There’s just something about dancing that brings undeniable joy to those who do it — especially if you’ve been told you can’t do it and are then given the chance to prove everybody wrong.
Enter the HoneyBeez, a plus-size dance team at Alabama State University founded by band director James Oliver in 2004. When Oliver first joined the staff of ASU, he was heartbroken every time someone tried out for and was rejected by the Stingettes dance troupe because of their size.
“I would put them on the flag line,” he told AL.com, “and you could see the disappointment in their faces that they couldn’t dance.”
So he invited a few band members to help him form a new group that would do some “club dancing and a little street dancing” during the Marching Hornet Band’s halftime shows.
After their first performance in 2004, the crowd went wild — though several people approached Oliver afterward to ask why he was making fun of those girls by having them perform such high-energy dance moves. After some soul-searching, during which he wondered whether he should just pull the plug, he decided they should forge ahead. After all, the women loved it.
“I made the decision that I was going to keep going,” Oliver told The Undefeated. “I didn’t care what anybody said. I thought these girls deserved a platform and I’m going to keep them.”
Now, all of the band’s shows build to a finale that culminated in a performance by the HoneyBeez, and Oliver reports that they receive a standing ovation every time:
Because the dancers have such a strong presence, and because their time with the troupe has given them such a high level of confidence, they now often visit high schools in order to talk to students about body positivity, confidence and self-love. Those who have the opportunity to see them perform and to hear them speak are often left inspired by what might be possible for them, too.
And the dancers themselves continue to be inspired by what they experience on and off the field.
“It’s real important for us to have that sisterhood, that bond, simply because we’re away from our homes and we need that extra support,” Asia Banks, a dancer in the HoneyBeez, told The Undefeated. “Where one of us lacks, the other one will pick up. We’re plus-size girls and we still go through bullying in college. But we’re more confident now, so it’s not as bad. But we have a real sisterhood, and this is our home away from home. The Honey Beez took me all the way out of my shell, and I love it.”
In recent year’s the group’s profile has skyrocketed. The dancers were featured on “America’s Got Talent” in August 2017. Before that, they were on Steve Harvey:
And they made their Rose Bowl Parade debut this year.
It seems that everyone wants the HoneyBeez to perform for them, and who could blame them? These women are fabulous and full of a fiery self-confidence one can’t help but admire:
“Now, let the Honey Beez not show up [at games],” Oliver told The Undefeated, in reference to the early opposition. “I think fans would tear up the stadium.”