On the next level: Isabel Jones dances into the spotlight

Isabel Jones talks about how she came to accept herself and be the representation she needed to see in Lizzo’s “Watch Out For The Big Grrrls.”

Bringing representation through Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls

You might have already seen Isabel Jones before. 

If you’re on the Kpop side of Tiktok, you’ve probably come across one of her dance covers. Or, if you read YA literature, you might have seen her grace the cover of Lyla Lee’s “I’ll Be the One.” 

But this year, Jones reaches new level of representation by being a cast member of “Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls.”

The reality follows ten plus size dancers as they not only compete for a chance to be part of Lizzo’s tour. They also have open, empowering discussions on representation, body image, and radical self love. 

Cold Tea Collective speaks with Jones, the only Asian American dancer on the show, about her journey with dance and the importance of representation.

Dance and representation

Jones was working on her resume when the casting call for “Lizzo’s Watch out for the big grrrls” came across her Tiktok for you page. 

“I closed my resume and started my casting application at lightning speed,” Jones said. 

Before COVID, Jones was working as an English instructor for international college students. She was also wrapping up her Master’s degree for TESOL (teaching English as a second language) all while posting on her social media page to get her mind off work and studies. 

Seeing the casting call made everything snap into place for Jones. 

“I felt like this was my last calling before I had to go live my ‘adult’ life,” Jones said. “I knew that this was the only opportunity where I could at least be seen by people who were serious in the dance industry.” 

Dance was a persistent love throughout Jones’ life. Her first encounter with  dance was at age 5 when her mom signed her up for a hip hop dance class. Since then, her love for the art form has grown and expanded.

Regardless of potentially shifting career paths or new-found hobbies, her love for dance remained steady. And that love took her to new places and new people, from joining the dance crew SoNE1 in college to running a social media page with almost 700,000 followers to now being on “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.” 

“Dance allows me to truly live as how I want to be presented,” Jones said. 

See more: Gender bias in lion dance and the weight of representation for queer lion dancers

Facing the lack of representation in the k-pop space

As a plus sized mixed race Korean American dancer, Jones has dealt with harsh criticism for who she is. 

Growing up in an Asian household while also being a fan of Kpop, she often felt that her body was the first “problem” that she needed to “fix.” Although Kpop is a crucial part of her life and does bring her joy, she has also brought up how fatphobic the industry is. 

“So much focus was put on how I had to be physically desirable by a larger society before anything else,” Jones said. “If I had spent less time trying to search for self love, I would have grown so much as an individual.” 

As Jones grew up, she began to accept her body while also finding friends who like dancing to Kpop. She felt the negative feelings to her body begin to subside as she began getting involved with Kpop dance. And after some key events in “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” Jones is now more understanding and confident of her body. 

Ultimately, she hopes that her presence on the show will provide representation that she wishes she had growing up. 

“I truly believe that if I had a plus size Asian woman in dance that wasn’t comedic relief, I would have grown in so many aspects of my life instead of just trying to focus on how to lose weight or how to gain love and respect despite how I’m looked at,” Jones said. 

Isabel Jones' press photo for Lizzo's "Watch Out For The Big Grrrls. She wears a black outfit and stands in front of a purple and pink lighted wall.
photo credit: submitted by publicist

See more: Tips to deal with fat-shaming in an Asian family.

an open future after “Lizzo’s Watch out for the big grrrls”

“This experience on the show has just heightened my want to truly explore my creative side and to see how far I can actually go,” Jones said. 

The future is uncertain and full of possibility in the aftermath of the show and Jones embraces it. A future without strict goals is something new for her, but why not? After all, just a year ago, dance was a hobby for Jones. 

And now, she’s been able to dance in front of Lizzo.

Isabel Jones stands in front of a wall that spells out in large letters, "Lizzo's Watch out for the big Grrrls"
Photo credit: Jones’ instagram @_isabae_

Importantly, she has been able to, along other full figured dancers like herself from “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” find and become representation in the industry.

“I am allowed to take space,” Jones said during the show. “I don’t need to blend in.

Perhaps one day she’ll be on stage with a pop star. Or maybe she’ll choreograph for a Kpop group. 

Either way, Jones welcomes everything that comes her way with excitement and a fresh, bold love and pride in who she is. 

“I will be a big girl today.”

See more: Conversations with our mothers on beauty, body confidence, and self-esteem

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