top of page

Q&A with Candice Y Johnson - Every Black Girl Dances

By Beth Moore

We are excited to welcome Candice Y Johnson to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release, Every Black Girl Dances, released on the 26th December 2023.

A searing exploration of femininity and womanhood , Every Black Girl Dances hits the truth-telling mark. Fans of Jayne Allen’s Black Girls Must Die Exhausted and Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie will rejoice at the tight writing and honesty.

JC Burke catapulted straight from film school to Hollywood darling, churning out “Black trauma” films that have made her a household name but at what price? When she abandons the set of her latest production to flee to her hometown Parable, Texas, JC is forced to reconsider the career that made her a superstar, as well as re-examine her deteriorating relationship with her producing partner, Hudson Pyke.

A romantic connection with high school Media Technology teacher Luke Favors (dubbed The Hottie Professor in a viral social media post) alleviates a bit of the sting from her disappointments, but is Luke enough to keep JC away from Hollywood forever, or will she return to the privilege she turned her back on?

Could you start by telling us a little about yourself and your career, and, without giving anything away, about your new novel Every Black Girl Dances?

I’m a Creative, who can’t be contained! I’m a choreographer who is part of a 4-time Emmy award-winning team, dancer, author, ghostwriter, editor…and self-christened Taco Ambassador. For the last 24 years I have loved, loved, loved dancing on the stage with legendary gospel and R&B recording artists, such as Tye Tribbett, Fred Hammond, The Clark Sisters, Jekalyn Carr, Jonathan McReynolds, Chante Moore, Peabo Bryson, B Slade and so many others. It’s been an incredible journey that is still going, but now I get to dance across the keyboard. I feel as though God has blown a second creative wind on me!

Every Black Girl Dances is my love letter to Black women and girls. It’s the story of filmmaker JC Burke, who is touted as the “next Spike Lee”; however, as she produces films that bring in the dollars but fail to feed her heart, JC has to learn to dance on her own terms. And there’s a hot teacher, and a group of genius kids who help her on the way. There’s so much more to unpack, but it’s all a part of the journey.

I see from research you are very multitalented woman who has excelled at many different mediums. What was it at this time that drew you to writing a novel?

Thank you so much! I truly love celebrating how life intersects with art. From learning to read at the age of three to the time when I worked as an editorial assistant for the Associated Press, I’ve always had a love affair with words. Fear kept my first manuscript collecting dust for ten years; I had to find the courage to unleash the words trapped inside my pen. But there’s nothing like reading an incredible book to make you realize that not telling your own story is leaving a hole in your heart. It was time.

I think JC is a really interesting and inspiring character and I loved reading her arc. Where did the inspiration for JC come from?

This really makes me smile! JC is an accumulation of women I’ve met and admired through the years. And part of her is me: the fear, not standing on your own, dancing to the beats others give you. She’s my creative sisters who make the best out of the worst, until we realize our worth isn’t tied to other peoples’ expectations and we begin moving differently. I really love JC – she’s a dream character for me!

I really liked the character Myzi, I loved her confidence. I think she is a great depiction of the generation of young people we have surrounding us today. How important do you think the beliefs and actions of today’s younger generation will be on the future?

Listen, I don’t play about today’s younger generation at all. I honour them. Their vision is so clear, the talent is immeasurable, and despite what we think – they’re so much wiser than we give them credit for. So, it’s important not just to hear them, but LISTEN to what they are telling us. Their beliefs and actions are most definitely going to paint a different future than we ever imagined for ourselves. And that’s not a bad thing.

Grief is a poignant theme in this book, and I really like the way the characters deal with it in your novel but I know it might have been a challenge to write about. How did you take care of yourself whilst writing about heavier topics like this?

Outside of prayer, I’ll do something that’s opposite of those heavy subjects I’m tackling. Highest on the list is watching my comfort shows or movies, like Boomerang, The Best Man, The Wedding Planner, or anything that will give me a good laugh or smile. I also handletter canvases, affirmation cards, journals and such – it’s so soothing. And…I treat myself to tacos.

I think this book is a poignant read for anyone wanting to garner a better understanding of what it is to be a black woman/girl and the way in which other people act around them and what they expect of them. What was the driving force behind wanting to explore this narrative and why did you choose to explore it through JC, a filmmaker?

I chose to tell the story through JC’s cinematic lens, because that’s how Black women and girls are often seen – through the lens people want to see. We’re told how to feel, to sequester our emotions, and basically dance to everyone’s rules. I’ve always been seen as a “safe” Black girl, and it’s made me feel unseen, unheard. I wanted to give us a voice. And by me being a dancer, I didn’t want to be literal or do what’s expected of me, so I thought making JC a filmmaker was the perfect fit. Especially since she’s a horrible dancer!

I read that you are a very accomplished dancer and choreographer, and dance obviously plays a part in then narrative but did you use music and/or dance during the writing process at all to help build your narrative or characters?

Music and dance live in me, so they were a must to take both of them along for the ride in JC’s journey. Sometimes between writing breaks or to lift myself up after a heavy scene, I moved the living room furniture and danced it out! Lauren Daigle, Dorinda Clark, CeCe Winans, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Brandon Lake, Stevie Wonder – these are some of the ones who kept me moving! And one of my favourite songs of all time (since I’m a 70’s disco child) – “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” is my personal theme song.

If people enjoy Every Black Girl Dances, do you have any other books or media you’d like to recommend to them or anything that inspired your writing?

I truly hope everyone will enjoy JC’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it. I have a slew of books, from children’s to non-fiction. The Taco-Pology is an especially fun read; Only Tithes Will Tell is my most popular.

Two final questions just for fun, firstly what do you think would be JC, Myzi and Luke’s signature dance moves?

I LOVE this question! Since she can’t dance, I’m giving JC that shoulder bounce that you make with the ugly, cool face, to keep her on beat. She bops. Myzi is definitely a hip-hop head, and a B-girl. She has mastered the single hand-stand as seen in the movie, Stomp the Yard. And, Luke: Luke, Luke. Luke. He’s nostalgic, and a Michael Jackson fan to his heart. He owns the Moonwalk!

And, what is one song you’d use to describe Every Black Girl Dances?

It’s so hard to narrow down to one, but I constantly go back to “Feel Alright,” by Erica Campbell. One, because I just love her- so positive, her smile is uplifting, and I love her music! But I imagine this is the song JC is bopping to down the street, headphones on, smile on her face and in her heart, world shut out…after she finally learns to dance.

Candice Y Johnson aka “Ordered Steps,” is an Emmy award-winning choreographer, dancer, author, editor, speaker, independent filmmaker and playwright! In addition to her many honors (including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Dallas Alumni chapter’s 2022 Woman of Excellence in the Arts honoree), Candice is a 2023 DFW Gospel Literary Award winner, 2023 Texas Gospel Music Excellence Dance Director of the Year, and is also being presented with Dance Ministry Magazine’s 2023 Dance Icon and Literary Pen Award.

Most recently, Candice’s article, “Picture Me,” was featured on the prestigious Mahogany/Hallmark website! As she gears up for the national release of her latest work, Every Black Girl Dances, Candice continues dancing across the keyboard to bring more stories of humour, heartbreak and hope to the page!


bottom of page