Meet the Canadian Instagram star spreading positivity through dance
Growing up, Donte Colley was often bullied as a teenager for his dancing.
But the now 22 year old from Scarborough, Ont. kept to his passion -- dancing at home and learning new moves through YouTube clips-- and turned it into a phenomenon.
Today, Colley posts uplifting dance videos on Instagram to his nearly 780,000 loyal followers, including actress Jennifer Garner, actor Will Smith and comedian Leslie Jones. He even collaborated with Ariana Grande for her “MONOPOLY” music video.
His videos are unique in the way he uses emojis and graphics, combined with his dancing, to spread positive messages. His posts frequently contain messages like “You are a star,” “Keep pushing,” “You got this” and “Celebrate how far you’ve come.”
“The messages that I share are, they’re personal messages…messages from my heart,” he told CTV News. “I am not the only one feeling this way, so let’s try and make each other feel better.”
Recent studies suggest a connection between depression and social media use. Just three weeks ago, a study out of the University of Montreal found as social media use increases throughout a child’s adolescent years, so too do their symptoms of depression.
Colley said his videos are meant to brighten someone’s spirits and they appear to be working. He regularly receives messages of support and also from people who say they were on the verge of harming themselves until one of his videos came across their Instagram feed and brought them some joy in a dark time.
“Hearing what I am doing is saving people, is something that impacts me a lot” Colley said. “If it does catch you and impact you in a certain way that makes our day better, I think that’s amazing and for me I’m excited that it would make you feel that way.”
Colley knows all too well how social media can affect the well-being of its users, having deleted his accounts for a year at age 17, because of how the platform was making him feel.
“You’re constantly comparing yourself to people and their unrealistic realities,” he said. “I wanted to find joy in what I did, versus things that made me feel bad about myself.”
Colley’s mother Leeanne is proud of her son’s newfound fame online and the way he offers an antidote to the negativity often prominent on social media.
“Donte is spreading kindness and happiness,” she said. “He’s created a really great happiness platform where people actually go to his page if they are having a bad day. I have clients that go there if they feel like their week isn’t starting off right. They’ll go to Donte’s page and watch a couple of his videos.”
Colley’s videos have led him to create his own clothing line and landed him contracts with Starbucks and McDonald’s. Instagram even created a special “You got this” filter with hearts and stars based on his videos.
“It’s definitely a cool way of bringing awareness to mental health, but also understanding that we’re all going through our own things and that’s OK,” he said.
He hopes to one day expand his creative ventures, beyond the popular Instagram videos.
“I love acting, I love dancing and I love creating,” he said. “Whatever that entails over the next few years, I hope that it will make other people happy but also make me happy too.”