A photo of ballerinas Kennedy George and Ava Holloway in front of a Confederate monument in Richmond, Virginia went viral. These now iconic images were taken by Richmond photographers Marcus Ingram and Julia Rendleman and have been shared around the globe. Since then the two teens have been featured in the New York Times and British Vogue. They were also asked to be part of John Legend’s music video ‘Never Break’.
Like many I came across their images on social media. I was struck by the power and beauty of the images and felt uplifted by the significance of their ballet attire and pointe shoes. I had not seen many images of Black ballerinas go viral and I wanted to find out why they had chosen to wear their dance attire to the protest. I reached out to Kennedy on Instagram to learn more and she introduced me to her mother, Chris George, because she is only fourteen. I was surprised to learn how young they were given the maturity they projected.
I decided then and there that we had to feature Kennedy and Ava in Zvelle in Conversation—our youngest leaders ever interviewed! I spoke to the girls over the phone and Zoom and also reached out to Marcus Ingram, the original photographer, to commission new photos. Kennedy and Ava have received much-deserved credit for creating images that combine joyfulness, artistry and defiance. Their contributions to the BLM protests have been unique and have resonated with many people. They are the kind of young leaders that make us say the future is bright. We are proud to feature them and invite them into the Zvelle family.
Elle: What is it that you love about dance that has made you continue it for so many years?
Kennedy: Dance for me carries me mentally, physically and in every way possible. It’s very hard and it teaches you life lessons that are important which you can apply anywhere not just dance.
Ava: I agree with Kennedy. It’s also a way for you to express yourself and let your emotions out without actually having to say anything.
Elle: What was the significance of your ballet attire and especially your pointe shoes? Why did you choose to wear this vs anything else?
Kennedy: For us it was trying to capture a historic moment that we knew was happening and ballet is how we express ourselves. We wanted to take on the challenge and bring the dance community into the problem that was happening. We wanted to bring the joy and power of dance.
Elle: Do you remember what you were feeling?
Kennedy: For me it was very empowering and it was nice to know that people support you and be part of something bigger than yourself.
Ava: It was very inspiring and it made me have faith in our generation.
Elle: You’ve both done so much since those photos went viral and you are also actively working on giving back. You have started the ‘Kennedy George And Ava Holloway Dance For Change Scholarship’ and you have a non-profit ‘Brown Ballerinas For Change’. Why did you start the scholarship and non-profit together?
Kennedy: We created the scholarship for the less fortunate. It is hard and there are a lot of expenses for dance, the costumes and shoes and even taking the classes and we wanted to help those that don’t have it that easily or that type of opportunity. We wanted to give them that.
Ava: Another reason is that we wanted to help diversify dance. Some people aren’t able to pay for dance so we wanted to give them the chance to have a path forward. Our non-profit was founded by us and two other dancers Sophia Chambliss and Shania Gordon. Our non-profit has a lot to do with our scholarship and it’s also allowing us to diversify dance. It allows us to speak out in different places and diversify the image of dance.
Elle: I know both your mothers are strong women. What have you learned from them?
Kennedy: My mother is a very hard worker and she told me to work hard for what you believe in, and what you believe in is always the right way to go. And also, to always give back to the community and always help people.
Ava: I learned from my mother to be a hard worker and to keep pushing forward for whatever goals I want to pursue.
Elle: Ava you just published a book with your mother called ‘My Ancestor’s Wildest Dream’. Congrats. What is the book about?
Ava: The book is about a little girl that is facing her dreams and just pursuing what she believes in. It’s inspired by my and Kennedy’s chance encounter at the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, Virginia.
Elle: What three words would you use to describe each other?
Kennedy: Independent, Supportive and Surprising is what I would use to describe Ava. She is very humble and a lot of the stuff she knows and can do is not normal, it’s really remarkable and so cool but she is just humble about it.
Ava: Hardworking, Creative and Funny is what I would use to describe Kennedy.
Elle: What does walk how you want mean to you?
Kennedy: It means choosing your own path, thinking about your future and what you want. It also means taking responsibility for your own path and action.
Ava: To choose your own path and not follow the crowd. If everyone is going right and going left is the best path for you, then go left.
Credits: Photos by Marcus Ingram. Zvelle shoes: Tara sandals (eggplant) and Rayna flats (white).