When ballet drama Tiny Pretty Things hit Netflix in December 2020, it quickly became one of the streaming platform’s newest binge obsessions. The soapy series, dubbed a cross between Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl by Popsugar, is based on the bestselling YA book series of the same name, and lifts the curtain on the cutthroat world of an elite, Chicago-based ballet academy. At the heart of the drama is Neveah Stroyer, a new girl who gains admission to the school after its star pupil dies under mysterious circumstances.
Stroyer is played by Kylie Jefferson, a lifelong dancer, albeit a Hollywood newbie. Despite her rookie status in the acting world, the breakout star is already well-known in dancing circles after becoming the youngest-ever dancer to be accepted into the prestigious Debbie Allen Dance Academy. Therefore, it seems only par for the course that she’s winning over viewers on Tiny Pretty Things, which reflects her real-life experiences as a woman of color intent on pirouetting her way to the top. But who is the talented woman behind the tulle and tutus? After all, it’s not every day a relatively unknown actor scores a lead role in a buzzy Netflix series! Here is the untold truth of Kylie Jefferson.
Kylie Jefferson is a dance prodigy
In Tiny Pretty Things, Neveah Stroyer (Kylie Jefferson) wins a coveted spot at the Archer School of Ballet, which mirrors the actress’ real-life dance journey. The Cinemaholic reports that Jefferson began dancing at age 4 and joined the Debbie Allen Dance Academy at just 6 years old, “beating the then-cutoff age of 8.” She credits much of what she knows to legendary choreographer and dance icon Debbie Allen, who trained Jefferson and countless other dancers. Allen’s (and Jefferson’s) hard work was even immortalized in the 2020 Netflix documentary, Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker!
Unsurprisingly, Jefferson’s experience at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy molded her into the stellar dancer she is today. “No matter where I go in the world, no matter what type of job I’ve done, in some way, shape, or form, it always comes back to DADA and the people that either Miss Allen has gone out in the world to bring back to teach us or the family that has been created,” she told Black Girl Nerds.
Kylie Jefferson has faced her fair share of personal and professional difficulties
After studying at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Kylie Jefferson was accepted to the Boston Conservatory at Berklee and graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts degree in contemporary dance. While at the Conservatory, unfortunately, Jefferson dealt with her fair share of racism. “At the Boston Conservatory, girls were complaining to the head of the dance division about parts I was getting,” she explained to Dance Spirit in 2020. “They said I was given them because I was Black. Don’t they think I was aware of the stares or forced smiles they gave me when I did more turns than they did, or my arabesques got higher?” These challenges only fueled her inner fire when it came to playing Neveah Stroyer on Tiny Pretty Things, as the show didn’t shy away from the unique challenges that many Black ballet dancers face. “Representation is so important,” the star added.
But racism isn’t the only hardship with which Jefferson has grappled. The star opened up to Black Girl Nerds about suffering a rib injury shortly before the filming of Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, and her worries as to how it would affect her performance. “I was coming out of a rib fracture, so I was nervous,” she explained. “I was nervous because you can’t fake ballet…I specifically was doing two-a-day Pilates sessions on top of my rehearsals and stuff like that.”
Kylie Jefferson has worked with Travis Scott and James Corden
As well as a gifted dancer, Kylie Jefferson is also a talented choreographer. In a 2020 interview with Dance Spirit, she shared that her proudest career was choreographing rapper ScHoolboy Q’s music video for “CHopstix” in 2019, which starred rapper Travis Scott. “I was able to hire friends I grew up dancing with — African-American women performing ballet exceptionally on TV,” Jefferson told the magazine. “It was the first time the community I grew up with and my craft were aligned.” According to The Cinemaholic, Jefferson ended up receiving a Universal Dance Award nomination in the category of Favorite Music Video Performance for her work.
Working with music videos spurred her to mentor young dancers and perform live. In 2018, The Cinemaholic reports that Jefferson landed a dancing stint on The Late Show With James Corden, but also had to take a gig as a personal assistant. It wasn’t long before “she increasingly grew weary of the 9-to-5 job.” In 2020, shortly before her big break on Pretty Tiny Things, she appeared as one of forty-five Black women who opened the 62nd Grammy Awards. Though Jefferson is still new at pirouetting on the small screen, we’re confident this is only the first of many times we’ll be seeing her grace our TVs. After all, as the dancer-actress told Teen Vogue in 2020, she has “always wanted to be a catalyst of bringing classical ballet to mainstream entertainment.” Mission accomplished!
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