At just 14 years old, dancer Jalaiah Harmon created one of the most viral dances of all time — the “Renegade.” But white creators like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae were often credited for the dance. Now, Harmon and her mother are speaking out in a new docuseries.
This four-part episodic documentary series, I Am: Jalaiah, follows the young dancer’s life after setting the internet ablaze with her viral dance choreography.
“Jalaiah is an incredible talent who created the culture we all participate in, yet wasn’t given proper credit,” said the chief content officer of TOGETHXR — the media company behind the documentary — Jessica Robertson. “But her story is bigger than that. We wanted to elevate her where so many haven’t. She embodies everything TOGETHXR stands for.”
With the help of the Dubsmash owner, Harmon was eventually connected to a journalist at the New York Times who pinpointed Harmon as the innovative creator behind the “Renegade” choreography. The published article opened the door to conversations about how Black creators are overlooked and uncredited after creating the popular dances and trends that carry these apps.
“The owner of Dubsmash had reached out to me, and she said she had a journalist write an article about me. She came to my house and interviewed me, and then after she was done with the interview, she wrote the article and then I went to the New York Times, and that’s how it got out,” Harmon explained.
The three TikTok families sat down with each other during the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend to discuss Harmon’s uncredited choreography to ensure “everyone was good.”
The league initially invited several white TikTok influencers — including D’Amelio and Rae, as part of the festivities. By planning to leave Harmon out of the weekend, the league quickly became another example of the problem of appropriation. The NBA eventually decided to recognize Harmon’s role as the creator, bringing her to the All-Star Game and giving her the chance to perform.
Jalaiah, creator of Renegade, performs at the NBA All-Star Game! pic.twitter.com/w5qtYTrjeh
— NBA (@NBA) February 17, 2020
In the second episode, Harmon’s mother, Stefanie Harmon, recognizes D’Amelio’s dancing talent but says things could be very different for the Harmon family if her daughter received her proper credit.
“If there were a cosign by Charli or the D’Amelio family if they backed the notion of Jalaiah being the original creator… we probably would’ve had some phenomenal opportunities come our way,” Stefanie said. “she was a face that many ignored, and still ignore. That face [is] being the young Black woman.”
The young dancer admits that she thought “everything was fixed” in terms of Black creators struggling to get recognized after speaking out on the matter but still hopes to see more progress.
“There are still some times when Black creators still aren’t getting their credit. I feel like we need to work on tagging people, giving dance credit,” Jalaiah said.
yass honey, jalaiah is in a champion commercial https://t.co/owsFelYMzF
— #JenX 🧋♎︎ (@jentrification) October 18, 2021
The dancer has accomplished some amazing feats despite not receiving as many opportunities as other TikTok creators. Last year, she performed at the NBA All-Star 2020 Game, she was featured in Teen Vogue and the New York Times, performing on ELLEN, and more recently featured in a commercial campaign with the brand Champion.