The New Face in the Place... Introducing Detroit’s Wakeba Reid. Back
Sept 26, 2014
By Tracey Bivens
You know what? Detroit produces some sho nuff talent when it comes to Chicago steppin. When I think about the five of us being the only ones interested in steppin back in 1996 as opposed to the 300+ steppers we see today from around the city…I find myself beaming with pride. Wakeba (pronounced Wah-keeba) Reid represents the class of 2014 with her flare, those endless legs, that smile and that’s why she’s definitely on her way to the top. I wanted to take the time to find out some things about Ms. Reid from the pressure of entering steppin contests, if steppin really is a lifestyle and what she thinks about her and LA Chase’s controversial performance in this year’s Walkers Category at the World’s Largest Steppers Contest.
Tracey: Hey Ms. Reid… I don’t think we’ve officially met yet but I you were definitely introduced to the steppin world back at Rockin Rodney Mack’s White Party this past summer. You and your partner, Arnell Cross, entered to qualify for the Beginners Category and then LA Chase pulled you up…literally…to the floor to be his Walkin partner which you obviously did not want to do. What was going through your mind that night?
Wakeba: I was thinking "Oh my gosh…is he serious?” as he pulled me up from my chair. I had only had three walking classes. I did not want to compete and I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. He and I had had a couple of dances before that. We stepped a couple of times…we walked…he called me out and I was absolutely embarrassed but it was fun and I was like, "Oh my God… I can’t believe I just did that!” He’s (LA Chase) good. I didn’t have any problems because we never really practiced much. The only time we really danced was at the pre-lim party. We danced a couple of times at the gala this past weekend and fifteen minutes before the competition. He called me to the back and he said "We’re walking to something fast, "Kiss the Girl”. I just knew he wasn’t talking about "Good Kisser”. I thought he was talking about an old Usher song or something. He said, "Just trust me…I got you.” I trusted that he was going to be able to lead me and he did.
Tracey: I’m sure you’ve seen yourself on video in the Walkers Category and girl…welcome to the other side of steppin. You and LA Chase’s performance is controversial because of the song choice and the constant "hiking up” of your legs. Some say he was a genius for using this strategy to win…some say he was desperate. What do YOU say…as a newbie to this dance?
Wakeba: I think Chase wanted to be himself. I think he has a unique style of walking. I like the traditional style of walking but think he wanted to be him and that’s what he chose to do. ..we chose to do. The first two songs…he kept it traditional and the third… he showcased his style and I think he did a great job.
Tracey: Okay…let’s take it back to your dance roots. Detroit has a tendency to categorize its dancers. Are you a ballroomer or a stepper or are you just a dancer and where did you learn how to step?
Wakeba: I’m just an all around dancer. I can’t even say which dance I love the best…Salsa…Ballroom…Hip Hop… I just love to dance. I learned to step from Drewry Alexander…he’s an amazing teacher!
Tracey: I truly admire the younger generation of steppers for daring to get their feet wet in this dance. How important is it to you to acknowledge the pioneers of this dance in your city?
Wakeba: It’s really important because you have to pay homage to those that show you different styles of dance which allows you to be yourself in this dance. Their creativity opens up your door to being creative.
Tracey: What do you think you and Arnell brought to the stage to make the judges choose you both as the front runners in the Beginners Category?
Wakeba: I think we brought skill…smoothness… and just being comfortable in the dance.
Tracey: They say that you can’t just enter one contest…win and not return to the stage. Do you have any plans on competing again?
Wakeba: (Laughing) I want to compete again. I’m not sure about next year. But I definitely want to compete in the WLSC. As far as the Champions of the Dance Floor that Versatile Productions is sponsoring…I’m thinking about it.
Tracey: You now are in an exclusive sorority of females from Detroit who have competed in the Worlds Largest with 1st place wins…Ann Dobson Hunter, Sherry Gordon, and LaKeesha Anderson. What does it mean to be a part of that legacy lineup?
Wakeba: It’s amazing. They are all great dancers. It’s my first time competing so to be in the first place in the Beginners Category…it was surreal. It didn’t kick in until 4:00am that morning. To know that I won was a great feeling. I know I’m late but I love to watch Celeste and Ty Skippy step. I also love Ann Hunter and the way she steps and performs. I also like watching Drewry Alexander and Donnie Davis. Darrell Davis…I admire his stance and his attitude towards the dance…I like him too.
Tracey: I’m happy to see that you express and present a natural beauty about yourself. Your hair was probably more admired than your dance at the contest. People start off humble and sweet and inevitably…sometimes the ego monster rears its ugly head. How do you think you are going to be able to stay grounded in this dance and not be affected by all the hype and attention?
Wakeba: I don’t feed into the hype. I just recently got on Facebook. Other than that…I don’t care for social media. I guess I don’t really care what people think unless it’s meaningful. I stand on my own two feet…I don’t need a clique. I don’t work to please other people so that helps. As for my hair…this has always been me. I always like being natural. You won’t catch me with fake anything. On the night of the contest, my hair didn’t do what I wanted it to do. I represented myself as me and that’s all I wanted. I think more women should accept who they naturally are which is beautiful. Yes…we need to accept who we naturally are… including our hair.
Tracey: What are you doing when you’re not steppin?
Wakeba: I’m taking care of my daughter and going over sight words. I’m an implementation manager at a software company but I’m very family oriented and I like taking care of home when I’m not working or dancing. I’m really close to my family. Let me say this. I am absolutely honored that you reached out to interview me. This is really new to me. It’s an amazing feeling to me to be a part of the "winning circle” as Drew would say. Regardless of what anybody thinks about either one of my performances…I wanted to have fun and that’s what I did.
There you have it ladies and gentlemen. Wakeba keeps it simple and real…whether we like it or not. (Laughing) I, for one, am rooting for this young lady to enjoy this dance and the experience of embracing its history, culture, and continuous evolution. I think Wakeba Reid is going to stay around for awhile…because…well…she gets it.