Evangeline Jerkins talks about connecting with fans and what she learned back home
In late 2018, R&B boy band B2K announced its long-overdue reunion, exciting a multitude of fans that came of age in the early 2000s. While the members prepared to launch their three-month tour in March, dancer Evangeline Jerkins was sitting at home, dejected. She had just been cut during a callback for another major tour.
“I'm eating my little sad ice cream and watching Netflix,” recalled Jerkins, who moved to Los Angeles from Columbus in early 2018. But then she received a call for another tour. “They're like, ‘How quickly can you be in all black, and how quickly can you get to CenterStaging [studio]?’”
Jerkins quickly canceled her order for more comfort food, hopped in an Uber ride — and realized she hadn’t asked the name of the touring artist.
“The first person I saw when I walked in was [B2K member] Raz-B,” she said. “So then I figured out it was the Millennium Tour.”
Growing up in Columbus, the now 23-year-old Jerkins was too young to be a superfan of the group in real time, but she did remember watching them in the 2004 dance movie “You Got Served.”
“That was the first movie I had seen with hip-hop dance and all black casts being in the forefront,” she said. “That was my first inspiration to ever do hip-hop.”
Jerkins began her training with BalletMet at 6 years old before moving on to Afro-Caribbean and contemporary styles.
“My goal wasn't necessarily to be a ballerina,” she said. “And they didn't think that I was going to dance at all because the arches in my feet aren't very strong.”
Jerkins exceeded expectations and enrolled as a dance major at Ohio State. With a goal to apply concert dance training in the commercial world, she applied for the Debbie Reynolds Scholarship program in Los Angeles. A slew of lucky breaks followed, including a job assisting on a show for R&B singer Ginuwine, and dancing for rapper Offset under the direction of choreographer Joe Brown, who worked on Beyonce’s Coachella performance.
“I love connecting with the fans,” Jerkins said. “That's why I even chose to do commercial dance instead of contemporary because I felt like you can connect with people more.”
Jerkins is getting plenty experience with those fan interactions on the Millennium Tour, which wraps at the end of May.
“[I’ll] catch them either learning the choreography or even just smiling,” she said. “Or I'll point to them and tell them that I see them, and they really seem to love that.”
However, there have been a couple run-ins with intense fans determined to be noticed by their favorite B2K heartthrobs.
“They were like, ‘Do not get near my man,’” Jerkins said, laughing. "'This is my shot.’ … But in most cities they're actually really great.”
Though Jerkins has had good fortune in the City of Angels so far, she is prepared for the mercurial nature of the entertainment industry.
“I definitely would say it's a good time for women of color right now,” she said. “It hasn't always been the case. … Sometimes it's like we're in and everyone wants to hire us, and then sometimes it's like no one's hiring us.”
Jerkins advises women to stay true to themselves, take pride in their looks and be encouraging.
“One thing I’ve really been taught in Columbus, which I think is a little bit different in L.A., is that it’s really OK to support each other,” she said. “Even though it might seem like the girl next to you is your competition, if she gets a job, you win. … We all win when one of us gets a job. So continue to support each other, continue to train and continue to stick with who you are.”