15-Year-Old 'Up' Challenge Creator Mya Johnson Just Keeps Manifesting
The choreography mastermind behind the "Up" challenges just knows she's going to make it big.
May 17, 2021 at 5:45 pm
From Rock ‘N Roll to Southern eats, the outputs of Black creativity remind that there's no American culture without Black culture. Today, Black creators provide the laughs, language, and choreography that have shaped the digital age. But too often, their creations have become faceless pieces of language and art. In Blavity's Young, Gifted and Viral series, we'll talk to the young innovators who continue to define digital culture.
In the past weeks, a cool has settled over the TikTok realm, no longer afire with the contributions of Black creators who have grown weary of seeing their choreography appropriated soon after it goes viral.
Naturally, in the dearth of content from Black TikTok, social media has grown animated with comedic reactions to the simplistic "dances" that the Black TikTok strike has reduced the app to — a clear indicator of Black influencers' impact on trends. But the strike alone doesn't fully capture the impact of TikTok users on pop culture at large — the proof lives on the charts. Popular TikTok songs like Doja Cat's "Say So," Saweetie's "Tap In," and, of course, "Savage" by Houston darling Megan Thee Stallion, have all climbed to the top of the Billboard charts.
Mya Johnson, the 15-year-old whose TikTok choreography to Cardi B’s "Up" landed her on the rapper's instagram, knows a thing or two about the conditions that led to the virtual walk out. Her choreography to the 2021 hit landed white influencer Addison Rae on the Tonight Show
with Jimmy Fallon — without Johnson.
“At first I didn't see it, and then people on my Instagram were tagging me in small clips. My first response was happy. I was like, 'Woah, my dance is on TV!’” Johnson said of the song she choreographed with influencer Chris Cotter. “But then when me and Chris started to think, we were like, ‘Dang, that's our dance. I wish we could have been up there.’ To artists who aren't giving out credit: you wouldn’t want anybody to do that to you. Everyone should want to know who the OG creator is.”
Appropriated or not, the young creator's moves caught the attention of Cardi B herself, earning them a spot on the "WAP" rapper's Instagram stories. Johnson said that she was excited by the wink from Cardi — but not surprised. She'd manifested this moment.
“I always speak things into existence. Me and Chris were like, ‘Yeah, Cardi B is most definitely gonna re-post us. This is gonna blow,’” Johnson, whom Fallon invited onto the show following the criticism, said. “Cardi has also reposted us in the past, which is so nice because not a lot of artists post the kind of dances we do, 10-second dances.”
“One thing about me, I’m most definitely gonna do everything,” the TikTok star declared, dragging out each syllable in the last word: a twinkling promise cast over her dreams. “I love dancing, but I also love trying different things. I want to start acting. I was just in the studio rapping with one of my friends. I see myself growing a lot.”
Johnson posts her TikToks from the dirty South. She said she’s proud to share a hometown with the likes of Megan Thee Stallion and Queen Bey.
“I’m with the girl crew. I feel like I could be one of them. I know I’m an up and coming celebrity. Speaking it into existence!” she said with a squeaky laugh.
The young performer explained that as a self taught dancer, apps like TikTok and its predecessors have been integral to her growth — and the influence she now has on other artists.
“TikTok has changed dancing for me because I’ve never taken an actual dance class. I’ve only done short, 10 second dancing videos that are popular on TikTok, and I’ve gotten so much better," Johnson said. "When I was younger I would always see different top creators, and I wanted to be just like them. I feel like people look up to me now and want to do the same thing.”
These days, the teenager has her eyes on top creators like D1 Nayah, and of course, Cotter — her partner in choreography.
At 1 million followers on Instagram, the young Texan’s dreams of stardom stand validated by the throng of social media users, following her every move. She said the opportunity is far from lost on her.
“My favorite part about being an influencer is that I meet people all the time,” she said. “My supporters are really big. It’s a gift that not everybody gets.”