Rihanna dancer to tell youngsters to “shine bright”


Jesse Smith and Annica Torneryd, seen during an event in Florida, August 2018 

You might recognise Jesse, from Wisconsin, US, from his appearances dancing with Rihanna and Justin Timberlake, but his message is not about dance techniques, it is about self-belief.

“Belief plus action equals results. We focus too much on action at school, but if someone does not believe they are worthy, they will produce outcomes that reflect this,” Smith says in an interview with Delano. “If you’re not designed to be the most popular person there is no point trying to live like them. You will never be fulfilled.”

Smith quotes Oscar Wilde’s “Be yourself, everyone else is taken” as the best view to have if you want to avoid feelings of frustration and depression that start in teen years, but result in an unfulfilled adulthood.

Smith was bullied at school and found comfort first in music. Later he picked up his dance moves when hip hop rose to the fore and started working with famous performers including Channing Tatum and artists Mario and Ciara.

Can’t stop the feeling

He’ll be helping Global Youth Initiative co-ordinator Annica Torneryd with sessions held at schools and youth clubs such as the scouts next week, including his dance routine to “Can’t Stop the Feeling”.

Jesse Paul Smith performs choreography created for Justin Timberlake at an event in Orlando, August 2018

This is the third round of the GYI in Luxembourg, with some 500 young participants joining the last one. “The aim is to help young people build a positive self image and includes topics like learning to fail to achieve success, building a strong self-image, embracing your personality and standing up to be counted,” explains Torneryd.

“Jesse’s story about being the best version of yourself is a powerful one. His message is to dare to believe, which I think is an important value for our youth to learn, plus of course dancing is something very joyous that helps us connect to others,” Torneryd says.

Torneryd hails from Sweden but has lived in Luxembourg since 2000. She quit her job at an EU institution to become a professional coach and to raise her three children alone.

“The youth initiative sessions are flexible depending on the age of the kids, the size of the group or what the youth leader wants to achieve. Last time we took a group of 12 year olds and ran a session on intentional treatment of others. Everyone had to write something positive about everyone else in the group. For some kids it was the first time they’d heard something positive from their classmates,” she says.

Annica Torneryd speaks about self-worth during an event in Florida, August 2018

Session for grown-ups

Adults can also take part in a session with Jesse and Annica on motivation at House 17, a GYI sponsor, on 16October, which aims to help parents communicate better in their relationships with teenagers.

“We were born to dream. Dreams and goals motivate us. There will be moments of pain and heartache, but these build character and propel us to accomplish our dreams,” concludes Smith.

For more information on the Global Youth Initiative, contact [email protected]