Alabama State University's HoneyBeez Encourages Body Positivity, Confidence And Self-Love
ASU's plus-sized student dance team was founded by Dr. James Oliver in 2004.
by Danteé Ramos
December 08, 2022 at 12:54 am
The Alabama State University (ASU) dance team, the HoneyBeez, featuring plus-sized students, has made history as the first plus-sized HBCU dance group.
According to Andscape, the HoneyBeez was created in 2004 by ASU alum and band director James Oliver after he transitioned to the university’s band director and noticed the dance team lacked different body shapes and sizes. To be eligible to join the team, you must be a full-time ASU student with a 2.5 GPA or higher and weigh at least 250 pounds.
“There have been plus-size girls that wanted to try out for the dance line. And, of course, when I got here, all we had were the Stingettes,” Oliver said. “You can’t really give them that spot on the Stingette line because the uniform doesn’t fit like it should, so usually, the plus-size girls run to the flag team. I decided that this is not fair for these girls. I wanted something different.”
Oliver didn’t have a clear direction for executing his plan, so he leaned on his band members to help him find plus-sized dancers to audition to perform with the university’s Mighty Marching Hornets Band.
“I asked five of my plus-size girls that were in the band,” Oliver said. “I said, I have this idea. Do I have some plus-size girls who know how to dance and want to dance? And I had five girls who came out and said they’d try it.”
The HoneyBeez formed their dance team name to stay close to ASU’s mascot and also give the dancers their own recognition. Oliver calls them “sweet and electrifying” after witnessing their cartwheels, splits, flips and dedication through routines just like their petite counterparts.
Now, the plus-sized dance team has become a staple part of the university’s performances, but at the peak of their journey, the dance team and Oliver were met with negative comments and speculations. Many alleged Oliver was giving the women a platform to be made of, while others supported Oliver’s decision to uplift these women through dance.
“Did I want to continue to deal with the negativity? Or did I want to keep this going because the crowd loves it?” Oliver said. “But the girls love it too. I made the decision that I was going to keep going. I didn’t care what anybody said. I thought these girls deserved a platform, and I’m going to keep them.”
It was a decision Oliver will never regret. With the help of coordinator Ruth Anna M. Williams, the HoneyBeez have a complete look with beautiful uniforms that the dancers can wear with confidence — and fiery, attention-grabbing routines to match.
“Now, let the HoneyBeez not show up [at games],” Oliver said. “I think fans would tear up the stadium.”
The HoneyBeez have left their mark on the University and have opened the minds of others who look down on necessary change and inclusion, all while making history doing what they love — dancing.