Next Dance, Next Chance

Oklahoma City native Kendra ‘K.O.’ Oyesanya hits the big time with Beyonce … and she’s not finished yet.

Photo by Ben Watts, courtesy Kendra Oyesanya

After winning a national competition, Oklahoma City native Kendra “K.O.” Oyesanya triumphantly launched herself into the dance world stratosphere by performing backup moves for Beyonce, choreographing a Black Panther challenge that went viral and landing a role in a YouTube subscription series.

Oyesanya is well aware that many aspire to becoming professional entertainers and, even with talent, few succeed. She also knows what has worked for her.

“I am among those who attained success because I truly believe in my talents and the path God has for me,” she says. “There came a moment in my dance career where I wasn’t as confident as I should be. This was mainly because I didn’t have the training that most dancers had.

“I realized that I was the only one holding myself back and finally decided to change my entire mindset. I started listening to motivational videos and writing down affirmations every day and got over my insecurities. Changing my mindset is what helped me to reach success and is very important for anyone else who wants to be successful.”

Oyesanya topped the field in Pepsi’s international Dance for a Chance contest in 2013 and was awarded a shot to dance backup with Beyonce. From thousands of entrants, Oyesana was among eight chosen to work with Chris Grant, the superstar’s choreographer. With encouragement from Grant and other industry professionals, Oyesanya moved to Los Angeles to build contacts, attend classes to hone her skills and land an agent. She did so all in her first week in California.

Soon Oyesanya had paid gigs on television, music videos and live shows, and toured with top artists, including another opportunity with Beyonce, this time at the famed Coachella arts music festival. That experience led to a choreography collaboration incorporating traditional African dance moves for a video that went viral on YouTube.

“We had no idea it would blow up like it did, but it was really cool to see so many people not only share our video but remake their own videos based off of our choreography,” she says.

Oyesanya has followed that success as a character named Poppy in the YouTube Red program called Step Up High Water, based on the Step Up franchise starring Channing Tatum.

A graduate of University of Central Oklahoma, Oyesanya wants to keep making her home state proud with more acting and dance opportunities. She finds that people are often surprised to hear of her origins and she’s happy to tell them.

“The funny thing is when someone asks where I’m from I say, ‘I’m from Oklahoma,’ and a lot of times they mishear me and think I said, ‘Oakland,’ and get really excited,” she says. “Then I have to correct them and say, ‘No, not Oakland … O-kla-homa.’ Most reactions are of surprise because they have never met anyone from Oklahoma.”