Laurieann Gibson on navigating the music industry on her own terms: ‘The disrespect was rampant’
The 'So You Think You Can Dance' judge gets real about double standards and pursuing her passion.
Laurieann Gibson has been a mainstay in the music business for decades, and we’ve watched her journey from whipping Danity Kane into shape for Diddy to serving as Creative Director for some of the biggest names in the game. Now, we get to see the world-renowned choreographer as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance.
TheGrio sat down with Laurieann Gibson to find out how she’s liking her latest gig and how she has managed to navigate the industry despite permeating issues like racism, mysogyny, and more.
Gibson is known for dishing out tough talk other clients and pushing them to be their best while providing a supportive and encouraging voice. As a judge on season 16 of the hit dance competition show, she says she’s glad to share her gifts with a new generation of talent.
“I was excited to be able to speak to the young dancer that I was and hopefully encourage and give something to them at his point in their journey that will ultimately hep them change their lives and make the road a little less rough,” she says.
“Intimidation is just a perception. It’s not really who I am. It’s the passion I have to give my best and to achieve what it is that God has placed in your heart. I’m not afraid of giving it my all so I think that very quickly, they find out that I’m not as scary as they think I am. There is intention and purpose behind what they thought was scary and intimidating.”
Laurieann Gibson has had her fair share of public battles and viewers saw tons of sparks fly when she was featured on Lifetime’s Dance Moms, although her behavior was a lot more tame than the show’s white star, Abby Lee Miller.
“I absolutely have endured the lack of fairness in that department as a young Black woman and as a professional woman. There is a difference. When we react or we are dramatic or intense then we’re intimidating,” she explains. “If I snap my finger or dig in deep to pull from something, to coach a child in a way that is normal for a dance instructor or a coach, as a Black woman it registers as a diva or a bitch or “I’m afraid if her.” It is really difficult and I have had to find a way to evolve the conversation. Yes I’m intense because I’m passionate.“
Gibson also had to fight through the male-dominated music world at a time before #MeToo had people thinking twice about acceptable behavior.
“As a dancer from Toronto Ontario getting on a Greyhound bus to fulfill a dream that is very competitive and riddled with negative things like drugs and distractions…you have to be intense on the vision that you have or it’s difficult to succeed. It’s even more difficult for a Black woman who is educated, talented, and determined,” she says.
“It was definitely difficult during my rise. The disrespect was rampant and accepted, so the level of awakening, I’m happy about. ..It has been a positive awakening and no, you cannot speak to us like we are a herd of cattle.”
Check out the full interview above.
So You Think You Can Dance airs Mondays at 9/8c on FOX.