Nia Dennis Has the Floor

Nia Dennis worked the floor for 90 seconds

and a lifetime.

The student-athlete’s January 23 routine (9.95) not only secured the UCLA Bruin’s win over Arizona State but became a rising, viral anthem for something far more profound:

In her LA Times feature of Dennis, Thuc Nhi Nguyen reports,

“Inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests that unfolded last summer, Dennis wanted to add her piece to the social justice conversation. Instead of leading chants at marches or holding a sign, the 21-year-old communicated with tumbling passes as sentences and dance moves as punctuation. The message was still perfectly clear. Celebrate Black excellence.”1

Dennis spoke with Nguyen about earlier struggles to celebrate her own self in a sport primarily populated by white athletes: “I’m not even going to pretend like I didn’t go through this phase when I was younger: I did used to want to be white.”1

But no longer. Dennis now embraces her own beauty and excellence.  “I just know that I have to stay true to myself,” she told Nguyen. “That’s always going to get me farther than anything else.”1

Cresting in a sport embedded with obstacles (from physical injuries to body stereotyping and documented accounts of racism within collegiate programs) demands nothing less than excellence. Watch Nia Dennis embody it here:


1 Nguyen, Thuc Nhi. “‘Got back to my roots’: Nia Dennis and the groundbreaking genius of #BlackExcellence.” Los Angeles Times. Feb. 12, 2021. url (accessed February 18, 2021.)

*Her Voice, Her Story image created by Sakura for The Mudroom.

Nichole Woo
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