Social Media Rallies Behind Black Teen Who Did Not Receive Credit For Viral TikTok Dance
Photo Credit: Jalaiah Harmon | Photographer: Jill Frank for The New York Times
TikTok is the latest social networking platform allowing users to go viral due to creative videos and dance challenges. However, as we’ve often seen in the past, although songs and dance challenges may go viral, amassing social media influencers a ton of followers, endorsements, and other opportunities, the Black creative who originated the trend tends to get the short end of the stick.
14-year-old Jalaiah Harmon of Fayetteville, GA is the creator and choreographer of the viral “Renegade” dance routine. You may not know the name, but if you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, or have a teenager in your life who enjoys TikTok, you’ve definitely seen the dance.
The dance craze has taken over TikTok. It’s even made its way to Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube, with celebrities getting involved in the fun.
— Complex (@Complex) February 13, 2020
The routine has gotten so big that in anticipation for NBA All Star Weekend, the NBA had TikTok influencer, Addison Rae Easterling, fly down to teach their cheerleaders the dance. To top it off, Addison, along with TikTokers Charli D’Amelio and Dixie D’Amelio, performed the famous “Renegade” dance during the NBA All Star Dunk Contest alongside Aaron Gordon.
funny how this just came up on my fyp… a popular white tiktok creator teaching the dance (gentrified version) to nba cheerleaders and then posted on the nba page…. this should’ve been Jalaiah, who actually made the dance:/ pic.twitter.com/s1J5ZH9WPU
— baeza (@MlSBEHAVINMARA) February 14, 2020
And while everyone is having a blast learning the dance, they know very little about who created it. In fact, despite the routine being choreographed by Jalaiah, credit has actually given to viral TikTok star, Charli D’Amelio, for “popularizing” it.
Damelio has made several videos doing the dance, some with other popular TikTok stars. It’s no doubt that her influence played a part in spreading the dance, but unfortunately, it did nothing for Jalaiah because she was never credited for the choreography.
Recently, Jalaiah did an interview with the New York Times, discussing her thoughts on coming up with the blazing hot trend.
“I was happy when I saw my dance all over,” she tells the publication. “But I wanted credit for it.”
Jalaiah recalls creating the dance and posting it alongside her 12-year-old Instagram friend back in September 2019.
“I posted on Instagram and it got about 13,000 views, and people started doing it over and over again,” Jalaiah tells the publication.
Weeks later, TikToker @global.jones, a Black creator known for dance challenges, did the dance on TikTok with his little brother. The dance’s popularity began to grow from there.
Unfortunately, @global.jones hadn’t given Jalaiah credit, either.
Jalaiah has done her due diligence to get the credit she deserves, hopping in the comment section of videos to bring awareness, only to be ridiculed by other users.
14-year-old Jalaiah Harmon does the original version of Renegade dance that she choreographed in her Atlanta bedroom last fall. Months later, it became one of the biggest things on the internet and she got no credit https://t.co/o1YrN46S87 pic.twitter.com/fobL2ukkQV
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) February 14, 2020
Black Twitter came to Jalaiah’s defense, demanding that she receive the credit she rightfully deserves, including all of the opportunities that other (white) TikTokers are being given.
With virality comes profitability. In this digital age, we have seen social media make young people very wealthy. YouTuber Evan Fong brought in $11.5 million last year by just playing video games. We’ve even watched viral stars become celebrities and live the life of their dreams (ex: Lil Nas X). Jalaiah definitely is thinking about the bigger picture.
“I think I could have gotten money for it, promos for it, I could have gotten famous off it, get noticed,” Jalaiah said. “I don’t think any of that stuff has happened for me because no one knows I made the dance.”
What happens when no one knows you’re the creator? Consider what happened with Vine creator Kayla Newman aka “Peaches Monroeee.” She is now credited for coining the phrase “On fleek,” however, despite the catchphrase being used throughout pop culture, Kayla does not see a dime from it. Why? Because she’s never officially been given the credit for originating the phrase.
Fortnite is another great example of Black creatives having their art ripped off and not being compensated. In May 2019, Fortnite made $203 million as reported by Forbes. However, the featured dances that make the game so popular, are frame by frame copies from Black creators like rapper 2 Milly, Donald Faizon, Alfonso Ribeiro, Snoop Dogg and more.
K. Camp, the rapper responsible for the song “Lottery” which is used in the Renegade Challenge, took to Twitter to shine a much-needed additional spotlight on Jalaiah over the weekend.
“Lottery” has become a viral smash thanks to social media and it couldn’t have been done without Jalaiah’s efforts.
“Thank you Jalaiah and Skylar for helping make lottery the BIGGEST song in the world,” K. Camp tweeted alongside a video of him in the studio with Jalaiah performing her dance.
Thank you Jalaiah and Skylar for helping make lottery the BIGGEST song in the world. Tell the blogs eat it up! pic.twitter.com/HOo2jy5TAH
— K CAMP (@kcamp) February 15, 2020
Garnering 100k+ retweets and over 300k likes on K Camp’s tweet in just over 12 hours, the right social media star was finally going viral for her creation — but it doesn’t stop there.
With the entirety of Black Twitter and K Camp on her side, Jalaiah finally received an invite to Chicago to perform her original version of “Renegade” during the final day NBA All Star Weekend. Before the game, Jalaiah met up with Charli D’Amelio and Addison Easterling, the viral TikTok stars who were initially invited to perform in Chicago and were credited for popularizing the “Renegade Challenge.”
The irony of Jalaiah’s “Do The Right Thing” 40 Acres And A Mule hoodie was not lost.
Finally, Jalaiah got an opportunity to finally show the world the dance she created nearly 6 months ago. During the 2020 NBA All Star game on Sunday, February 16, the young Atlanta dancer took to the court and performed, capturing the attention of celebrities and acquiring new fans. She was even briefly joined by the NBA cheerleaders.
Jalaiah, creator of Renegade, performs at the NBA All-Star Game! pic.twitter.com/w5qtYTrjeh
— NBA (@NBA) February 17, 2020
Congratulations to social media creator, Jalaiah Harmon. Glad the power of the internet was able to make sure you received your just due!