Donté Colley's dancing is making the world a little brighter
The Toronto-native's viral, inspirational twerking videos will bring some positivity to your Instagram feed.
Photo by Jasper Soloff. Styled by D'Mahdnes LaVaughn.
Even after earning a feature in Ariana Grande's "Monopoly" music video and gaining more than 800 thousand followers on Instagram, 22-year-old Donté Colley is extremely down-to-earth. In between his assembly of empowering PSA's and energetic dance videos on Instagram, the Toronto native constantly reminds his nearing 1 million followers that the best thing to be on social media — and IRL — is 100 percent themselves. It’s his mantra, and if you haven’t watched one of Donté’s iconic, viral uploads, you are missing out.
Colley incorporates twirling and often times twerking while a colorful range of emojis like stars, rainbows, and hearts or inspirational text bounce off his body to themed music. It’s his goal to bring light to the parts of the internet that can be filled with so much darkness through dance and design.
“I really loved digital media and digital design, and I was developing my skills through the Adobe Suite to where I felt confident enough to start challenging myself,” says Donté. “I was starting to see these photo memes that people would post and be like, ‘Me and my friends’ and it would just be a static picture [covered in emojis.] I was like, I want to try and make that more of [something real.]
His art resonated with people, quickly. In regards to dance — a crucial part of his work — Donté did go to a performing arts high school where he “sort-of” majored in musical theatre. His high school never wanted them to be cookie-cutter, and instead insisted on embracing their rawness and how they moved and what they did. It helped him gain some technical skills, but Donté taught himself almost everything we get to see today.
“I literally used the internet as it was developing to teach myself,” Donté says. “I would search videos on how to do a pirouette, or like, how to do a jete and I would practice that in my bedroom or in my living room. Obviously nothing’s going to be perfect, but it's also like, I'm not searching for perfection either. This is who I am and this is what you’re gonna get. Dance for me has always been that thing that’s made me feel good. So I just continued to do it.”
But even prior to his followers watching Donté’s addictive and inspirational videos, he was watching himself, posing as someone he thought he should strive to be online versus who he actually was.
“I was in a stage before where I was heavily trying to curate what my feed was gonna look like, what I was trying to portray myself as,” says Colley. “But it wasn't actually who I am; it kind of put me into a really bad mental state where I was like, I don't even feel like I'm worth enough anymore because I'm trying so hard to curate this lifestyle that isn’t me.”
There’s something so special and rare that’s unburied while watching Donté. He tells me that these videos were never a way for him to try and “be found,” but rather just to make himself — and everyone else — feel good in the process, too.
“For me, I had lost my sister at the end of high school, and every single day it's a challenge,” Donté tells me. “Sometimes I think to myself, maybe if she had seen one of these [videos], maybe it would've changed her mind about the decision that she made for herself. But I can't think like that all the time because that's not what she would want me to think.”
And, in all the stun of his platform, and amidst both honesty and truth, Donté admits that — while he does “influence”, he refers to his job as just being Donté Colley and not an “influencer” — the hustle doesn’t come without internet trolls or working his ass off or the challenge with constantly being in the public eye.
“There are people online that find somebody for this specific thing and that's all they know them for,” says Donté. “And they want to see that content all the time. I don't think they understand it does take a lot of effort and it takes a lot from who I am and in my heart to put these things together."
Donté tells me that, of course, he’s blessed to have gotten to where he is and for the support he receives, as well as for the opportunity he’s been given to make an impact. But it’s not about him, Donté consistently makes clear to me; it’s about the spark he works to provide in a climate that’s so over-casted and cloudy.
“There's been so many shitty parts of my life that have brought me down,” says Donté. “And there's a special thing about the internet that really brings us all together. A thing about the stuff that I post is that I can really feel the reciprocated energy back. The people that support who I am, it really is that sense of community... and, it's not about me. It's about all of us together. We should be empowering each other, we should be encouraging each other.”
Between the cult of fans that keep up with him, to the future that leads with the beginning of this decade, it isn’t without exclamation that Donté will always continue to be himself, no matter what other people think, he is set to make the world a bit brighter.