Nia Dennis, a gymnast at UCLA, is using her platform to make a difference. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests, the 21-year-old’s latest floor routine celebrating Black excellence has gone viral. Dennis tells The Lily that she wanted the routine to “be a celebration of everything [Black people] can do, everything we can overcome. Amid all the adversity and oppression we’ve been through, here we are.”
Dennis’ perfectly executed routine (she scored a 9.95 out of 10) included songs by artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, and Missy Elliot. Since lyrics are not permitted in the floor routines, Dennis used her skills as a gymnast to send her message.
“There’s not a lot of Black gymnasts so representation is very important and I wanted to bring the Black culture to the sport of gymnastics, especially given the reach that UCLA gymnastics gets in our platform,” Dennis told PEOPLE. “I definitely wanted to capitalize and use it and really get the message that Black Lives Matter across.”
Dennis’ message was loud and clear. With over 10 million views of the video posted on UCLA’s Twitter page, her powerful and energetic routine quickly grabbed the attention of athletes and celebrities, including Michelle Obama, who re-tweeted the video with the caption, “Now that’s what I call fierce!”
The athlete’s dedication and fearlessness to push boundaries within her sport sends an inspirational message to young people everywhere. When asked about the routine on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dennis says, “So this routine, I believe, is a reflection of everything that I am as a woman today. And I picked a lot of really influential artists, Black artists that had a huge impact in the Black community.”