What I love most about Nike commercials is their ability to combine great music with great visuals and somehow inspire me to participate in the workout of my life- using only Nike sports gear, of course. Lately, their Nike women’s “Make Yourself” has absolutely captured my interest. I’ve found myself interested in finding out the identity of each of the fit and strong athletes used in their campaign. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that one of these Nike-endorsed athletes is an African woman.
Sofia Boutella is an Algerian athlete and dancer whose body seems to have been made from rubber considering how stretched and contoured in every direction it is. Somehow she manages to look cool and graceful all at the same time. This 27 year old woman and Berklee College of Music graduate is a true force to be reckoned with.
Born in Bab El Oued in Algiers, Algeria, to a musical family, she began her dancing career at the tender age of 5. At the age of 10, her and her family immigrated to France, where she continued to develop her skills by training in rhythmic gymnastics. Sofia was so good that she joined the French national Olympics team at the age of 18. Along her dance journey, she decided to incorporate hip hop, and that’s where her star really began to shine. She joined a hip hop dance team called “The Vagabond Crew.” They proved their unique talents and abilities by winning the “World Cup of B-boying”, the World HipHop Championship Battle in 2006.
Sofia would go on to be a star in her own right by virtue of her selection to participate in Nike ads and dancing for superstars like Madonna and Rihanna. Sofia is so good that the King of Pop himself, the late Michael Jackson, wanted her to be one of his dancers at his concert. While she retains her Nike endorsements, Sofia will next be seen in the role of Eva in the next installment of the dance movie, “Street Dance.”
Sofia Boutella is a reminder that, in the same way that African women come in different hues, colors and textures, we also have varied interests. She is a stark example of our refusal to be stereotyped or put in boxes created by the myopic understanding of what an African woman should look like or what her role should be. Strong yet feminine, powerful yet graceful, Sofia Boutella represents the new African woman, and we are proud.