Before the Dancing Dolls became reality TV stars with lavish costumes that shimmer when they buck, Dianna Williams (better known as Miss D) sketched their costumes in her living room. Under the guidance of a woman named Mrs. Pat, she learned about costume design and styling. And after a manufacturer would create her concepts, she’d go to work bedazzling them with her weapon of choice, a hot glue gun.
“I designed every costume the Dancing Dolls have worn since the team was founded. I sat and drew the costumes. I decided where the cloth was going to go, where the sequins were going to go,” she said passionately during a candid chat. “Most people don’t know that for the first 14 years that the dancing dolls were around. I did the Dancing Doll uniforms all by hand. I did everything I needed to do for those girls costumes.”
Miss D has always been obsessed with dolls and dollhouses. “I always used to make my dolls dance,” she revealed.
Dianna started the Dancing Dolls when she was 21. She began coaching straight out of college with the support of her grandmother who owned a daycare — the Pied Piper Playhouse where the Dancing Dolls started. “She allowed me to have practice there. She allowed me to start the group there. She sewed their very first dancing uniforms.”
When it came to getting uniforms, a dance company Jazzy Dancers was pivotal in clothing the girls. Mrs. Pat and Mr. Skip owned the only dance company in Jackson, Mississippi that sold costumes. “She told me what kind of boots I needed, what type of fish nets and tights to buy the girls because I had no clue.”
Inspired by Jacksonville University’s Prancing J-Settes collegiate dance team around the corner, it was important for the Dancing Dolls to look as professional as they moved. “I watched them. I seen what it is that they did. I wanted my girls to look like that. I patterned everything behind this upscale collegiate organization that was at a college I inspired to go to ever since I was a little girl. It didn’t matter that I didn’t make the team, I still wanted to make sure my girls had a prestigious look,” she explained.
“I created the dancing dolls to give the kids to have something positive to do in our community. Living in Jackson, Mississippi, there’s not a lot to do there. I wanted to create something the kids could be proud of.” She later founded the Dollhouse Dance Factory, which became a pillar in the community.
Much of their success can be attributed to Youtube, which has been a huge marketing tool for the Dancing Dolls. “I’ll never forget the user God’s First Dime, she was the first person to put together these videos of the Dancing Dolls. If you type in mini J-Settes you will find a bunch of old footage.”
The Dancing Dolls were discovered after Madonna performed at the Super Bowl using the Southern University Dancing Dolls as her background dancers.
“I’ll never forget, I got an e-mail and phone call from Pilgrim studios who wanted to do a reality show on the Dancing Dolls. I think they thought they were contacting them.” Hesitant it was a scam, Dianna didn’t immediately respond. “Come to find out they had done their research and realized that the Dancing Dolls that was on the Super Bowl were not the same Dancing Dolls they thought that had. They had Googled Dancing Dolls and my $2.99 GoDaddy website popped up.” But God makes no mistakes and upon further research, they discovered their Youtube videos.
The DD4L brand has grown tremendously since then, branching off into several seasons of Bring It and a Bring It! Live Tour.
“The Bring It! Live tour has been a way for us to engage with our fans on a more personal, live level. People watch the show and believe some of the tricks the girls do are just camera tricks but they’re not. Watching them perform on TV and not hearing the real music versus watching them live is a completely different feel. Being at a Bring It! Live show is like being at a rock concert. They’re standing, they’re screaming for their favorite doll.”
And chances are, you’re favorite doll will be there. “We have a new crew going on the tour, but we also have old familiar faces. Kayla will be there. Everybody loves Kayla. Sunjai will be there this year. Kenjanae has always been a force, she’s that good, she’ll be there.” And there are some surprise dolls who will be on the tour, but it hasn’t been announced yet!
Get tickets for the Bring It! Live tour, here.