The cell phone camera rolls as an excited Amanda LaCount heads out on an adventure most of us will never experience. The 18-year-old, ponytail-bobbing media sensation is going to dance on the Emmy Award-winning “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
“We’re almost to the stage,” Amanda shrieks as she nears the building. “I’m so excited, but I’m also … really nervous because this is like a really big deal.”
Indeed, it is. Our hearts skip a beat as Amanda zooms in on a large picture of Ellen on the side of a building. “Like, I’m going to meet this woman. Whaaaat?” she excitedly exclaims, giving us a glimpse of what it must feel like to live the life of a rising star.
In just moments, we’re backstage with Amanda as the cell phone camera continues to roll. “This is so cool,” she says as we move from a cozy, refreshment-filled dressing room to a hallway filled with pictures of famous Ellen guests, including Reese Witherspoon, Howie Mandel and Oprah Winfrey.
In the blink of an eye, we’re back in the dressing room and Amanda is meeting one of her idols, Keala Settle of “The Greatest Showman.” Keala invited Amanda and a group of her friends to dance while she sings the awe-inspiring tune “This Is Me.”
“I’m so excited. Thank you so much,” a genuine Amanda says as she embraces a tearful Keala. “This is like my dream.”
Why We Love Amanda LaCount
Amanda’s life story has drawn so many followers because she is both the girl we all wanted to be and the woman we all hope to become (even we, um, older women). And she’s far wiser than her years.
The words to “This Is Me” in many ways describe Amanda’s life. “Hide away, they say … No one’ll love you as you are. But I won’t let them break me down to dust. I know that there’s a place for us ….”
You see, Amanda’s path to stardom hasn’t always been easy. Like many professional dancers, she started classes as a toddler. However, as she grew older, she realized she was different. She didn’t fit the “skinny girl stereotype” of the dance world.
At the age of just 10 or 11, Amanda experienced her first reality of body shame. A dance studio owner at the place where she trained flat-out said her body type didn’t “fit his vision” for his competition dance team.
Many young girls would have quit dancing, embarrassed. Not Amanda. She kept training at a different studio, finally moving to Los Angeles to begin her career as a professional dancer. This story of courage and resilience has inspired hundreds of thousands of fans to follow her on the road to success.
Her old dance teacher wasn’t the only one to offer unsolicited feedback on her physique. Soon after moving to Los Angeles, she had a heartbreaking encounter with fitness guru Richard Simmons at a red carpet event.
Excited by the celebrity spotting, she and her mother jumped at the chance to take a picture with the ‘80s fitness star. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the greeting they had hoped for. Instead, Amanda was met with more body shaming. “He told me, ‘if you want to make it in L.A., lose 15 to 20 pounds,’” she tells us. “I was crying.”
How #breakingthestereotype Came to Be
Experiences like these have molded Amanda’s deep desire to change the world. To put it simply, she doesn’t want anyone of any age to be body shamed.
Her desire to reshape societal views is what led to her signature hashtag, #breakingthestereotype. It all started in 2016 during a summer drive in Los Angeles. She knew she wanted to share the message of body love with the world, but she wasn’t exactly sure how to do it.
And then it came to her. She needed to start a campaign to break the stereotype that dancing is reserved for svelte women. The campaign expanded to include all harmful body stereotypes. “It’s a self-explanatory movement to try to help inspire as many people as I can to do what they love instead of what people tell them to do,” Amanda says.
Amanda’s overall goal is to share her message of body (and life) positivity with the world. “I think people need to love their body because … you’re gifted with one body. If you have the ability to walk, run, dance … a lot of people don’t have that. Be thankful that you have a working body … If you don’t love yourself, then no one else will.”
She also wants us to remember that comparing ourselves to others can harm self-esteem. “We’re so used to that that it automatically happens,” Amanda says. “Your mind takes you to a place of comparison … that’s not very healthy for you. It doesn’t benefit anybody.”
This is especially true when it comes to social media. (You know exactly what we’re talking about.) “It’s not fair to compare yourself to others when you are living two very different lives,” she says.
Amanda openly criticizes the societal definition of beauty, which has drawn body image activists around the world to her story. “The world created that definition. It’s always changing,” she says. “People change themselves to please society, but society is constantly evolving.”
She’s learned what many women twice her age are still struggling to grasp. “Stick to who you are or you’re going to lose yourself. There’s always going to be something wrong. So many people are brainwashed into thinking skinny, tall, slim is the only version of healthy there is,” she tells us.
Yes, she eats healthy. And she hits the gym regularly along with her dance workouts, but she’s real in who she is. “Skinny does not equal happy. Some people are happier when curvier or letting themselves live a little bit. If you’re so focused on living a certain way, you’re not living life.” .
Besides “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” she’s been seen on “Dancing with the Stars,” “Radio Disney Music Awards” (with Meghan Trainor, may we add), “The Voice,” Marie Forleo’s “MarieTV,” Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” video, her own “Amanda LaCount Live” tour, the Dove Project #ShowUs, the new American Eagle plus-size campaign and at Coachella as a dancer for Lizzo.
Yet it hasn’t gone to her head. “I am happy with the amount of following I have. But in comparison to other people, I’m not so famous yet … My life, honestly, in some ways it’s changed a lot, but it kind of hasn’t,” she says. “I’m lucky to have the life I have, but Mom and I still do the same things we did before. Game nights, dinner, movies. I just work more and get to do some really good jobs.”
So what can we look for from Amanda next? “Two years ago I never thought I’d be doing what I’m doing now,” she says. “I go where life takes me and keep dancing and doing what I love. I just hope to inspire people more and spread my message.”
We love you, Amanda. Thank you so much for spreading the message of body positivity to the world. You are definitely changing the world one beautiful body at a time.
P.S. Here’s that video we were telling you about …