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You Need to Know Her: Aliya Janell, the Dancer Championing Self-Love With Stilettos

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In a dance studio tucked away on an empty Los Angeles side street, 65 people faced their mirrored selves, stretching in unison, readying their bodies for emotional release. Their footwear varied: well-worn high top kicks, thigh-high boots devouring jiggly legs, chunky dad sneaks, lofty platform stilettos, and a particular pair of mesh open-toe booties that belonged to Jay Lamb. “I treated myself to come to Los Angeles solely for Ms. Aliya’s class,” the UK visitor later revealed. Queens N’ Lettos was Jay’s birthday gift to herself, but she wasn’t just there to dance. “It’s a bit of therapy in a way,” Jay, 30, explained.As the warm-up wound down, Ms. Aliya, better known as @TheAliyaJanell, weaved her way through the loose-limbed crowd. The founder of the world-renowned stiletto class looked just as she did in the viral dance videos that amassed her 4.4 million Instagram followers and nearly 2 million YouTube subscribers. Wearing a topknot so taut, the rogue curl at her nape had to be intentional. Crisp winged eyeliner that required composure. Peek-a-booty shorts and heels that hoisted her five inches into the air. Aliya was snatched like a fist ready to blow.”This is a free spirit zone, b*tch!”she hollered. Heels aren’t required, and questions are encouraged. “Practice using your voice,” the 25-year-old dynamo added. She and two assistants spent the next 90 minutes breaking down the 50 second-long combination she’d composed to Nicki Minaj’s new song “Yikes.” Aliya had distilled each savage bar into a physical, cinematic opera, with some meticulous blink-and-you-missed-it footwork here and a few sumptuous body rolls that stretch seconds into lifetimes there. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Aliya Janell on Feb 20, 2020 at 12:08pm PSTHer special fluency in Nicki makes sense. Back in 2017, the rapper hired Aliya to choreograph several music videos and live performances after spotting an Instagram clip of the young social media star dancing to her song “Itty Bitty Piggy.” Demand had also grown for classes outside of Aliya’s hometown, so that same year she launched a traveling series called Queens N’ Lettos. Her signature choreography is where respectability politics go to die; a space that showcases the delicate artistry of hood behavior, hot girl mentality, and hood rat antics, and represents a certain kind of freedom. These classes earned Aliya an international league of fans whose loyalty morphed Queens N’ Lettos into a full-on lifestyle movement.”She really gets me to get out of my head in her classes,” said local queen Tiana, 25. Like many of her dance mates, she lingered in the studio long after the last body had been rolled. “I’m not thinking about the moves. I’m just dancing.”I caught up with Aliya the next day to learn more about her unapologetically raunchy choreography, the time she bombed an audition for a Jennifer Lopez gig, her stressful yet rewarding with Nicki Minaj, and the challenges of performing for an online audience of millions. POPSUGAR

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