Featured photo: Members of the Liquid Gold dance group with Jada at the bottom center (courtesy photo)

Jada Mayes dreamed of this moment: dancing in the stands during an NC A&T football game.

She flashes a smile, whips her hair, swings her arms and pops her hips to music played by the Blue and Gold Marching Machine, but not as a member of the Golden Delight, the band’s official auxiliary. She’s the founder and captain of the Liquid Gold plus-size dance team.

Mayes, a junior mass media production student at A&T, has been dancing since 2009, trained in ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, majorette and HBCU band dance styles. As a member of several dance teams growing up, she added extra intensity and flair to her movements which surprised spectators.

“People didn’t really expect that from me because I was on the heavier side,” Mayes says.

Members of the Liquid Gold dance group with Jada at the far right (courtesy photo)

During a majorette performance in eighth grade, all members performed, but a section of the routine “highlighted the big girls” unbeknownst to Mayes.

“It’s different when you’re performing it, but actually seeing it back and seeing the formation, it was all the girls,” she says of the experience. “It felt exploitative a little.”

She was determined to dance in college; however, the criteria set by the Golden Delight didn’t seem to include plus-size women.

“Once I researched the band and auxiliary at A&T, it didn’t seem welcoming to people who look like me,” Mayes says.

She continues, “On the website, it explicitly says you have to have a ‘fit and toned body.’ That did not describe me so I felt pushed away from the jump.”

The 2019 Prospective Members Guide for the Golden Delight states fitness and physique requirements as having “toned legs, arms and back” and a “toned abdominal area.” An additional note states “We have strict physical/body requirements due to the uniforms worn and intense performance style. This is a determining factor in the selection process.”

The 2024 edition has been updated to state “There is no specific weight requirement in terms of a number. However, overall physical fitness is a criteria at judging.”

This inspired Mayes to create Liquid Gold in 2022, the purpose of which is to “create a safe space for plus-size dancers to build confidence in themselves and their craft without judgment or discrimination.”

Members of the Liquid Gold dance group with Jada at the back center (courtesy photo)

“I feel like there should be more of these teams; there should come a time where we shouldn’t have to have a plus-size dance team,” she says.

She drew additional inspiration for the organization and the name by the Honeybeez, the plus-size dance team at Alabama State University, another HBCU.

Honeybeez keeps in theme with the Stingettes, the auxiliary at ASU, and Mayes wanted Liquid Gold to remain similar to Golden Delight. Liquid Gold is not yet an official student organization with the university.

“When it comes time for us to be official, we have kind of coordinated names,” she says.

To find members, Mayes posted on social media that she was looking for plus-size dancers. She hosted virtual tryouts in August of this year, and it was there she found her co-captain, Olivia Smith and five other members. Liquid Gold is open to people of all gender identities.

Liquid Gold performed majorette and hip-hop style routines at each A&T home game this season, a tremendous accomplishment for an organization in its first year; however, the group faced difficulty earning respect from game attendees at first.

“There were people walking in front of us while we were dancing and walking through our formation,” Mayes says.

Still, the group persevered, eventually showing the crowd they were there to stay.

“We had something to prove so it felt surreal once we started to dance and get attention,” she says.

Members of the Liquid Gold dance group with Jada at the center (courtesy photo)

The group also performed at Greensboro Pride on Oct. 1 of this year. According to Mayes, the community at Pride was welcoming and warm.

“They know how it feels to be discriminated against and it felt like a safe space,” Mayes recalls.

Mayes’ hard work and the impact of Liquid Gold earned her the HBCU Trailblazer Award by the HBCU Xperience, an organization that hosts a two-day retreat designed to “elevate the HBCU community as a whole through keynote speaking engagements, workshops, networking opportunities, and award presentations.”

Mayes is proud to know her work is reaching a larger scale and could influence the future of the university.

“All I wanted to do was create a platform for inclusion,” she says. “It feels nice to know I played a part in the representation that will soon come after I graduate from A&T and long after that.”

Learn more about Liquid Gold on Instagram @officialiquidgold.

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