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Jennifer Jones, first Black Radio City Rockette, on blazing a trail and inspiring the next generation

Jennifer Jones, the first Black Radio City Rockette, shares her story
Jennifer Jones, the first Black Radio City Rockette, shares her story 04:04

MONTCLAIR, N.J. - Performing at the Super Bowl is a thrill for most artists. For New Jersey native Jennifer Jones it was a dream come true, because she was dancing on the big stage in 1988 as the first Black Radio City Rockette.

"Being in the Super Bowl 22 halftime show was my first big job, ever, and I remember the whole stadium just loving the Rockettes, and I was one of them," Jones said. 

She wrote her first children's book, "On The Line," which inspires kids to follow their passions - something she knows a lot about. 

Jones in Montclair at a recent reading of her first children's book, "On the Line".

The book inspires kids to follow their passions… something she knows a lot about.

In her book, she describes how she fell in love with dancing on her first day of dance class, and asked her mother if girls of color can become dancers. 

"My parents, by knowing that I loved dance, took me to see Broadway shows, and showed me that girls like me can do anything that I dream of," Jones said. 

"For me, becoming a Rockette meant I would be a trailblazer, not only for me, but for other dancers who looked like me. Since the dance company started performing in 1925, there had never been a Black Rockette," Jones wrote in her book

"I think that when there's great change there can be resistance. There was resistance from people in the organization when I joined, there was resistance from some ladies on the line, and folks around the country. But there was a lot of love that I received from around the country. There were people in the organization who did want me there, and some ladies on the line who thought it was about time a woman of color, a Black woman, be able to dance on the line," Jones said. "And you would think that, in 1987, against the backdrop of New York City, everything would have been more progressive at the time, but there was still work to be done. When I look at the ladies today on the line, it's a different generation, I think it's more inclusive, I think it's more diverse and I think there's better representation.

"The first time I met Jennifer Jones, we talked about the tights and just trying to get tights her skin color, and how that was an issue at that time. And what I think is incredible is that from the moment I walked into this building as a Radio City Rockette, I had tights that matched my skin color, I had shoes that matched my skin color, even the mesh on costumes was a perfect match for me. It started with Jennifer Jones and just that one little seed that was planted you see the growth from it and you see dancers of all backgrounds," Rockette dance captain Danelle Morgan said. 

"Diversity is the fabric, is a strong fabric on which we stand on. To be able to show representation for children that sit in the audience and look at them in awe, and have a diverse and inclusive audience where everyone can feel that excitement and awe of what the Rockettes do," Jones said. 

"I'm just eternally grateful for Jennifer taking that first step and putting her foot in the door, and because of her I'm able to be a representative. I think it's just so important that we continue to honor someone like Jennifer Jones and, day after day, whenever I get the chance to perform, I know that I'm standing on her shoulders, and I know that I'm an extension of her every time I take the stage," Morgan said. 

"I opened doors for women who look like me to be able to dance on the landmark stage of Radio City Music Hall, and I just wanted kids to remember, embrace your individuality, believe in your own potential, and always dream big," Jones said. 

Jones is working on her memoir, "Becoming Spectacular," set for release at the end of the year.

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