hot day but the guest was thrilled when they received free “Topo Chico” sparkling mineral water and free “NadaMoo!” dairy-free ice cream. To top it off everyone that attended received a $15 dollar shop card to spurge in the store. Armstrong and the ladies of Pretty Big Movement made the day feel very special as they danced around the store, welcomed everyone with a smile, and more importantly showed off their legs with confidence. DJ BayDriana showed off her amazing skills while playing both old school and new school music. We are very excited to see what is next for Pretty Big Movement and so proud that Armstrong is teaching us more than dance. She is teaching us how to fully accept ourselves in a society that most of the time looks the other way. Thank you for sharing your story with Short N Sweet Ent.
Your journey has been incredible to watch from being a jazz instructor to a make-up artist, and now the CEO and founder of Pretty Big Movement. Tell us more about your journey and how you got to where you are now.
The Pretty Big Movement started back in 2008. Initially, I started it as a platform for Curvy, Voluptuous, and Beautiful women who are professional dancers who just didn’t have the space to really showcase who they really are and that’s in all facets as singers, dancers, and make-up artist and eventually Pretty Big is going to grow into that as an agency. This journey has been a beautiful one. I tell people, “everything that is always pretty is not always pretty”. There have been some challenges and there have been some hiccups but all of that has propelled me to where I am now. Currently, Pretty Big Movement houses 13 members and we have so many great deals on the table. We are looking forward to bigger and bigger things.
As we are talking about bigger and bigger things, we are here at Athleta to celebrate you and give back to the community. Tell us more about this great partnership.
We are here at Athleta on 86th street and they are one of my recent partnerships. Today the event is called Legs Out. As you can see everyone is rocking their shorts and feeling confident. We have a female DJ and it’s just giving a lot of great energy today.
No matter your size everyone at some put in their life has dealt with body issues. How did you gain your self-confidence to propel you where you are now?
I would say I gained my self-confidence through the hard lessons. I didn’t always have the confidence and I’m going to be vey transparent. It took some years for me to get to where I am now where I’m actually comfortable and feel safe in my own body. Even though I was pumping, believe in yourself and be confident” it started to really affect me internally because I felt like I wasn’t walking in my truth and, now that all has changed for me. I would say it took some time and it didn’t happen overnight. Those hard lessons really really shaped me to where my confidence stands today which is at an ultimate high.
What’s one of your proudest moments?
That’s a hard one, can I do two? I would say one of my biggest performances where I was like this is amazing is when I performed in Rome, Italy for a television show and Pretty Big Movement broke barriers. The initial issue was that one of the teachers had belittled one of the dancers who she felt like was a little bit thicker and when we actually saw the dancer we were like, Girl Stop It. To hear the roar of the crowd when we performed on the show was an a-ha moment for me.
I would also say another proud moment we had was when we performed in front of 50, 000 people and this was 2 years ago – headling and not behind an artist. This was big! We weren’t featured – it was US. I would say those are a few highlights in my career. There are plenty more but when I think about performances I think of those two.
What is your favorite technique to dance?
My favorite technique is West African. It was the first genre of dance that I learned when I started dancing at the age of 8. I did take tap, ballet, modern, and jazz but people don’t think there is technique in West African and it really is. The movement, the sound of the drums, and the energy – I just love it.
If you could remix and create a dance sequence for the opening of a family sitcom what would you choose?
A family sitcom that I would want to remix and do a performance to is a show called ‘black-ish. I would incorporate hip-hop, West African, and a little bit of Afro Beats too.
If you had one tip for an entrepreneur or a dancer, what would you say to the younger generation who is trying to get into this industry?
Something I would love to say to the younger generation is to stay consistent. You are going to have a lot of hurdles in your journey and those are just going to shape and mode you and build character. The process is not pretty but as long as you remain who you are and understand your vision when other people won’t. Stay on your path no matter what and you will be bound for greatness.
All of the ladies of Pretty Big Movement are making their mark and is here to stay. If you would like to take one of their workshops you can take their 2-Hour Dance Workout Party Experience this Sunday June 13, 2021.
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Until next post... Coach Tay