Prancing Elites Project star squashes common LGBTQ misconceptions (EXCLUSIVE)

Apr 22, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. ET
Image: Oxygen

As the captain of the Prancing Elites, Kentrell Collins is taking the lead when it comes to staying cool under pressure, having a positive impact and letting the haters know the team will continue to dance, no matter what.

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The Prancing Elites Project follows an African-American, gay and gender non-conforming dance team determined to perform, despite being banned from competitions and resistance from people in their hometown. The docu-series is equal parts inspirational, hilarious and heartbreaking, so it wasn't surprising that our chat with Kentrell Collins also left us feeling inspired, entertained and moved.

One of the things that struck us about Collins is his ability to ignore the haters, and his message is one we could all apply to our own lives in one way or another.

"I dance as if nobody is watching," Collins said. "Although it is tough to receive negative jeers from the crowd, I have to always remember it's mind over matter: if you don't mind, then it won't matter."

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The show's premiere has no shortage of people hurling insults in the Prancing Elites' direction, but the group just keeps on going. Collins, though, is able to see a silver lining to the whole situation. "Of course, it's always tempting [to retaliate], but fighting temptations in life helps you become a better person. Saying something back only adds fuel to the fire."

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It's this perseverance in the face of constant resistance that we love about the Prancing Elites team. As the captain, Collins feels a responsibility not to crack under the pressure and to lead by example, both for his team and for others who take inspiration from the group. One of the premiere's most striking moments comes when a young girl breaks down in tears after seeing the treatment the Prancing Elites receive. But it also gives way to one of the show's most touching moments when Collins comforts the little fan.

"To have someone such as the little girl in the video crying because she felt as though we were mistreated broke my heart," Collins said. "People are always saying we are such a bad influence on kids. Well, that moment let me realize that what we are doing isn't bad at all. It just lets us know that we have to continue living our lives the way we are because somebody that needs that inspiration is watching."

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With Collins providing inspiration for other people, we were curious as to who inspires him, and his answer featured a range of people, from Rosa Parks to NeNe Leakes, who makes an appearance in the show's premiere.

"She is what I call a go-getter," Collins said of what resonates with him about Leakes. "She has been told no so much in life to where I feel as though she's built a wall. That wall isn't to make her out to be a weak person, but it's setting her up to be a great and successful individual."

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While Collins carries himself with confidence now, he makes it clear that he wasn't always so comfortable with himself, noting that he used to practice dancing alone in the bathroom out of embarrassment.

"I was young and didn't know any better," he says of that time in his life. "But as I got older, I understood that this is my life, and if a person can't accept that or has an issue with who I am, then there is no point in trying to explain it to them. So I then started to realize that people will talk about you no matter what, so why should I remain in a closet being the person God intended me to be?"

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In terms of experiences that helped shaped him into who he is today, we were surprised to learn Collins gives much credit to the time he spent in the army, mainly because it seems like such a different world to that of dancing with the Prancing Elites. But Collins has many positive things to say about his time in the military.

"Basic training was one of the best times of my life, to be honest. It taught me team-building, discipline and how to face my fears head on... with all of the training I received in the army, it taught me to be a fearless leader, which is why I instill those same techniques in my team."

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As for what he hopes the show will instill in those who watch, Collins has a clear vision.

"The ultimate message I want people to get from this show is that it's OK to be who you are and to live life for yourself. The one thing that I would like people to take away is really the Prancing Elites' motto, which is, 'Be who you are, embrace what you do, not worry about doing what the next man wants you to,'" Collins explained. As far as mottos go, we think Collins and the Prancing Elites totally have it nailed.

The Prancing Elites Project premieres tonight on Oxygen at 10/9c, and in the words of Kentrell Collins, make sure you have your popcorn and tissues ready.

Images: Oxygen