Few dancers can say they performed with The Black Eyed Peas in the 2011 Super Bowl halftime show. Even fewer can say they also performed with music juggernauts Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, and Coldplay five years later, in the world-stopping 2016 Super Bowl halftime performance. Saidah Nairobi considers it a blessing to have been able to perform at the Super Bowl twice in her career.
“It’s amazing,” said Nairobi. “The Super Bowl is the biggest event for American sports, in the biggest stadium. It’s over a hundred thousand people. It happens so quick. If you’re not present, you miss the whole thing.”
Nairobi is a world renowned, multi-talented dancer born in Queens, New York and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She is best known for her roles as lead background dancer to hip-hop and R&B sensations Beyoncé, Ciara, Usher and Ne-Yo.
On February 20, Nairobi and her husband, choreographer and dancer Marc “Marvelous,” welcomed their first child into the world. Her name is Imaani Rose.
“We are so smitten by the presence of our daughter, so honored to be her parents, and so thankful to God for this gift of new life. Look forward to sharing more from our new journey! Thank you all in advance for your prayers, love, and well wishes!”
I can’t believe a week has gone by already since the moment I got to see my angel face-to-face for the first time. And based on the easy and uncomplicated pregnancy I’d had carrying Imaani for 40 weeks, I was confident the flow would be the same during labor and delivery. But what I visualized to be the perfect scenario was not so. Throughout the entire chain of events that took place, if I never knew the power in surrendering, if I never understood how imperative my faith in God is, if I never realized the unparalleled depth of tenderness and love in my husband’s eyes, it all came to surface on February 20th because my baby coming into this world revealed to me the deepest spectrums of faith, surrender, and love. There is nothing I’ve experienced more horrifying than hearing the heart rate of my child dropping while in labor. No time I felt more helpless but completely surrendered to God than the moment I was wheeled into the OR for an emergency C-section. No moment in my life that ever brought me to tears like hearing the sound of my baby’s first cry. No moment of relief and joy stronger than holding my baby in my arms for the first time after her release from the NICU. My overwhelming gratitude to God and for my family can’t be reflected in words. I am just so blessed to be the wife of @itsallmarvelous and the mother of our sweet angel Imaani Rose Inniss. Happy 1-week baby girl 💕
“We were doing Love Drought which was one of my favorite songs on her album. I love the simplicity of it. It was so sweet. We weren’t doing anything full out and high-energy like how the tour was. It was just very simplistic and it was very unifying.Then she posted the picture of her with the twins.”
On July 14, 2017, Beyoncé announced to the world via Instagram that her twins Sir Carter and Rumi were born.
“That was the first time we knew!” said Nairobi. “That’s how we found out that she was pregnant. We didn’t know. It’s one of those things we’re contracted not to say anything. But with their team, with her being pregnant there was no like tea drop in the room, like ‘Hey ya’ll heads up, she’s pregnant,’ not nothing. So we found out when the whole world found out.”
But last year’s Grammys holds another significance for the singer, dancer and actress. The Queen herself gave Nairobi’s new dance memoir Leap of Faith: The Journey of a Dream her blessing.
“She [Beyoncé] told me that she was just really proud of me,” said Nairobi. “She was like ‘Sai, like congratulations, you wrote a book! That’s amazing’ and I really appreciated that she acknowledged.”
Leap of Faith: The Journey of a Dream is Nairobi’s first book. Published last year, the DeKalb School of the Arts alumnus wants her memoir to be informative for dancers and especially young girls. She wrote it for all ages and anybody with a dream who may be struggling to take that leap of faith in order to achieve their dreams. The book follows her life’s journey touring the world with the biggest celebrity entertainers. It talks about how she started, her first dance gig and being discovered by celebrity choreographer Jamaica Craft.
“Fans have only seen me as a dancer and on stage with these artists, “ said Nairobi. “And they love my energy and what I project from performing, and the fact that I am working with these great artists, but they don’t know about me. In this book, you get to know me. You get to know how I got to this point, what brought me, this girl from New York who grew up in Atlanta, onstage touring the world with Beyonce, Usher and Ciara and all these artists, which I think is important.”
The Formation Tour dancer is not only excited to continue inspiring the world with her new book, but this year she has goals to devote more time to her first love, music. Nairobi took classes in musical theater and show choir at the Atlanta performing arts school DeKalb School of the Arts in high school. Singing and acting are what Nairobi wants to work on the most this year. Music is also the thing she’s the most afraid to do because it’s so vulnerable.
“Becoming a mother and having to be still more than I’ve ever had to has allowed my creative energy to flow again. Because when I’m in that world as a dancer, I’m completely absorbed in it. I’ve been coming back to myself, and music’s been fun,” said Nairobi. “Acting too. I did a lot of auditions last year which was exciting. I really want to have a platform where I can do all three again like back in the day.”
“We Are,” Nairobi’s first single, released in January 2017. She co-directed and edited the music video for the song and oversaw the entire process from beginning to end. For Nairobi, the song was written and based on African American life speaking to the names and paying homage to Black pioneers like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Trayvon Martin just to name a few. Nairobi truly hopes the song touches somebody.
“Overall I would love for the song to be licensed to be apart of like a major musical or production that needs like an anthem type of song,” said Nairobi. “Because it has a big sound and could work for a music production.”
The former Bennett College student has landed roles on primetime shows like Empire, and now you can watch her in the highly anticipated YouTube Red series, Step Up: High Water. Nairobi stars in this new drama series alongside stars Faizon Love and Ne-Yo, as Electra.
“Step Up is like my real first recurring role that I’ve ever had,” said Nairobi. “I was dancing in Empire. I did do Crazy, Sexy, Cool: The TLC Story. I played a receptionist. I’m still a baby in that world.”
Nairobi is excited to see the finished product. The show is completely different from the franchise Step Up. The show is based in Atlanta, her hometown and she loved working with Ne-Yo, one of her favorite artists to work with, and being in a new, production atmosphere.
“He’s like family,” said Nairobi. “He’s that person. He keeps the atmosphere warm.
Nairobi met Ne-Yo through Jamaica Craft and has been working with him since 2012. She’s been working with Ciara since 2008 and Beyonce since February 2009. Nairobi is the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic.
“For me humility is everything,” said Nairobi. “I know where my gift came from. I know where my favors come from. My whole journey has been orchestrated by a higher power, and I believe that I’m just a conduit. My journey, I feel, has been an instrument to be an inspiration. It’s bigger than me.”
See the full interview with Saidah Nairobi here and check out Nairobi’s video blogs for more about her life, marriage, pregnancy and more.