Given the current political and social climate, we can all benefit from positive and inspirational messaging in the entertainment that we consume. Ciara's summer smash, "Level Up," arrived at exactly the right time, delivering feel-good, self-empowerment vibes for ladies, and men, alike.
Lyrics like, "I just keep elevating / No losses, just upgrading / My lessons, made blessings / I turned that into money /Thank God I never settled / This view is so much better/ I’m chilling, I’m winning / Like on another level" are inspiring listeners to learn from their mistakes, strive for more and never settle. The bold dance moves in the music video, coupled with the empowering lyrics, took on an anthem-like quality and spawned #LevelUpChallenge videos all over the internet.
The women of the Support Your Girlfriends weekend (a group of about 20 entrepreneurs, journalists, business executives and TV personalities) recently went viral in an Instagram post that featured their version of the #LevelUpChallenge on a private yacht in the Caribbean. Brought together by top PR company, Tené Nícole, the women enjoyed four luxurious days at the Moon Palace Grande, a swanky, all-inclusive resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
With choreography led by entrepreneur, activist and television personality Yandy Smith (best known from Love & Hip Hop), the women in the video can be seen abandoning their cares and dancing full-out to Ciara's hit track — first below deck, and then, after "leveling up," on the top deck of the yacht. In addition to Smith, Women's March organizer and activist Tamika Mallory, and TV personality and entrepreneur Jennifer Williams (Basketball Wives) all posted the video to their Instagram pages. The internet responded with uproarious support (including a comment from rapper Cardi B), and the original video has since garnered over half a million views.
Despite the carefree atmosphere of the trip, it was evident that for the women of Support Your Girlfriends, this was more than just a response to the latest dance challenge. I had the opportunity to speak to some of these women about the meaning behind the dance. More specifically, for these already successful women, what does "leveling up" mean to them?
For Jennifer Williams (@jenniferwilliams), the phrase "level up" takes on a spiritual significance. "It means getting closer to God in order to obtain a clearer vision of my purpose and my destiny." The television star and owner of online boutique, Classy Girl Wardrobe ( @classygirlwardrobe ), went on to drop more gems, adding that, "it also means taking control of my life and surrounding myself with positive energy, and people who genuinely love me. I must close doors of darkness and open up love and light to get to the next level!" Now, if that isn't a word?
Nikkia McClain, founder of Tené Nícole and creator and curator of Support Your Girlfriends weekend ( @nikkiamcclain ; @tenenicole ), views leveling up as an opportunity for personal growth. "For me, it is about making sure you surround yourself with people who not only force you to be better, but who can see better for you — even when you can't see it for yourself. People who always want to see you win."
For some of the other dynamic ladies in the group, "leveling up" is a mindset.
"It is my new normal," says Lucinda Cross (@lucindacross), a motivational speaker (TEDx) and author of the upcoming title, The Big Ask. "Leveling up means giving myself permission to embrace a new state of mind that allows me to do more, receive more and be more." And television host and BB Group founder Lyndsay Christian (@lynzchristiantv ; @thebbgroup), echoes a similar sentiment: "Leveling up means living and existing with a mindset of success, and challenging myself to think beyond the impossible."
Ultimately, "Level Up" could not have been a more fitting anthem for the ladies of Support Your Girlfriends weekend. In fact, the lyrics seem to embody some of the very tenets of the Support Your Girlfriends weekend. Creator, Nikkia McClain wholeheartedly agrees. "I created this retreat to let my sister know — whether she is standing to the right, to the left, in front or behind me — that I see her. Our main motivation is to encourage support, empowerment and, most importantly, genuine sisterhood."