Today we’d like to introduce you to Lee Daniel.
Lee, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born and raised in Chicago, IL. I’ve been dancing since I was able to make memories. I didn’t come from a traditional dance studio. Most of the dancing I did was more school talent shows, neighborhood block parties and the like. There was just so much music always around me growing up so it was just natural for me to dance. It wasn’t until college that I made the connection that I could actually do it as a career. I had taken a spring break trip to LA with some friends whom I was in a dance company with and from that moment on, I was hooked! Soon after, I began to shift my path in order to make my dream come true. Coincidentally the dance company I was part of began to start branches at various schools in the states as well as abroad and I had become the assistant director which afforded me the opportunity to travel and meet/train with so many amazing dancers.
After about a year of that, I found Monsters of HipHop, a dance convention, where I auditioned for their show and got cast in their show produced in LA. So in the year 2006, I packed my life up and decided to move permanently and I didn’t look back.
It took me a couple of years of training networking, and many bumps in the road to finally get a break, but once I did, things really got going for me and I’ve been so blessed to work with many different artists, go on tours television as well as teaching all over the world! It’s been such a wonderful ride and in some ways, still feels like I’m just getting started.
I’ve met some of my greatest friends and the love of my life out here and I’m excited for what is to come.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely has not been easy! I knew that it wasn’t going to be when I made the decision to pursue this lifestyle, but it still didn’t really prepare me for what was in store.
At the start, I was juggling being a workstudy at Millennium Dance Complex, working at H&M, and trying train and audition for jobs. Meanwhile, living expenses were always knocking at the door, and I was not making a ton of money at all. Somehow though I was able to figure it out. There were many tears and failures before I figured out what my lane was. I wasn’t ever gonna quit though no matter how long it took!
Please tell us about Men of Distinction.
Men of Distinction is a project that my friend and I started to help young men train for the dance industry. We both had been teaching and working for quite some time and we wanted to give back some of the knowledge and experience we had accrued to the next generation of performers.
Not only do we aim to provide dance training, but to also address the mental aspect of making it in the business. One of the main reasons for my success has been the mentors I was lucky to have guiding me.
Our event is usually 2-3 days of intense training from a curated selection of elite educators who’ve contributed much to the dance community.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Well, my momma didn’t raise a quitter! I think for me, I would have to say perseverance. No matter how tough it gets, you have to continue to fight, to get right up after getting knocked on your tush! It’s really the only way to see what you are made of. One of my favorite quotes is, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress”. My journey thus far has taught me to actually invite the moments of struggle because it keeps my fire burning. Enjoy working your ass off because it will pay off if you give it everything you have and more.
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @leedaniel3
Randy Molena, Agata Piatkowska, Alex Cole