Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of LDS Living magazine.
Chelsie Hightower made her television debut on season four of So You Think You Can Dance, finishing among the top six contestants. She then competed as a dance professional on seven seasons of Dancing with the Stars and founded a camp called Dance Elevated, which seeks to help participants become great dancers and great people. We recently asked her about her career and faith.
What is it that you love most about dancing?
I love the feeling I have while dancing—free of worries and completely in the moment, where my body and soul are aligned. I feel a sense of purpose in it.
What was the most difficult part of being in the spotlight?
For me, it was a lot of pressure to handle the job at 19, living by myself for the first time in a big city and still trying to work through parts of my past that I didn’t understand. I definitely felt a lot of pressure to be perfect in such a big job. That feeling of having to be perfect ended up being incredibly stifling over time and stunted my growth for a while.
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What advice do you have for young Latter-day Saints in the dance world?
I would say that dance itself is a truly wonderful art form—I would argue one of the best. But I would also say that the dance world can be tough, and as dancers, we often tend to identify ourselves and our worth with our level of dancing or success. So, I would hope that young dancers understand that we have worth independent of anything related to dance—that no one else in the room is more important than another simply because they are more skilled. I would also say to try to include God in your journey and make Him a priority. For me, by doing so, it truly helped me to become a better person and dancer. But my testimony and relationship with God also didn’t exclude me from some of the unique challenges that can come from being in that world and being a professional dancer. I’m now understanding that the highs and lows are all part of it.
Have you had any missionary opportunities through dancing?
Michael Bolton was my dance partner on my fourth season of Dancing with the Stars. My favorite experiences with him were talking to him about God, religion, and light. He told me he had been asked to be on the show many times previous, but it had never felt right until then. He said that he had needed those conversations and they were what he had been looking for. We didn’t make it far that season, but I definitely felt like there was purpose in [our meeting].
What is something not many people know about you?
I grew up with five older brothers. I also love playing video games, phone games, board games—any kind of game, really.
What is your favorite thing about being a member of the Church?
There have been times in my life where the gospel and God were all I had to hold on to. So obviously there is a huge part of me that feels a heavy weight in being a good example for the Church and wanting people to know the goodness of it. Like most people, there are also parts of Church culture that I don’t resonate with, [so] separating the culture from the doctrine and God is really important to me. I think in [doing] that, we are able to free ourselves from the judgment of others and focus on our individual relationship with God. I’ve never felt more . . . purposeful or felt my individual worth more than when I am striving to live the commandments and come closer to Him.
What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?
Right now, I’m really excited to be working on a dancewear line that promotes individual worth and encourages dancers to develop themselves from the inside out.
The year 2020 marks 200 years since the First Vision. What does the Restoration mean to you?
The truth the gospel brings to me helps me to resolve any question I have in my life about who I am, what I’ve been through, and what my purpose is. That light gives me peace, hope, and joy. And I love it.
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