Michelle Obama: Nia Dennis' Gymnastics Routine Was 'Fierce'

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A jaw-dropping floor routine from college gymnast Nia Dennis has been viewed by more than 10 million people, but the breakout star was particularly moved that her vibrant effort earned some viral love from one of her heroes: Michelle Obama.

The UCLA athlete performed at the school's season-opener competition against Arizona State last month with an incredible routine set to a medley of songs by Black artists, including Beyoncé, Tupac, Soulja Boy, Kendrick Lamar, Megan Thee Stallion, and Missy Elliott.

"This routine, I believe, is a reflection of everything that I am as a woman today," the 21-year-old told Ellen DeGeneres in an appearance on her show last week. "I picked a lot of really influential artists — Black artists that had a huge impact on the Black community. For starters, Kendrick Lamar, you know, he's a huge activist in his music. We're not allowed to use words and sounds in our floor routine. So, I figured if I wasn't going to be able to say it, I wanted to do it in a different way and shine light on gymnastics."

After the video made the rounds on social media, former First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted it with the caption: "Now that's what I call fierce! You're a star, @DennisNia! ⭐️👏🏽"

When asked about Obama commenting on her impressive performance, Dennis told DeGeneres that it was "so insane" to hear from the Becoming author and former First Lady.

"Oh my gosh. Michelle Obama, first of all, I love you. I was speechless," she shared, adding that when her teammates saw the tweet during practice, they "came over to me and we were all just cheering and so excited."

The college senior went on to say that "not only did [Obama] tweet me, she actually posted the entire video — so that means she must have it in her camera roll or something and must watch it in her free time."

This post is part of a month-long February CircleAround series, tied to Black History Month — the first since the loud calls for social justice this past summer — in which we asked writers to explore the topic of race in America from a variety of perspectives. The murder of George Floyd last summer catalyzed a national reckoning on race, with many questions to be answered. To see all the posts in the series — including relevant news stories — visit hereAnd if you'd like to contribute to the series, send us your thoughts to info@circlearound.com or post on our "2021 Inspiration Wall."

Tags: Empowerment

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Written By

Rose Low

Rose Low is a writer based in New York, with a background in social media strategy and reporting. She has a Masters from NYU and a love for romantic comedies. See Full Bio

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