How One TikTok Creator Is Taking Due Credit

Last November, Jordyn Williams posted a TikTok of an original dance set to a song called “No Love” by J.K. Mac. The 19-year-old from Birmingham, Ala., thus inadvertently set off a dance challenge that came to be named, for that song, the #NoLoveChallenge. This, in turn, spawned another challenge, the #HerWayChallenge, when the choreography was set to a sped-up version of a PARTYNEXTDOOR song of the same name. In the dance, Williams can be seen swinging her hair around and sensually moving her hips, clearly drawing influence from the majorette tradition.

Williams has been a majorette dancer since her freshman year of high school, her coach a former Sensational Stingette in the danceline at Alabama State University, which appeared in Beyoncé’s Coachella documentary film, Homecoming. Williams tells TIME that she posted the dance when she was in a “low place” in her life and was “using my passion to get me up out of it.”

How One TikTok Creator Is Taking Due Credit

Read more: How Beyoncé Honors 9 Black Icons in Her Homecoming Documentary

Shortly after Williams posted the video, she was surprised to find that her “For You Page” was filled with people doing her dance. It was spreading across the app like wildfire, appearing on the “For You Page” of artists like Flo Milli, Latto, and Coco Jones, who posted videos of themselves doing the #NoLoveChallenge. “I was overwhelmed with joy at first,” she says. “It took me a long time to congratulate and be proud of myself because I was just dancing and doing what I love to do. Now I’m making tons of people around the world happy with something I’ve created. That’s just insanely beautiful to me.”

But as her dance became more popular, she began to notice that many of the videos failed to credit her TikTok handle for originating the dance. For some time, Williams went uncredited, but that began to change last week, when a TikToker named Khalil Greene uploaded a now viral video that highlights her dance and names Williams as the creator. But Williams’ story is a familiar one, as she is far from the first Black creator who has seen their creation go viral without acknowledging their part in originating it.

No credit where credit is due

TikTok has had a problem with creators getting credit for their work ever since the app became popular at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. As the world was on lockdown and so many people were, as one viral TikTok sound put it, “bored in the house,” folks kept themselves entertained by mimicking dances they saw on the app. Think, most famously, of the dances to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” or the “Renegade.”

In addition to being incredibly catchy, the other thing these dances have in common is that their creators were young Black women—Keara Wilson and Jalaiah Harmon, respectively—who had to fight to be given credit for their choreography. Harmon’s dance was one of the first significant dance trends on the app, and videos using the hashtag for Wilson’s dance have accumulated over 3.2 billion views. But there was no concerted effort to make sure their names, and the names of many other Black creators, traveled as far and wide as their moves did.

Wilson and Harmon eventually got the recognition they deserved, but they had to fight for it. The issue continued on the app, with Black TikTokers banding together to participate in the Black TikTok Strike in 2021. This was a grassroots movement on the app that saw Black influencers refusing to make content because of what happened to the viral dance creators. Since they highlighted the issue, the app has taken steps to correct it. TikTok users noticed a push from both the app and its users to include DC (dance credit) or IB (inspired by) in the video caption. But over the last year, as there have been fewer dance trends on the app overall, that effort has slowed.

Enter Williams. Given that this was her first brush with viral fame, she says she wasn’t comfortable speaking out when she began to notice her erasure. “It’s hard reacting or speaking on your emotions when you’re in a position with so many eyes on you because you don’t want to say the wrong thing or offend anyone,” she explains. And Williams says the issue was not just the lack of credit, but the backlash she faced when she found the courage to insist that it be given where it was due. There were comments on her videos in which people questioned the value of crediting dance creators, telling her that she’s “not gonna get paid for [her] dance” or saying, “Girl, we already know it’s your dance, be quiet.”

But she refused to stay silent. Williams uploaded video after video of herself doing the dance, using different songs to promote it and using the hashtag #NoLoveChallengeCreator to spread the word. She currently has 95,000 followers, and following the popularity of the dance, that group has grown in size and ferocity. Under videos of her doing the dance, her followers noticed her lack of credit. “They really need to start tagging you,” one person commented on one of her videos. “This dance is literally everywhere, and they’re not giving you no credit.”

Immediately recognizable dance moves

Black TikTok creators know they have to stick up for each other. Khalil Greene, a self-proclaimed Gen Z historian on TikTok, uploaded a video last week, breaking down the origins of Williams’ dance. He noted that many white creators mimicked her dance, with some K-pop fans assigning the credit to a K-pop group. Greene says in the video that Black creators could immediately tell this dance style came from majorettes and the culture of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

When asked if she felt she would have gotten her proper credit had it not been for Greene’s video, Williams said that it was “a good boost” for her, but “I feel like people are going to remain probably upset about how this [all] went.” She’s tired of having to scream into a void as she watches the culture on TikTok at large resist widespread change, especially when it comes to the reception of videos by Black creators. But, despite the backlash, she says she is emerging with a positive outlook on content creation. Instead of posting less and being driven off the Internet, she says she will post more and not care what people think. “Let me keep popping up on their page so they can see me,” Williams says. “They don’t have a choice but to see me.”

Related Posts