Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamal Josef.
Jamal, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started dancing at the age of 12. I got the opportunity to dance behind Kirk Franklin. At that moment I knew I wanted to dance. Of course, being a young male that wasn’t always seen in a positive light, but being from a family of entertainers I knew it’s what I wanted. Awkwardly I always thought I would go into music, art or tennis.
I started the step team at my high school and church where I first discovered my love for step and dance seriously. I knew I wanted to pursue it but didn’t know-how. I first had to get a degree for my parents lol. Also, something for me to fall back on. Originally from Oakland California, graduating from Desoto high school in Desoto, Texas, I would then be moving to Denmark, SC Voorhees College, where I would be studying Mass Communications.
I was president of the choir, model troupe, and dance team. I pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. under Eta Iota Chapter where I served as president and step master. After graduating from college I applied to grad school for dance, I was accepted but due to financial aid I could not attend. I then moved to Atlanta to start to pursue training with the Ballethnic Dance Company. I experienced lots of jobs waiter, phone companies and so many more.
A lot of peers said I would not make it when I felt Atlanta wasn’t for me. I saved 3500 dollars and moved to NYC. I was working for Lacoste and another job where I was let go because I was more in pursuit of dancing. The Friday before I turned in my two weeks at Lacoste because I was making enough at my second job. My first 6 months in NYC I didn’t dance and I was unemployed, no money and pretty much homeless, jumping couch to couch. I had friends who send me money from time to time but NYC was expensive. I sold most of my clothes, shoes, electronics for money. I was living next door to a porn star and a crack house in East New York. Finally, I got a job with the Harlem Children Zone where I taught art and dance. After a year there I found myself not happy although I was now able to start training at places like Ailey and Broadway Dance Center. The community there wasn’t really into helping my dream. I felt I was treated like a kid who wasn’t popular in school and would never make it.
I had a show in New York and I got off stage and got a call my dad had been rushed to the hospital. He had two acute strokes. No money to go home and I want renting a room where I could literally hear mice in the wall and my roommates were really filthy. I was stuck, and I said if something happens to my dad would I be in place physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally in a stable place to pursue this career. I said no so I said I would visit LA for a month. I stayed with a fraternity brother and in my first week, I got to perform with Chuck Maldanado and a multitude of dancers for Leah Daniels and empire Bday/cast party. I had a job working in a hotel so I said this must be God. I started training at Debbie Reynolds and progressed in dance. I got my first big tv opportunity on a competitive dance show. With the pay and the risk.
I didn’t make or receive the exposure I thought. I pay for my apartment and had to sell my dog. I began to struggle. I left LA and then came back got to work with Pharrell and NERD for a concert, Van Jess, Insecure and more. Things were looking up but I wasn’t making as much as grand as the resume looked. I was at breaking point and I felt the same way toward the dance community as I did in NYC. So I thought I was the issue. I wanted to retire dance, then my car was repossessed. I was back to square one.
I then received a call to go audition but didn’t know who it was for. It ends up being Beyonce. I was brought in to do skeleton work and additional choreography. Almost every time I wanted to give up a job came right on through. Being my biggest job yet it was a cool experience. I got to get myself out of some debt but it was still hard. After the exposure I said, WAKE UP. I prayed and trusted that God will begin to restore me no matter what those around said or did.
Since then I got signed with Bloc agency, been able to take my self on tours, travel and perform in other countries, creative direct music videos, BET AWARDS with Regina Hall, Raphael Saadiq jimmy lee project and so much more. I have my own apartment and fully furnished. God is fulfilling his promise and restoring the years I had in tears. I have been doing public speaking, working with dance teams, artist development, starting my own entertainment company and so much more. A lot of things are in the works and this is only the beginning.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has been the bumpiest ride. I put a lot of the struggle and challenges in the previous page but to some it all up. Mentally seeking acceptance, not being accepted by the peers in my field. Emotional trauma with losing so much and just financially to catch up training and business-wise having started so late.
Tell us more about your work.
My brand is Jamal Josef and I am working toward starting my own entertainment and production company. I specialize in step, choreography and creative directing. I’ve received most of my recognition for helping choreography Beyoncé Coachella performance. What sets me apart is my willingness to give and be what I needed to others. Also, I have multiple gifts and connections to help see the best out of a project. My will to find a way despite the budget.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I like the weather, the opportunities it presents. I like that I have been able to truly discover me. Although it is expensive, it is affordable to invest in your career. AT TIMES.
I dislike the TRAFFIC. I really dislike the politics and insecurities this city brings on people. Everyone is so in competition, that we should be helping. The attitude is like I do this and work with this person and I don’t see you worthy on my level so I don’t speak or support but we can hang out and party. I dislike there isn’t a strong presence of black cultured events or to me no tenacity as a city.
- Website: Jamaljosef.com
Beyoncé, Pharrell/NERD, J. Lo NBC World of Dance season 1, Van Jess, Raphael Saadiq, BET Awards 2019 Regina Hall, The Walls Group, Dawn Richard and more