Courtesy Jemel McWilliams official website

Jemel McWilliams: “dancing” through quarantine


He’s worked with artists such as Lizzo, John Legend and Alicia Keys, by the way! Impressive, I know.

Jemel McWilliams is an artistic/creative director, choreographer, movement coach AND dancer. While he creates for music videos and live shows, his daily life inevitably changed with COVID-19.

“I did artistic direction and choreography and movement more so for John Legend’s performance this year on the BET Awards this year,” said Jemel McWilliams. “We were able to do a production for it, but it still had to be COVID-regulated.”

But COVID-19 isn’t what’s important here. McWilliams is an admired icon by fellow dancers and creators. He’d had his fair share of ups and downs, but prayer, positivity and family guided him.

“I got injured at one point and I was out, and I thought that my career was done,” said McWilliams. “And then I looked up, and it was the first time that I learned to get behind a camera, and now today when I’m directing things, it’s from those years of not being able to dance.”

 His work overflows with passion, love and positivity. He and his artists together spread important messages.

With every artist, from John Legend to Lizzo to Janelle to Alicia, one thing that they all have in common is they’re all about speaking up for the marginalized, speaking up for those that don’t often have voices.

Jemel McWilliams

McWilliams continued: “But then I gotta believe that I was brought to their lives to bring the same thing that I have inside of me to them, and then we bring it together, BOOM!”

And for any of you aspiring to be a dancer, journalist, really anything, be yourself. What’s your life’s dance routine going to be?

“Keep building yourself up as a person,” said McWilliams. “It’s nothing like an artist who comes in the room, whether it’s an audition or whatever it is, and they know who they are.”

So did one of Lizzo’s main dancers.

“She didn’t get anything right, she didn’t get not one dance step right, said McWilliams. “But there was a special spark and light about her and about her knowing who she was that I was so just drawn into that she’s the only one that I actually booked out of that audition for Lizzo.”

The ones that become widely successful are the ones that I believe have spent time learning who they are, learning what they like, learning what makes them move… not looking for validation from these artists or from these jobs, but rather they’re looking to be a contributor to this moment.

Jemel McWilliams