Ask Me to Dance: Trailer for 2022 romcom
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The 36-year-old first catapulted to fame as the lead in hit 2008 film Step Up: The Streets as dancer Andie West. Speaking to Express.co.uk, Briana revealed she was asked to lose weight when she reprised the role six years later, adding that she was no stranger to eating disorders after spending most of her life in the world of dance.
Briana’s rise to stardom sounds like a fairytale, gaining some music video work in her teens with the likes of Linkin Park before landing her first-ever film role at 20 to dance alongside Hollywood heartthrob Channing Tatum.
She explained that Step Up undoubtedly “changed my life”, but speaking to Express.co.uk the actress made no attempts at covering up what can often be a ruthless industry.
The actress admitted her naivety on Step Up 2 “allowed me to jump in and fly” and left her not thinking twice about the film’s poster, which featured her and Robert Hoffman dancing in the rain.
She gleefully recalled seeing it for the first time: “I saw a billboard on the Wiltshire building off the freeway while I was driving and I just like ‘oh my gosh, that is massive! Look at the size of myself!’
“I got off the freeway and started realising it was on every bus, everywhere. That was a trip to see yourself for the first time all over the place.”
While she credits her naivety with giving her the confidence needed to front Step Up 2, she realised a dark downside, saying: “You kind of lose yourself quickly”.
After taking some time to “find Briana” again, she returned to the franchise in 2014, reprising the role of Andie in the penultimate Step Up: All In which gathered the franchises’ biggest stars for a dance showdown.
Now 28, the dancer was disturbed when she noticed that her body had been altered in the poster for Step Up 5 and was asked to lose some weight for her return.
Briana shared: “I remember it kind of bothering me because this is a public thing and I would like to promote myself the way I am.
“I gained a lot of weight before Step Up 5. I had been travelling and backpacking and I had gained like 35/40 pounds. When I came back I was asked to lose some weight.
“My initial reaction, I wanted to be like ‘Woah, how dare you’ but it’s like the truth is I’m coming back to play a character and I am serious about the work.
“I can really understand how billboards and posters and social media can destroy people.”
The request wasn’t brought up in an insulting way, which the actress is incredibly thankful for, and at the time she was able to admit to herself: “I needed to get back into dancer shape, instead of somebody telling me I gained weight or looked fat.
“Nobody used any of those words, fortunately, because I’ve heard nightmares of others’ stories where it’s broken people.”
Briana is first and foremost a dancer, having found her love of hip hop at an early age, but that also meant she found herself facing the industry’s notorious reputation for body dysmorphia and eating disorders.
She added: “I had a lot of friends who had eating disorders growing up, it’s very familiar and had been in my face for a long time.
“Being a dancer and living the way I had for a long time I, fortunately, did not have to deal with any of those struggles but I have worked with friends and other people with workout plans, health plans, nutrition, ways of living that are not diets. I swear that is the worst word in the world.”
Now with over a decade of experience in Hollywood, the actress feels the industry is becoming more accepting of different bodies, but admits she isn’t entirely in the loop anymore living in Zimbabwe with her fiancé and eight-month-old baby.
Briana continued: “I feel like I’m quite out of the Hollywood bubble being in Africa, I love it. I still get to play a part in all of it and I’m not in the toxic bubble, because it can be (toxic).
“You deal with a lot of rejection on a regular basis and comparison and this stuff is evil. You get in your head and it’s a downward spiral.”
Briana returned to dance cinema this year starring in Ask Me To Dance which is available to watch on Prime Video.
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