Meet Dnay Baptiste: Beyonce’s Lead Dancer And Unofficial Face Of Harlem

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Dnay Baptiste is known to many as Beyonce’s lead dancer, but if that isn’t already impressive enough, it should be known that she’s a magical force to reckon with all on her own. Baptiste hails straight outta Harlem which is the backdrop of the new series Harlem that premieres Dec. 3, on Amazon Prime Video.

Baptiste is a proud resident of New York City’s Black cultural Mecca. She grew up on 118th street in her grandmother’s household. When she and her mom moved out, and into a place of their own, they stayed in close proximity of her grandmother’s home–moving into the neighboring building.

“We live, eat and breathe 118th street,” says Baptiste. “Harlem teaches you a lot,” she adds, explaining that you’re exposed to all walks of life living in the vibrant neighborhood.

Dance has always been a part of Baptiste’s identity. Having a Caribbean background, she’s always loved Reggae and Soca music. She says dance is integral to how her community communicates. As a young girl, Baptiste proclaimed she wanted to be a dancer for Soul Train, and would spend every Saturday morning practicing dance routines from the show.

The camaraderie between the girlfriends in Amazon’s Harlem is much akin to the relationship Baptiste shares with her own girlfriends. To this day, Baptiste remains close to her childhood dance friends and when they get together, they revisit dance routines from when they were younger.

Baptiste describes dance as “the glue that bonds us,” adding, “I am still close with every single female I danced with as a child…those relationships keep me grounded.” These friendships “remind me of who I am and where I came from.”

It is vital to maintain a strong sisterhood, especially as friends grow and evolve throughout their personal life. “One is an accountant, one is a nurse,” Baptiste explains, “and everyone lives completely different lives but that still holds us together.”

In 1996, Baptiste started a dance group called “Nothing but cuties” that would perform at local block parties and colleges. Her mom rented a yellow bus to drive the girls around to their performances. Everyone knew Baptiste to be an incredible dancer. School mates wrote under her picture in the year books, “Most likely to be a successful dancer.”

In 2020, Baptiste founded an initiative that could be the glue that bonds the Black community of Harlem — Harlem Parade. Harlem Parade is a network of Harlem-based creatives who make content that shines the spotlight on Black businesses in the neighborhood. Gentrification is becoming very real in Harlem says Baptiste, so Harlem Parade aims to acknowledge and uplift the Black-owned businesses as well as inspire the youth to become entrepreneurs themselves.

“Harlem looks out for Harlem,” says Baptiste.

Baptiste also has a group called Me over Mom — a collective of Black women who meet once a month to eat, drink, touch base, share stories, share knowledge and just check in. The group is very much in the spirit of Harlem.

And be sure to watch Harlem, created, written, and executive produced by Tracy Oliver of Girls Trip, the new Amazon Original series Harlem is a bold and tuned in comedy following a group of stylish and ambitious best girlfriends in Harlem, New York City as they level up from their 20s into the next phase of their careers, relationships and big city dreams.


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