My name is Devante Perez, and I’m a stylist, choreographer and advocate for LGBTQ+ people.
I was kicked out of my home at the age of 15 because of my sexuality. I found myself as a child with no support, no care, no one to make sure I was safe. All of that responsibility fell on my shoulders now.
It was up to me to figure out how to be an adult. I knew I was supposed to go to school, and try to get a job, but beyond that I had no guidance.
My best friend and I managed to find an apartment together, but living with roommates was hard. Then I bounced around from couch to couch, hotel to hotel. Without that stability and access to basic resources, I turned to sex work to keep myself afloat.
I found a home when I met my drag mom, Coco Star. Coco took me in and encouraged me to think deeply about what I wanted for myself and make a plan to pursue it. With her support and stability, I was able to start making a way for myself.
I built a name for myself as a wardrobe stylist and choreographer in Atlanta, and when I moved back to New York City, I met Donna Hylton at A Little Piece of Light. She saw something in me, and true to her word, gave me an opportunity to work at A Little Piece of Light. She also opened the door for me to teach my Heel’d Couture dance class — which I’d launched two years prior — for clients of the organization.
Dance was a safe haven for me. When the world felt too heavy, dancing was a way to find joy and freedom. And now, I get to share that joy with others through my Heel’d Couture classes.
The women and gender non-conforming people who come to my classes see the dancefloor as a space where they are valued. I see the way that learning a routine brings them joy, builds their self-confidence and creates a path toward healing — the same way it did for me.
Most importantly, I see the way these classes are a moment of lightness in a world that has brought them so much darkness and hurt. It’s these small moments of community and connection that can carry someone through the hardest of times.