This past weekend, UCLA gymnast Nia Dennis made waves across the internet when a video of her floor routine was posted and quickly went viral.
Aside from being a wildly impressive demonstration of athleticism and technique, Dennis' routine was a carefully crafted celebration of Black culture.
After the routine blew up on social media, Dennis, a 21-year-old senior in college told The Lily in an interview:
"The whole thing, literally everything, is Black culture."
"I wanted it to be a celebration of everything [Black people] can do, everything we can overcome."
"Amid all the adversity and oppression we've been through, here we are."
Clips from songs by Missy Elliot, Tupac and Kendrick Lamar all make an appearance throughout the nearly two-minute routine, in which Dennis incorporated movements not typically seen in the White-dominated gymnastics space.
And as if an explosion in internet popularity wasn't enough for Dennis, she recently received high praise from none other than former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Now that’s what I call fierce! You’re a star, @DennisNia! ⭐️👏🏾 https://t.co/aKUD9YO0FW— Michelle Obama (@Michelle Obama)1611683189.0
Dennis replied back less than an hour later.
She was excited beyond words.
i’m speechless... thank you queen👸🏾 https://t.co/ouOGwLnr1G— Nianation💎 (@Nianation💎)1611686442.0
Of course, there were countless other voices congratulating Dennis in addition to Obama.
@MichelleObama @DennisNia Ooo shoot the Olympics is gonna be lit 🔥 when the time comes 😻👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾she is absolutely Ama… https://t.co/0Z4y4Qsgmf— lisa (@lisa)1611684803.0
@DennisNia Amazing. Actual dancing as part of the dancing elements. What a concept, and what an execution. Congratu… https://t.co/IV8KQk3lqS— Mark (@Mark)1611700793.0
@DennisNia Imagine being so good in what you do that Michelle Obama compliments you.— PauleRanger 🏳️🌈 ❁ (@PauleRanger 🏳️🌈 ❁)1611689248.0
@MichelleObama @DennisNia I don’t want to brag but I live on the same planet as her.— Ida Skibenes ❄️ (@Ida Skibenes ❄️)1611683242.0
Obama wasn't the only influential voice to heap praise onto Dennis.
As the Huffington Post reported, Janet Jackson, Common, Missy Elliot and Kerry Washington all had kind words to share.
"[Olympic gymnastics] have been so cookie-cutter, very ballet, very classical. I'm really pushing boundaries by doing things that are modern, new, urban. In college, you have the opportunity to show your personality through your dance and through your music."
"There's already been a push of boundaries with Simone [Biles]. She uses music that changes a lot. It's really upbeat, high tempo. That's already a huge push of boundaries, and I just want to push it even further. I want to bring that to the even bigger stage."
"I want to inspire young Black gymnasts because it's really rare to see us doing this sport. I want to let them all know: You can do anything you set your mind to. No matter what people tell you, go after it, and get it."