“There is a difference between being loud to be heard and being loud with a purpose.”
Jocelynn Matthews. To know her is to love her. She is a dancer, choreographer, motivational speaker, a vlogger and identifies herself as a “God-made” mogul. She uses her sphere of influence to inspire and extend the love of Christ with others and expresses herself through dance and now through her writing. This five-foot powerhouse has authored her first independent work entitled, “Thickems and the Dance Floor: Overcoming the Negatives of Being a Plus-Sized Dancer”, now available on Amazon. This book was a labor of love. In 100 pages, readers will have the opportunity to walk with Jocelynn as she transparently shares her experiences of life, loss, and discovery and how dance became a welcomed friend and her means of creative expression during the most pivotal times in her life. In her own words she says, “This book is about how dance helped me overcome in life and offers life lessons that readers can relate to. I wrote it for anyone who has a desire to overcome stereotypes.”
Matthews has been dancing since the tender age of three. However, she says she fell in love with dance around the age of thirteen. There was a stint of time where she had to step away from dancing do to complications with asthma, but Jocelynn never missed a beat. At the age of sixteen, she came back stronger and began teaching and choreographing. Her dance journey has spanned from dancing with dance companies, to ministering through dance at different churches, and she had a desire to learn more. Matthews spent time independently nurturing her gift and studying her craft and learned different styles of dance like African, Modern, Hip-Hop, Jazz, and Gola. She now teaches with choreographer, LaMika Martin, director at Dynamic Moves Dance Studio in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
There is an unfair stigma that plagues the dance industry as it pertains to how dancers ought to look. Matthews said, “In the dance world, you often see women who are between a size zero to a size two, women who are fair in their complexion, and have long hair.” Jocelynn proudly says that she does not, nor does she desire to fit that mold. Her petite stature rocks a size fourteen, she has short hair and flexes her melanin with confidence and a smile. She says, “for me as a thicker girl, I feel like God gave me this body to transform, and shake and move atmospheres.” In 2017, she worked in conjunction with a few other women on a book compilation, in which she contributed a chapter about her experience with overcoming low self-esteem. Of that opportunity, she recalled the writing process being, “so therapeutic and so healing.” As she began to pen her thoughts, she shared that the enemy would try to distract her and bring up things from her past, but the more she wrote, the more her faith rose and she was reminded of her identity in Christ and began to remind the enemy of Who her God is. Matthews was inspired to write her own book, sharing her story and telling her truth.
In our society, the term “Plus Size” is having a major moment. When asked what it means to be a part of this larger conversation, now as author, Matthews replied, “growing up [ specifically from teen age years into adulthood], it seemed as though the perception of being “thick” was a bad thing. Thick is not sloppy, it’s not nasty. Everyone has their preference. Thick is beautiful. When I saw how society started embracing Ashley Graham, the plus-sized model and Akira Armstrong and her dance group, Pretty Big Movement, and began to see how it was affecting people’s attitudes in a more positive direction, I was amazed and inspired. To know that somebody understands how you feel and understands the backlash that comes with this, but still presses and pushes and grinds for what they want. When I saw more of that, I said, “Yes! We’re in there. Finally, now we have a voice.” Being a part of that community is what keeps her motivated.
Jocelynn’s desire is to love on others so that they can learn to love more on themselves. This is a lesson that she learned through the school of hard knocks. In the past, she had difficulty striking the balance between pleasing others and remaining true to herself. She mentioned that she, “always wanted to be a people pleaser.” The underlying pressure to give the appearance of having it all together is a weighty burden for anyone, but for Jocelynn it took a dark turn. The light at the end of her tunnel was the realization that “everyone cannot be pleased.” She profoundly said, “[by] Wearing the mask, you only hurt yourself. While the person you are trying to please is living his or her life, you are silently struggling with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide because you tried to please someone else for a moment? Absolutely not.” That was the moment things began to turn in her favor. She chose to break up with the idea of perfection and found her voice and her freedom. Using dance as her outlet, she began to overcome. Now, she encourages others to love who you are, be transparent, so that you don’t have to hurt yourself at the end. That is the reason behind her passion. She went on to say, “It is a dark world, and that’s where we as creatives can come in and change it. You can change your atmosphere by your walk, your talk, your movement and your presence.” There is power in that.
Matthews discovered that the power that she possessed inside of her as a woman and as a dancer could change somebody’s life. She shared that at the age of twenty-six, people nicknamed her, “Powerhouse” not because she was loud and had a big personality, but because they saw something in her that they believed had enough power behind it to change the atmosphere. And because they believed in her so strongly, it gave her permission to believe it for herself.
She created a mission statement for herself and for her followers that says, “No one can be you, but you. Have the freedom to be you.” In her explanation of the quote she stated, “it means do not allow anyone make you feel bad about who God created you to be. There is nobody in the world that is you. There are plenty of destinies in the world, but there is one destiny that belongs to you [and only you can fulfill it.]
As an author and as a dancer, Matthews said, “If I could I would change the entire world, but to impact somebody, that one person, means everything to me.” She has learned that as you pursue the God-dreams in your heart, there is a process of humbling yourself and it definitely takes you somewhere. There is a yielding to the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit that takes place and an obedience that is required of you, to reach the people that He wants you to reach, not for your own glory but for His.
Her pastor shared with her this thought, “What you do has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with who is going to come across your path the more you walk this earth.” In a moment of clarity, Jocelynn concluded that that profound truth explained why we endured the pain and go through difficult seasons in our lives. The situation and our perseverance through it may have been the very thing that inspired someone else to keep going.
“You have the ability to impact. So WHY NOT?”
Through her life and her testimony, Jocelynn Matthews is inspiring us all to overcome out loud.
If you would like to get connected with Jocelynn, you can find her on Instagram @iamjocelynnmatthews and subscribe to her YouTube channel, I Am Jocelynn Matthews