Djouliet, tell us about the start of your dance career.
I grew up in Winnipeg, which is in Canada. It is a smaller city where people go for a stable family life. Growing up I really loved to wiggle around. When I was six years old my parents put me in dance school because there was a dance studio two minutes from my house. It was right around the corner – convenient! After training for a little while, my artistic director wanted me to take more classes. My parents couldn’t necessarily afford the amount of classes she wanted me to take at the time, but she saw so much potential in me that she decided to make an exception. As long as I was doing ballet classes, I could take every other class offered. She wanted me to compete for her school, and I did. I travelled to compete in London and Scotland for freestyle dancing, as well as all kinds of competitions in Canada. I was a very competitive kid! Competitive dancing was my life. As I got older, I knew I wanted to be an artist and dancer for my career. I needed to be!
Did you always plan to move to New York City for dance?
No, I wanted to go to medical school, so in high school I took all science classes, and after school I trained and danced.
During high school, I had a scholarship offer to train for a summer in Paris. This is before my senior year. I realized that summer that I wanted to be a professional dancer. We got to train with all of these artistic professionals. I auditioned to be in the BFA program in the Alvin Ailey School that was combined with Fordham University. I had one month to study for the SAT because there was only one more offered in Canada before the application was due. I worked really hard for that one month and was accepted into the Alvin Ailey/Fordham BFA program.
“Be comfortable in yourself, find things you love in yourself, and surround yourself with people who love you.”
Tell us about your transition to dancing in New York City.
After my second year, I realized I couldn’t afford the program, so I decided to start my professional dance career. I got a professional dance opportunity working as an apprentice with Ailey II. I was training and then taking classes, and would be in rehearsals. That was my first real long-term concert job as a professional dancer. I also did some magazine work. After I worked with Ailey II, I signed with a dance agency as well as State Management.
Where are you currently dancing and modeling?
Now I’m signed Clear Talent Group, an agency for dancing, theatre, and film, and I’m signed with State Management for modeling.
Do you go home to Canada?
Yes! I went home recently. I love to bring knowledge back to Canada because there are a lot of talented, driven students. I think it is great to have a role model come back to them and share what I’ve learned. I’m very lucky to have the experiences that I did. I am finding myself very passionate about choreography as well as performing. I love bringing experiences from my world and turning it into art. I created a solo for one of my students named Alexa, and I wanted her to tell one of my stories through dance.
How did dancing develop your modeling career?
I intertwined those things together. First, my dance experience resulted in me modeling for dance catalogs. My first opportunity was a feature in Dance Spirit Magazine. It was a “get her look style” photoshoot. I wore my favorite leotard and leggings. They photographed me and asked me about dancing at Ailey. They came to my school and we had a shoot in one of the studios! That was the first modeling experience… I was in a few dance modeling magazines after. I did a story for Refinery29 called “redefining body types.” A lot of people have interviewed me about body positivity and self-love. I did another project with Refinery29 in collaboration with Snapchat. This path resulted in me doing dance modeling, or commercial dance. It just naturally happened with my dance career.
What is the largest challenge you faced as a dancer?
My eating disorder. It affected my dancing and me as an entire person. My eating disorder took over my life for a long time, but I’m happy to be recovered now, happy, and healthy. As a dancer, there is a lot of pressure. Sometimes you have to fit into a costume, and they aren’t willing to make new costumes, so you have to be the size of it. It isn’t always this way, but I felt so much pressure to be “perfect,” and to please whatever everyone around me wanted. It’s the unspoken idea of what you want to look like and what you should look like. It is an unspoken pressure based on how badly you want what you are doing. I had so much pressure that I made myself sick. At the end of the day, I didn’t need to look like that. Now I’m in commercial dance and I never had to do that. For a long time I wanted to hide it. I was just “extra healthy.” I was cutting people out of my life and didn’t care if I had friends. I became a selfish person. I was a totally different person. That was the biggest challenge that I faced. Thank god that’s over!
In terms of every day struggles, I guess it is difficult going from audition to audition – but that’s really nothing! My other small challenges cannot compare to what I went through when I was sick. I’m so happy to be doing what I’m doing as a professional!
What do you do now to promote body positivity?
Now I am healthy and I am a very optimistic. Even if it isn’t dancers hearing this, a lot of women feel pressure surrounding body image and it is something I enjoy talking about because I want to be real with myself about it and the world. I’m not perfect, but I am a lot stronger now.
Being healthy is so important. I was signed to my current dance and modeling agency when I was healthy and myself. I can be myself and they will hire me and want me to represent them. That’s pretty dang cool.
What’s your daily mindset to be positive and motivated?
I think it is important to know that what is for you is for you. Some things will be for you and some won’t. No matter what challenges you face, you are here and you are alive. I have legs, feet, and eyes that work. I have a lot more than some people have. I am just grateful to be here. Some things may make me upset, and I may complain about things that don’t matter. Every day I think, if I were to die tomorrow, how would I want to spend my day? I think it is important to make the most of every day and find the positive in negative situations. You should be grateful for what you have.
What does it mean for you to be powerful?
I think to be powerful is to own who you are. Be comfortable in yourself, find things you love in yourself, and surround yourself with people who love you. Women should surround themselves with powerful, like-minded women who will lift them up. A lot of my best friends are very talented people with beautiful open souls. I believe in them and they believe in me. Their love and support nurtures my success. It really helps to have people that love you around you.