When Jalaiah Harmon was 14, she choreographed one of the most viral dance trends to ever hit TikTok: the Renegade.
The dance, which blew up in 2019, helped catapult a contingent of largely white TikTokers, like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae, to stardom. However, Harmon was not credited with the viral dance moves.
A lot has happened since then. Harmon is a household name. She’s now hoping to show her fans a different side with “I Am: Jalaiah,” a documentary series. “
” Sometimes people will recognize me when I go out with my friends to bowl or skate. Harmon spoke to NBC News. Although I don’t feel famous, I don’t want people to think I am. I’m still a normal teenager. But, it’s different because of the things I do. “
The first episode of the documentary series debuted on YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat on Wednesday.
Harmon’s mother Stefani Harmon described her daughter as shy and quiet, but she grew up to be a confident, swaggering child. Brian Harmon, her father, said that he saw his daughter play video games such as Just Dance in her bedroom. He noticed her grasping the choreography with preternatural skill, which led him to sign her up to dance lessons.
Home videos, Harmon dancing at recitals, were intercut with footage of Harmon’s family dining in their home’s dining room. As the family ate, Stefani Harmon stated that she didn’t realize that Harmon was so special.
After being profiled by The New York Times last, Harmon’s fame exploded. Harmon was a guest of P. Diddy and performed with Teyana Taylor. She also taught dance classes.
Despite her fame, Harmon stated that she hopes viewers see her as a normal teenager who loves her friends and family, who is a good student of film and who still needs to manage her life as a high school junior in Fayetteville. Harmon stated
” This allows me to show people that I am a normal teenager.” “I went through the same experiences as people my age.” “
The documentary was made by Togethxr Media, which was founded by professional athletes such as Alex Morgan, Chloe Kim, Simone Manuel, and Sue Bird, who are all basketball players. According to the company, it is drawn towards creating content about and for young women.
“Jalaiah was an amazing talent who created the culture that we all participate, but wasn’t given proper credit,” Jessica Robertson (chief content officer at Togethxr), said in a statement emailed directly to NBC News. Her story is much more than that. We wanted to lift her up where many others have failed. She is the embodiment of everything TOGETHXR stands up for. “
Harmon’s story has helped to shift attitudes on platforms such as TikTok where crediting creators of dance trends is an ongoing and contentious issue.
” I believe it has helped me to change attitudes and the narrative regarding how talented and deserving Black creators is,” Harmon stated. It’s a huge deal. “
Since Harmon’s story came to light, the issue of credit labor among Black content creators as well as creators of color has been a major topic of contention.
In May 2020, Black TikTok users held an on-app protest to fight censorship and other concerns, which they dubbed a “Blackout.” As national protests erupted in the United States following George Floyd’s passing, TikTok offered its Black creators an apology and promised to do better.
TikTok announced that it would establish an incubator for Black creatives and a fund to help Black creativity.
In June Black creators staged a sort-of strike on TikTok , stating they would not create a dance style for Megan Thee Stallion song “Thots —“” due to a lack proper credit and a generally low compensation for Black labor in the creator economy.
Harmon stated that there is still much to be done in the area of credit. However, she believes things are moving in a positive direction.
“There are still times when people don’t get their credit. But overall, I think things are getting better and people are more considerate about giving credit to others and reposting other people and appreciating the effort people put into their art and videos and whatever else they do,” Harmon stated, “especially Black creators.” “
Harmon stated that she supports other creators getting their credit. However, she hopes that “I Am: Jalaiah”, will show that her life is more than the Renegade.
CORRECTION (Oct. 13, 2021, 5: 36 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this article mispelled the name of Togethxr’s chief content officer. Roberson is not Jessica Robertson.