Entertainment

Body Positive Twerk Queen Surpasses 13M TikTok Followers

Mikaila Murphy, better known by her millions of fans as Mikailadancer, is the body positive dancing sensation reaching stratospheric fame on TikTok. Mikaila’s 13.3 million followers can’t get enough of her freestyle, booty shaking confidence and creative video content. You’ve never seen so many different ways to twerk and the internet is here for it! At age 21, this technically trained dancer has gone from struggling dance instructor juggling shifts at Target to newly minted TikTok millionaire in a little over a year.

This is the story of how Mikaila Murphy manifested her dreams of dance stardom on her own terms, and created one of the largest and most influential platforms on social media. But first she had to recover from teenage years fraught with body shaming from love interests. “I finally stopped letting men put me down and started loving myself,” she says. That self-love became contagious. “When I first started dancing on TikTok,” says Mikaila, “I would get messages saying, “How are you so confident?” and “You are helping me feel better about my own body.” I realized that as I was helping myself, I was helping others, and I was hooked.”

Bucking the retouched and surgery enhanced trend, she subscribes to little to no makeup, embracing her natural body, her long red hair, her natural skin and facial features. Authenticity and no f*cks given body love is the Mikailadancer brand that’s officially generated seven figures in revenue since January 2021.

It all began when her grandfather, whom she credits with shaping her life, introduced her to the classics like Shirley Temple and Bojangles, encouraging her love of dance from the time she was a toddler. By age 3, Mikaila was studying tap and ballet which continued up through high school. While she enjoyed tap classes, ballet was traumatic for the naturally curvaceous teen who was told she was too thick to be a ballerina. 

“As a dancer, you have to take ballet as part of your foundational training. I don’t have a ballerina’s body, and to add insult to injury, I was forced to wear a leotard.” Body image issues began to take root until Mikaila turned her attention to the grittier moves of heels dancing and hip hop dance prevalent in her native Detroit, Michigan. Through more urban dance styles, she was encouraged to embrace her curvy frame and develop her love of free body expression, which lent itself to more expressive and sexier dance moves. “I began to embrace my shape and love the way I could move my body to express my femininity and sensuality.” she says. 

Mikaila insists that she twerks for herself, and that owning her sexuality has always been a natural extension of who she is. “I’m not twerking for male attention,” she insists. “I’m doing it for me and for all the girls out there who were told ‘you’re not good enough as you are.’ I’m letting my fans know, your body is beautiful just as it is.”

Millennials and Gen Z fans are definitely getting Mikaila’s body positive message, which is why her TikTok following is growing exponentially, at a rate of  1M new followers every two months, and an average 1M+ likes per post.

She also gives credit to the West African origins of the dance form, noting, “Twerking has been around for a long time with its origins in beautiful West African culture, and it is a celebration of the female body.”

Famous fans include Iggy Azalea, whom she’s collaborated with, the Jonas Brothers, Jason Derulo, Sean Kingston and Cardi B who have reposted her videos to their own accounts. Major record labels regularly ask her to dance to their music to up their artists’ sales and streams, and her other brand collabs include: Fashion Nova, Canes Chicken, Songfluencer, Romwe and Shein. 

According to Mikaila, she gets messages flooding in daily from young women who credit her with bolstering their confidence and making them feel good in the skin they’re in. To Mikaila, “Twerking for me is about loving self. I’ve been body shamed by men for my shape, my acne, my nose. My dancing is my way of celebrating me and taking back my power, and that speaks to a lot of young people who follow me.”

Part of a large community of Los Angeles dancers, Mikaila is now using her influence to advocate for fair pay and working conditions. “At 18 I appeared in an A-list artist’s music video where my likeness and dancing was all over the media, including a billboard in Times Square. The only problem was, I made no money from my hard work. Financially it did nothing for me, and I want to stop the shameless exploitation of dance talent in this industry,” insists Mikaila. “As dancers, we train for years, we enhance everything from music videos to live performances, and we deserve to get paid what we are worth.” She shares that she has turned down numerous offers to dance in A-List artists’ music videos because they were asking her to dance for free for  “exposure,” of which she already has plenty.

“The tables are turning because dancers can now build their own brand, but for everyone like me, there are still thousands of talented dancers who are at the mercy of an entertainment industry that doesn’t respect their work.”

Mikaila (left, center, with her “Power Puff Girls”) is an outspoken advocate for fledgling professional dancers’ union, Dancers Alliance, and their work to get professional dancers healthy and safe work conditions, fair wages, and basic healthcare in exchange for their enormous contributions to entertainment. 

“Now, as dancers, we can take our talent to social media, and we’re getting our bag from our social media platforms. We don’t need a famous artist’s music video for exposure. It’s super dope that we now have those resources.”

G Gulati

An Author, Personal Branding & Brand Engagement Expert, G Gulati's purpose in life is to help you discover your first-mover advantage. With more than 18 years of experience, he has helped countless people build a head-turning brand. Gulati is the author of five books, including "I'm A Brand" and he is on a mission to write and interview the world's most elusive, fascinating and trending personalities.

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