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Why Princess Lang wanted to bring an all-Black majorette team to USC

Lang talks about the history-making moment that went viral began a debate over HBCU culture at predominantly white universities

Black majorettes and Black band culture have reentered the mainstream — thanks to a renewed interest in historically Black colleges and universities, helped, in part, by Beyoncé’s Homecoming and coach Deion Sanders’ Jackson State University tenure. But Black majorette groups — which first made their debut at HBCUs in the 1960s and combine “the energy of the high-step marching style of Black college bands with lyrical, West African, jazz, contemporary, and hip-hop choreography” — don’t exactly come to mind when you think of the University of Southern California. But Princess Lang is working to change things.

“Majorette is one of the few soulful dance forms that brings everybody together,” Lang told Andscape. The 20-year-old participated in dance teams growing up and was excited to attend USC to continue her studies. “Using your whole body and being able to get other people excited really makes a difference.”

Lang is a junior and a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority (where she’s the step and stroll master of her line). She’s also the founder of The Cardinal Divas of SC, which became an official student organization in March. When Lang posted a video announcing that she’d started the first majorette team at USC, it quickly went viral.

Messages of support flowed in from all corners of social media — from HBCU grads to others such as P-Valley star Brandee Evans, Lang’s soror. Some kids majorette teams also contacted Lang with requests to collaborate during future USC games. The attention has been overwhelming.

“This week alone has been so emotional for me,” Lang told Andscape. “I have not cried this much in so long. It’s crazy.” 

Lang, who studied majorette dancing in middle and high school in her hometown of Chicago, first conceived the idea to start a majorette team at USC in 2020. But her freshman year was completely derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, her team is filled with 10 diverse Black women from every interest under the sun.

While the Cardinal Divas have received a ton of positive press, there were those who protested the team’s creation, claiming HBCU culture should stay on HBCU campuses, and that Lang should have attended an HBCU if she wanted to be a majorette. USC has a history of all-Black dance teams, dating back at least 20 years with the creation of the Fly Girls, a hip-hop alternative to USC’s storied Song Girls. Also among the critics were the – so far unfounded — fears that white students would overwhelm the majorette team at a predominantly white institution (PWI) and supplant Black dancers. But Lang remains undeterred by the social media criticism — which is outnumbered by the support she’s received.

“I hope that this empowers other Black girls to create these spaces,” she said. “It’s imperative. We deserve to be recognized and appreciated on all platforms.”

Recently, Andscape caught up with Lang to talk about her dance experience, what it was like starting a majorette team in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic at a PWI, and how she plans to make the most of her time at college, even though she’s lost a year to the pandemic.

“To those who want to have different opinions and beliefs, you deserve that, but I am not allowing anyone to take away my joy and pride. I’m here to continue building and uplifting Black community,” Lang said.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How long had you been planning on starting the majorette team?

I’d been talking about it since I started going to USC. My freshman year in 2020, we were all online and at home because of COVID-19. When we finally got on campus my sophomore year, that’s when it all got physically done, and we became an official student organization in March of 2022.

How did COVID affect you planning the majorette team? 

I had to hold off on everything because I wasn’t in person. I didn’t know who I could contact and I didn’t know how to even apply to become an organization yet. Everything was closed off. Like, you couldn’t get on campus. You could email professors, but you couldn’t do any other activities. Everything was done for, unless it was school work. Being literally across the country in Chicago, it was like, ‘What can little old me do?’ And I hadn’t even stepped on campus yet, so I don’t even know how they work over there yet. So I had to wait a whole year. I had to wait until I could even try to talk to people about it.

Were you a majorette in high school? 

I went to high school at Chicago Academy for the Arts. They did not have majorettes, but I joined a dance studio called the Diamond Dance Company in Chicago. I got training in majorette, but also in jazz and modern techniques, such as the Horton technique. It brought me so much joy and fulfillment.

My majorette teacher in high school was Jasper Reed, he still owns the dance studio. He also has a high school team for Proviso West High School. With him, you got to learn so much more or you got to learn it in a different way. He makes sure that you know you’re family as soon as you walk through the door. He’s not comparing you to another girl. He’s gonna push you to your limits. He’s gonna make sure that he believes in you, and you believe in yourself. It was a great way to build up confidence to be a dancer and also build up confidence around each other and camaraderie with each other. I learned how to really get in my bag with certain styles of dance and gain confidence while dancing and learn how to be serious and learn how to move certain ways.

What was growing up in Chicago like?

Growing up in Chicago was a great experience because there’s so much Black history there. I was always surrounded by Black people, Black classmates, Black teachers. It wasn’t just a great experience for me as a young Black girl, but also as a Black girl that wants to be an entertainer and an artist. I got the chance to do off-Broadway shows and professional work starting my sixth grade year, and got to do professional shows every year after that.

And you’re a Delta, right? 

I’m a part of Delta Sigma Theta Inc. I come from a D-9 family. My mom is a Delta – she went to Western Illinois University — so I’m a legacy. And my dad, he’s a man of Omega Psi Phi, and he went to the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. My parents ended up meeting each other through a friend at a club or a party or something like that, after college. They knew each other for less than a year. And then my dad proposed.

But the Divine 9 was just always around me. And now I’m able to finally immerse myself into it, because of how inspiring my parents have been. It was just like a whole other world that opened up to me. Being part of Delta Sigma Theta was just another way for me to continue to make change and continue to be a part of my Black culture and my community and just trying to continue to uplift people. It was always meant for me to stay involved in my culture. 

You started the majorette team, what’s left on the list? Or what are some other things on the list that you’ve already done? 

I told myself that I was going to be more open-minded to trying new things. I’m a very picky eater, for example. I said that I was gonna get back into athletics. I started working with them and I even found out I like the other side of athletics, not just being in athletics, doing their social media content and, like, working in the equipment room and meeting new people, learning so many different things.

I really enjoy doing that. I still work there to this day. Love it there. I love the people that I work with. They’re also supportive. It’s just such great energy. 

I also said that I was going to try to be more vulnerable. I’m not a very emotional person. I also said that I was gonna try to fall in love and get a boyfriend. That’s still in the works. But I never did that in high school. I was always just a busy girl. I grew up really fast because I was traveling so much as a gymnast and as a dancer doing competitions and then I started doing professional plays. I just grew up really fast and I never thought about relationships or any of that. I don’t even know how to ride a bike.

Why’d you choose USC? 

I didn’t really apply to that many schools. I applied to like 13 schools because I already knew what I was gonna do, entertainment. I was like, ‘I don’t know, mama. I don’t know, daddy.’ But you know parents, they’re gonna make you go to school. The only thing that I would ever want to go to college for is the arts, musical theater. I can sing, dance, and act at the same time. With a lot of the programs, there was always more emphasis on one more than the others. USC was really the only school that emphasized all three — singing, dancing, and acting. It was like a conservatory style major, meaning you automatically start into your program. But you’re still surrounded by students that are involved in so many different majors.

Nylah Burton is a travel, lifestyle, and entertainment writer with bylines in New York Magazine, Vogue, and Travel + Leisure.