How Bring It! is changing our perception of Black girls and performance

With another season of Lifetime’s show Bring It! behind us, I can’t help but reflect on all the ways in which the show adds nuance to media portrayal of Black girls. The fairly new reality show follows the competition season of a black majorette/dance team — the Dancing Dolls from Jackson, Mississippi. An alternative to the popular show Dance Moms, which focuses on the early careers of individual dancers and the moms who push them, Bring It! highlights the commitment that Black girls have made to dance as a hobby (and in some cases as a career) via the Dancing Dolls. The stories of the dancers, the coach Ms. Diana, and select parents come together to change how we understand and receive Black girls in the the media. 

One of the prevailing myths about Black girls is that they aren’t disciplined. Always portrayed as “just getting by” or driven by extreme hardship to transcend their circumstances, Black girls aren’t typically understood to commit themselves to something they want to do. But we see Dancing Dolls like Camryn continuously forgo other activities like school dances and basketball games to remain focused on the team. Sunjai, another dancer, attended optional practice sessions and enlisted at-home help from the team captain, Kayla, in order to qualify for inclusion on the teams infamous battle squad. Camryn, trained in an array of dance styles, has her eyes set on replacing Kayla as the team’s head captain and is constantly navigating her relationships with the other girls on the team and the coach in order to prepare herself for the role. More than passive members of a larger unit, these Black girls utilize their agency and decision-making to make the most of their experience on the team. Both seasons were a testament to the ways in which Black girls motivate themselves and rely on the community around them to reach goals that they set for themselves.

The adults in the show are equally complex. Ms. Diana, affectionately known as Ms. D, is the director/coach of the Dancing Dolls. She is tasked with leading the girls as a team creatively in competitions and guiding their personal evolution. This responsibility makes it necessary for her to push the girls as performers. Her communication style is precise, passionate, and to the point. But she maintains an authentic level of respect for her dancers and their talent. Early on in the first season she admitted to being a former porn performer. Not only was she upfront about it with her girls, but used her disclosure as a teachable moment for her teams to engage in careful decision making. Her portrayal challenges the unspoken rules of respectability politics suggest that former sex workers (and other offenders against chastity) carry a permanent mark of shame and hide their decisions. And the cast definitely includes other adults who aren’t “respectable”–several of the mothers were teenaged moms. Many of them have never been married and co-parent with the fathers. The show challenges the idea that nuclear families are the only ones capable of successfully supporting children and must be the “remedy” for the Black community. [would be good to include link to an article promoting that idea]

But what I found to be most profound about the show was the honest positioning of Black majorette culture within the Black community. Communal events like dance competitions, showcases, and parades are not only spaces for entertainment, but sites of cultural art production. For Black girls who can’t access the individualized attention of a renowned dance troupe or other lessons, this is their venue to engage in performance art. It is significant that this form of performance is not only Black but deeply embedded in poor and working-class communities. The unique, contemporary cultural practices (with the exception of hip hop) of these communities are often overlooked. Despite being dismissed as provocative, inappropriate, and hyper-sexual, majorette teams represent one of the few authentic Black female art forms. Thus, the role that Black girls and women play in majorette culture as dancers, coaches, parents, and supporters cannot be understated. And I am personally ecstatic to see a major network invest in a show like Bring It! 

Avatar Image Sesali is screaming DD4LLLLL!

Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

Read more about Sesali

Join the Conversation