As told to Emily Kestel and Jami Milne. Portrait by Jami Milne.

What strengths do women bring to the table?

Their resiliency. We endure so much as women and we have to show up and get the job done with a smile on our face. 

What characteristics do you admire in other women?

I love their softness, their strength. As a Black woman, I think we’re so busy trying to be strong. So I really love to see the softer aspects in women. I think it says so much about their character, about their empathy. I love sharing those moments with women and the vulnerability that comes with that. 

Who is the woman that you most admire?

My mom, Toy, who passed away when I was 24. She’s probably been the biggest inspiration in my life. She’s taught me so much about who I am. I know how hard she had it in the world. She always allowed me to be independent and find my own way. That’s been so critical for my growth and trying to find my way.

What is your greatest fear?

I definitely think for a large portion of my life, failing was the scariest thing imaginable. I had to face my fears and know that failure is a part of the process. You really learn so much through failing, and really nothing is a failure because you learn so many lessons, especially if you’re putting in the energy and doing the work that you need to do. 

How do you define success?

It’s about my happiness, plain and simple. When I applied to college, there was an essay question I had to answer, and it was about that. I just wrote a sentence: It’s about my happiness and making sure that I have people in my life that make me happy, I’m doing things that make me happy, and I’m thriving.

How do we support the next generation of women in finding a path to success and fulfillment?

It’s really about lifting as you climb. And if you don’t do that, then what are you doing any of your work for? You really have to take your ego out of the work that you’re doing, because you’re really doing it for the greater good of everybody else. 

What are you least confident about?

I think what I’m least confident about are people showing up for me. I’m sure I probably can give off a tough exterior and people may not think that I need them. But, you know, we all need people to support us. 

How can we build a more equitable world for everyone, especially women?

Pouring into our youth, because they are the future. We’ve been having these conversations about equal rights for hundreds of years and that hasn’t really brought the full change that’s needed. Education, and really getting down to the truth of history of humanity, and digging deeper into those stories of the people. Being able to tell their stories and have a narrative and a voice especially for women.

What gives you hope?

The kids I work with. Seeing people that have a lot less than me have this sense of pride and this resiliency about them. And seeing them with a smile on their face and a great mood, no matter what adversity that they’re facing, gives me hope. And I really am super grateful that I get the opportunity to work with kids.

This story is part of a collection of 10 stories produced by Ballet Des Moines and Fearless as part of its “SHE” series. To read all of the other stories, visit this link.