L.A. Times Wins OJA Feature Award for ‘Rise of the Dancefluencer’

The cross-departmental project won the Feature award in the Large Newsroom category. The Times was also a finalist for Topical Reporting on Climate Change and Excellence in Audio Storytelling.


The Los Angeles Times has won an OJA award for its “Rise of the Dancefluencers” project, which was recognized for 2020 Feature in the Large Newsroom category.

This award “honors excellence in online journalism presented in a single package or story that shows significant depth, insight and new understanding of a story or topic.” The award was presented by the Online News Association (ONA) in a virtual ceremony on Friday, Oct. 16.


“Rise of the Dancefluencers” looks at how dancers who were once deemed too fringe because of their look, shape or style have broken through in the world of commercial dance — and are reshaping the kind of talent you see in music videos, at concerts, in movies and on TV.

The project was reported and written by Times Arts and Culture Reporter Makeda Easter, with story design produced by Vanessa Martínez with assistance from Alex Tatusian.

The accompanying video was shot by Claire Collins, Deveion Hicksonbottom and J.R. Lizarraga, who also edited the video. The project was edited by Craig Nakano, with social media promotion led by Alexa Díaz.

“I think that social media increases access to dance,” said Easter in an interview with the “Dance Boss” podcast. “People who haven’t been in an audience at a dance show now have it at their fingertips.”

Easter explained on the podcast how she wanted to make this story different by focusing on dancers that didn’t fit the traditional mold for success within the industry, such as women of color, plus-size dancers and dancers with disabilities – people who leveraged social media to build a following and create their own success.

“Dancers are not in the shadows anymore,” said Easter. “They can get recognized versus being backup for a popstar or some random dancer in a film. People are actually able to become celebrities.”


We talked to L.A. dancers who were once deemed nontraditional but are now breaking into the mainstream on video-centric platforms, including YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, to become celebrities in their own right.

The Times was also recognized as a finalist in two other categories:

  • 2020 Topical Reporting, Climate Change
    California Against the Sea
    By Rosanna Xia, Swetha Kannan, Terry Castleman, Vanessa Martínez, Priya Krishnakumar, Carolyn Cole, Thomas Suh Lauder and Lorena Iñiguez Elebee
  • 2020 Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling, Ongoing Series
    Asian Enough
    Jen Yamato, Frank Shyong, Liyna Anwar, Rina Palta, Abbie Fentress Swanson, Andrew Eapen, Mike Heflin and Julia Turner

Readers can explore the full “Rise of the Dancefluencers” project online at