Toronto dancer with Down syndrome gets 200K TikTok followers, shares message of inclusion
TORONTO -- A Toronto woman with Down syndrome has become a dancing sensation with rising star power.
Julia Slater has close to 200,000 followers on TikTok and has received almost five million likes. Just a few days ago, the 23-year-old got verified on the popular social media platform.
“I went crazy,” Slater told CTV News Toronto about when she discovered her new status.
“I’m talented,” said Slater on why she believes so many people enjoy watching her videos. “I’m a good role model.”
Slater has been making videos since 2013 to show off her skills as a hip-hop, jazz and lyrical dancer and to promote the message that Down syndrome is beautiful.
Slater said she loves making videos and wants her viewers to feel happy, energetic and proud when they watch them.
Slater said she started dancing at ViBE Dance and Fitness studio when she was five years old.
It’s run by twins Marnie and Rena Schwartz in Thornhill, Ont. They invited Slater into their studio and she has joined them on court at events.
The relationship has also led to Slater teaching. They said she is held to the same expectations as other instructors, knowing the content, choreography and being a good role model.
“Julia gets that. She gets that she has to look the part, act the part, walk the walk, talk the talk and be the best you can be,” said Rena. “It’s incredible to watch her at the front, shouting the moves, doing them full out and watching everyone behind her be inspired.”
“And follow her lead and try to be like her. It’s incredible,” Marnie said.
“I love dancing here. Marnie and Rena mean everything to me,” Slater said.
The twins said that Slater’s recognition on TikTok is another indication that people want to watch her, and see what she’ll do next.
It’s an impact that makes her mom proud.
“We should have open minds and open hearts,” said Ruth Zive.“Because we’re all different in some respects. Why not embrace that and create an environment where everyone can be comfortable and confident about the ways that they are different. I think that’s the true lesson that Julia brings to the world.”
Zive said what Julia has achieved on Tiktok underscores the positives of social media, a place she’s been able to connect with people and share her message and example.