Keo Motsepe Inspiring Us Through Dance
Growing up, Keo Motsepe could feel his heart beat to the rhythm and his body move to the melody. Having grown up in a culture where dance was not considered a sport for men, Keo knew he had to break that barrier. “There truly is no gender assigned to dance. It is for everyone to express themselves,” he opened up. “I wanted to break that stereotype and also prove to my parents that I could be something other than what I was expected to be.” You see, in his culture, if a young boy wished to pursue an athletic career it meant playing soccer or rugby…Wonderful sports but not those meant for him.
His father did not support his love for ballroom dancing wanted his son to pursue a career as a soccer player. “He would literally buy me new soccer shoes or a ball practically every week to try to get me to engage,” Keo shared. “I did like to play soccer at home with him for fun. It made him happy and I enjoyed that, but not the way I enjoy dancing.” It would take strength and dedication because as I am sure many of us have felt at some point of our lives, it’s never easy to go against your parents’ wishes! But when your love and passion for something surpasses that…there is no stopping it. You decide to have faith and pray that things fall into place.
“Pursuing dance gave me a sense of independence and accomplishment,” emphasized Keo. And luckily, “it also bonded me to my mother who supported my decision.” At just the age of seven, he walked into the kitchen one day and shared his plans of pursuing ballroom dancing to which his mother just smiled and said okay; and that was it. “My Dad eventually came around and is a big supporter today,” he shared with a smile. “He always tells me he is proud and loves watching me dance!” You see, things do fall into place!
The fire that has always burned within Keo pushed him to never give up which brought on even more stepping stones in his life. In time, he became the first African dancer on “Burn the Floor” and then the first black dancer on Dancing with the Stars which meant the world to him. “It’s a happy feeling because I am the FIRST and that means setting a precedent for others, but it is also a responsibility,” he said candidly. “It comes with a certain amount of pressure and judgement because being the first means you have a lot to live up to and a lot of weight in setting an example for others.” A role he took on and conquered!
And not alone! His longtime partner, Oti Mabuse, has been his dance partner and friend as they made history. After all, ballroom dancing is not an easy dance. You are not just dealing with yourself! Keo dove in deeper and explained, “you are dealing with your partner as well, their emotions and concerns and physical limitations. You have to connect with them on so many levels and earn trust.” Over time and practice, you attain that level and the fruition of your hard work finally pays off. For this dancing duo, the reward came with “opening those doors for young black kids” and giving them the hope and inspiration to pursue their own dreams.
As he continues to inspire progress and change, the talented dancer notices that “now there is more acceptance and opportunities in dance for men than ever before.” His time on Dancing with the Stars made ballroom dancing “cool” and allows young kids to see their heroes and idols taking on dance which makes it all the more attractive. We all remember what it was like growing up and wanting to be just like those we looked up to! Getting to his childhood dream come to life and be instilled in other young kids is a gift like no other for Keo.
“For me, everyone is equal and we all face different types of adversity in our lives,” he shared with a warm heart. “I want to inspire everyone, not just black children from South Africa, but all kids of all countries and races. I want them to know that ballroom dancing is cool and it is an option for them.” As he added, “if I can do it, so can they! I want to bring people together through dance, not divide people.” And let me tell you, having had the pleasure to meet Keo in person, this is exactly what he does and more.
His light fills a room with such warmth and his laugh leaves you with chills! With such a kindred spirit, I had to know what his recipe to happiness was to which he answered, “happiness is being okay with yourself. Feeling good just doing things by yourself and not needing other people to make you happy.” A reoccurring piece of advice I have been hearing lately…And one I have personally been integrating into my day to day life and let me tell you, it works miracles! As Keo added, “fall in love with your beautiful self first.” Yes, please!
And as we do so and try to navigate through the turmoils of life, Keo reminds us to always “follow your heart. Nothing in life is easy and it takes time to find success, but it’s about taking the first step and improving every day. If this dream is in your heart, don’t silence it.” It’s time to let yourself ROAR! Find what makes your mind soar and your heart glow, what makes you feel love just as dance does for Keo! Keep finding that strength and motivation to push through no matter the obstacles because you matter and deserve true happiness!
Keo Motsepe is an inspiration to many. Having had a dream and the courage to pursue it, he shows us what it means to love yourself and make your dreams come true. Igniting a fire within all of us, whether he is dancing away or just flashing a smile your way, it is hard to ignore the intoxicating positivity that resonates from him. Thank you, Keo! We can’t wait to see where you go next! Oh, and did I forget to mention he is also a cook? Keep reading on to discover his top five favorite dishes…
Top 5 favorite cooking dishes to make and why.
- Sushi …and I do make sushi at home too. I love it!
- Spaghetti bolognese, that’s my go-to pasta dish.
- I have a go-to salad too. It has green olives, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, cucumber and balsamic vinegar for dressing.
- Of course a South African dish! My favorite is Boerewors Roll which is a sausage in a roll that is similar to an American hot dog. This is the thing you have to have when you go to South Africa
- Lastly, Lamb chops with chimichurri sauce and mashed potatoes. It sounds simple but has to be done just right.
In my career, I’d love to have my own show someday that brings dance and my other passions together.
Talent KEO MOTSEPE @keo_motsepe
Photographer DEEN @deensvision
Styling BO ROSES @boroses
Grooming ARLEN FARMER @arlenjeremy
Interview ALEXANDRA BONNET @alexbonnetwrites
Production @bellomediagroup x @maisonpriveepr_la x @alexbonnetwrites