Moesha Perez, 24, has a bubbly personality that translates beautifully in her dancing which she’s been doing since she was 2 and the basis for her entry into reality television. The Bronx-born dancer is a competitor on Grammy-award-winning singer, Lizzo’s, brand-new reality show Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls on Prime Video. The unscripted series features 10 talented, curvy dancers move in together to train and compete to be a part of body-positive icon’s upcoming world tour. Lizzo discussed the show during SXSW earlier this month sharing that it’s been a passion project for since 2014 having been in an industry where so few dancers look like her. This competition is meant to change that and Perez and the other contestants are part of a shift that Lizzo is aiming for when it comes to the cattiness and drama typical of reality TV show competitions.
“It was important that I changed the narrative of what a reality competition television show looks like,” Lizzo said. “We don’t have to pit people against each other. … It’s hard enough in the dance world for girls who look like me, so why would I create that environment in my space?” She later added, “This is just the beginning. I want them to shake up the industry, come in and shift the paradigm, be in demand and change the rules — and I think they’re doing that already just by existing. I’m so glad I found them, and they found me.”
Perez is up to the task and she’s got the years of experience and the confidence to make a change and we got to talk to her about her past and plans for the future.
Perez is Black and was adopted by a Puerto Rican family when she was an infant and raised in the Bronx. She first heard about the show on TikTok, not long after she suffered an ankle injury that forced her to re-learn not just how to walk, but also how to dance. Currently she’s working as an off-Broadway stylist, costume designer, dancer, dance instructor, dresser, costume supervisor, wig designer, singer and choreographer — yes, she wears many hats. Perez tells HipLatina that she had to shut down the negative thoughts in her head, and convince herself to audition, and once she did, there was no turning back.
The show was born out of Lizzo’s experience searching for dancers to work with that look like her to no avail. She decided to take things into her own hands and attempt to create the representation she wanted to see on stage. The 33-year-old singer, rapper, and flutist pitched the idea of a reality show competition as a part of her first-look deal with Amazon Studios, and the show is now set to premiere on Friday, March 25.
The show includes Perez and nine other women who move into the Big Grrrls House and learn a 90-minute-show routine to have the opportunity to perform with the star in a live show at the end of the competition. Legendary choreographers Tanisha Scott and O.G. Big Grrrls Chawnta’ Marie Van, Shirlene Quigley, and Grace Holden are featured in the show.
Perez, who is also part of the LGBTQIA+ community, has been dancing in after-school programs before she was even eligible for them, because she was so determined to be a dancer. “I did a lot of programs when I was younger — outside of school and in school. And then, in my adult years, I trained professionally at Broadway Dance Center and all the other names that come along with it,” she says. “I was in advanced programs that wasn’t for me. I was young. The youngest in the program, because I’m like, ‘you know, I’m a dancer’ and they were like, ‘yo, you not even supposed to be here.”
Her adoptive family, including her eight siblings, was there for her every step of the way, and although Perez admits that she still struggles to identify with Puerto Rican culture, her family’s love of dancing and spending time together reaffirmed her passion.
“What got me into dance was being able to express myself how I want to express myself, and being able to transform. Cause, when I was younger, I wasn’t as confident, so I danced through any emotion and it’s just been amazing,” she shares early on in the eight-episode series.
While Perez asserts that she was born to dance and says growing up in a home where everyone danced fueled her future ambitions. “We always danced. Always found time to have fun with each other. It was definitely inspiring and supportive.” Puerto Rican culture is one she understands, loves and appreciates, even though she still struggles to connect to it. “I embrace it, yes, because I was raised in a Puerto Rican family. I just don’t feel like me personally…I connect, only because I am adopted into this family,” she tells us, admitting that people often assume she is genetically Puerto Rican.
“I’m Black first, regardless of anything,” describing a struggle shared with many Black Latinxs who do in fact have Latin American DNA. So for Perez, who doesn’t, but who has Latinx parents, grappling with her identity, can feel like defending her Blackness. “I feel like as a Black person, we always have to prove ourselves to someone. I always have to prove I’m Black to somebody because I’m light-skinned or because this, that and the third, so for me, I always have to go above and beyond to show that I’m still Black regardless of anything around me,” she explains. “I’m not gonna be like a J.Lo. People think ‘you’re Spanish’ and they automatically go to her, and I’m like, ‘I’m not her.’”
Despite the cultural divide, it’s obvious that her family means a lot to her, and has played a huge role in shaping who she is today. Growing up in a big, unconventional family even helped her embrace the experience of living with nine strangers while filming the show, which she says was actually an incredibly positive experience, defying the misconceptions many people have of these reality TV dynamics.
“I grew up with a lot of people,” Perez says with a chuckle. “I was always in a big house — not a house-but…with a lot of people. It felt really comforting from Day 1.” She describes the experience as “life-changing,” and tells us that even though she considers herself a private person, the energy in the house and from the other women, made her feel comfortable as well. She had nothing but the most positive and affirming things to say about her fellow competitors.
“It was definitely a journey for me to love dance and to just experience dance and just grow with dance,” Perez says. Now she’s living her dream, and using her platform to help others discover dance as a tool of self-expression for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. Like, Lizzo, Perez wants to see people who look like her on those big stages, and now, she gets to be a part of building that long overdue representation.
Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls premieres Friday, March 25 on Prime Video