Passionate and assertive with a strong belief in self.
One conversation with Nikeva Stapleton and the formula for her success becomes crystal clear. Hailing from the windy city, Stapleton is a dancer, actress and model. Her talent and commitment to excellence has led her to work with industry heavyweights such as Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown, Flo Rida and Beyoncé. Who can forget that historic 2016 Superbowl Half Time Show?
We’re honored to call her an Island Muse and even more excited to share her story with you today.
If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be?
Charismatic. Passionate. Free-Spirited.
You have such a unique name. What does it mean?
Thank you! It doesn’t have a meaning actually. My father made it up. He’s from the island of Nevis, so he created Nikeva from the word Nevis.
Tell us about Nikeva. What excites you and keeps you motivated?
I was born and raised in Chicago and I later moved to New York where I attended The Ailey School/Fordham University, earning a major in dance. Being the free-spirited person that I am, I follow whatever excites my spirit. There are so many things that I want to accomplish. It’s never enough for me to do just one thing. Recently, I’ve decided that obtaining my MBA is next on my to do list. I only have one life to live, so I’m going to give it my all. I’m naturally talented, so my plan is to tap into all of my abilities. I recently moved to Los Angeles to jumpstart my acting career and I can honestly say I’m really happy with where I’m at, at this point in my life. I’ve had my New York experience and I’m from Chicago, so it’s time to experience what the West Coast has to offer.
Where does your passion for dance and music come from?
My father is from Nevis and he’s such a Caribbean man (laughs). My mother is Caucasian American and even though I’m mixed, I’m very much connected to my African roots. I credit my passion for dance and music to both my mother and father. My mother introduced me to dance through the musicals and the Judy Garlands of her childhood and father who used to dance masquerade back in Nevis inspired my appreciation for the rhythm and liveliness that defines Afro-Caribbean music.
What’s your favourite genre of dance and why?
Definitely contemporary. Contemporary is just so lively, free and uninhibited. I also love classical and hip hop.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
It has to be this year’s Superbowl performance with Beyoncé. I had the opportunity to dance alongside some of the best dancers in the world as well as an artist of Beyoncé’s calibre. Amazing, is the only way to describe my Superbowl experience! It was such a monumental and awe-inspiring moment. Before that I had the privilege of attending a private dance workshop with her (Beyoncé). I’ve done music videos with Beyoncé before and the one thing that’s glaringly obvious, is that she’s a very hard worker. If she says we have to rehearse a particular routine 100 times, then we have to do it. She really has an appreciation and respect for dancers that are trained in the craft because she has an eagerness to learn and she has to be the best!
Tell us about your work with Art Saves Lives. What is the objective of this organization?
Art Saves Lives hosts a summer intensive for students in the Caribbean. The program is run by famed dancer and island girl Nicole De Leever. We really want to promote the importance of creative arts in the Caribbean. Nicole brings in talent from all over the world to work with the students. Through the classes, I teach many forms of dance. Apart from teaching, I assist Nicole with the administrative side of operating the workshops. Our goal is to build and expand to neighbouring islands. Art Saves Lives is such a fulfilling part of what I do. When I’m teaching I’m not even thinking about what auditions or opportunities I could be missing, I’m 100% focused and invested in my students.
In your opinion what is the biggest issue affecting Caribbean women in the region or diaspora in 2016 and why?
Based on my travels to the region, I still feel like women face many social restrictions. When I’m in Nevis, the gender roles are so rigid. You’re either a dancehall queen or you’re quote on quote “wifey material”. You’re one or the other, for some reason you can’t be both. Even simple things like going to the rum shop with my dad, a woman’s presence in these spaces still seems to be frowned upon.
Favourite aspect of Caribbean culture…
Definitely our music. I’m a big fan of Bob Marley and reggae. I love the fact that Caribbean music has made its way into the mainstream and that our music has so many different sounds; from reggae to soca to zouk. Zouk is my latest obsession. There’s something about zouk that I find very melodic and contagious.
If you had a few words of wisdom for Caribbean women, what would they be?
Be proud of your culture. The world knows I’m a West Indian. I’m very proud of my heritage and I don’t hide it. It also sets me apart from my peers. To me our culture is a unique and beautiful one. Recently I participated in LA Carnival and even though I’m a dancer, when people see me whining and getting on bad they still seem a bit shocked (laughs). Sorry, but that’s just my culture. So I offer no apologies and I’m definitely not ashamed. This is what we do.
What’s next for Nikeva?
I’m diving head first into acting. I feel like my training in the world of dance and modelling has prepared me to do very well on the big screen. I’m aware of what body is capable of, now I want to have a voice through acting. I’m so excited to see what LA brings.