Jeny Bonsenge Is Not Just An Ordinary Women; She is Fierce, Bold, And Breaks All The Social Norms That Were Previously Considered To Be Okay, Check it Out!
Bold is just a word before you take a look at our Cover Star for L’Officiel December, Jeny Bonseng. When asked about what kind of legacy she wants to build, she said I love that people can identify with me in different ways, even as a woman; as an African woman, as a Black woman, as a dancer and more. Jeny Bonseng represents the voice of the troubled and she herself has been the victim of hatred and violence. Check out her enlightening views about various aspects of the society and know about her and what she does!
Who is Jeny Bonsenge?
I was born and raised in Brussels, Belgium. My parents are originally from Congo. I started my professional career as a dancer at the age of 12 in Belgium. Around 6 years old, I was inspired by artists such as Ciara and Missy Elliot. These two very talented Black women have motivated me to keep chasing my dreams. Dance movies such as Step Up and You Got Served also inspired me tremendously. In Europe, I grew up closely in my African culture and Hip Hop was a major influence in my upbringing. Back in the day, the Afro Beats culture was not as popular as it is now but I wanted to find a way to honour my African roots. Everywhere I went, people always recognized that I had an extra touch while dancing to Hip Hop. They were able to identify my African heritage through my dance. In 2018, I observed Afro Dance gaining more popularity. I started receiving a lot of attention internationally for my Afro Dance style. People wanted me to teach more African dances which was a crazy experience for me! In 2019, I created my dance school, AfroHouse Belgium, and I had the chance to have students from different backgrounds attend. It was cool to see them enjoying African dance and culture. While teaching the children, I met Anae. She is a very special child who was also born and raised in Belgium like me. I helped her discover African dances and cultures. We decided to create videos together to celebrate dance through love, understanding, and compassion. As her mentor, I have seen the progress she has made and I am very proud of her. The Ellen Degeneres show reached out to us and asked us to appear on the show in Los Angeles. This experience was one of the best days of my life. This opportunity greatly impacted my dance career and has opened so many doors for me which I am forever grateful for. Before appearing on Ellens show, I was an English and Dutch school teacher. That opportunity has really helped me to become a full-time professional dancer and now, I have made dancing my career. My former school teacher position has expanded my knowledge to learn different languages and cultures which has made me wiser. Every day as a coach and influencer, I do my best to always stay positive. I really want to empower others, especially kids and young people who look up to me.
What drives you?
In life, I am driven by positivity and happiness. I know it seems cliche but, every day when I wake up in the morning, I strive to be a happy person. As a child, I remember telling my mom that my goal in life was to be happy working a job that I love. Today, I am so grateful to be able to do exactly what I always wanted to do. Happiness makes you limitless! Some of the things that I love the most are dancing, meeting new people, travelling the world, being with my family, listening to music, watching movies, being with my community, visiting Africa, indulging in my culture, as well as discovering other cultures. I am a very spiritual person and being close to God means a lot to me. Especially, listening to and singing the gospel in church keeps me grounded and feeling complete.
This edition of LOFFICIEL is focused on the legacy. What does the word legacy mean to you? What kind of legacy would you like to build?
Legacy is something that you will leave when you will no longer be a part of this world. Legacy is what you build while alive and what you leave behind. I want to be part of the people who will build a legacy that will be worthwhile and positively impact the next generations after me. I want to encourage people to do better and avoid making the same mistakes I made. I am happy that people can relate to me in so many ways; as a woman, as an African woman, as a Black woman, as a dancer, and beyond. I want my life to be a source of inspiration for others to keep chasing their dreams.
I realized that Instagram was a way for me to show and share good messages of love, for example; messages to combat racism, of acceptance. I used this platform to address racism. I focus only on the positive things on Instagram.
Over the years, the world has witnessed your evolution, your incredibly inspiring growth from supporting young dancers, to being on Ellen and now gracing some of the world’s biggest stages. How did this happen? How did you make it happen?
I really started from the bottom. My parents didn’t want me to be a dancer. My parents immigrating from Congo DRC to Belgium was very hard. They wanted me and my siblings to embrace traditional careers, with “respectable” jobs like becoming a doctor or lawyer. Dance was never an option for them. Can you imagine what it was like to tell my mother that I wanted to be a dancer? She opposed it because she didn’t see me succeeding in it. I was the one girl who told my mom that I will make it regardless. I made it my mission to succeed and prove to her that it was possible. I wanted to show my mom but also the whole world that dance is a sport, an art form, and also something respectable. Even when people made fun of me, I kept my head up. Regardless of how many times people tried to discourage me, I never got distracted or discouraged by their words. I listen to good advice but I also know how to protect my energy and never take anything too personal. That’s my way to stay focused. In this world, being a black woman is still difficult. It can be very challenging to always have to work twice as hard as everybody else.
What is the recipe for success?
The key to my success is discipline, staying true to myself, being grounded, natural, and never taking anything for granted. While facing difficulties, I never ever gave up. I do my best to stay positive and come back with solutions and new energy. I work hard and never stop learning. Giving back to my community is also very important to me so I decided to create my foundation, Kabela. My goal is to support kids in my country of Congo DRC. My advice to the youth is “Never forget where you come from and the challenges you have faced. Be humble and protect your energy.” In a world in which social media are taking over, how have you used social media to your advantage? Even though I have been cyberbullied and harassed at times, I still use social media mainly to promote my work and share positive messages such as bringing awareness around racism, discrimination, and domestic violence. When you gain popularity sometimes, people forget that we are all humans with emotions and different levels of sensitivity. I personally think that social media can be dangerous by focusing only on materialistic things and not really showing the ups and downs we all have in life. I wouldn’t recommend social media for younger kids because I believe you need a certain level of maturity to be on these platforms. Children need to enjoy their childhood and I am not so sure that it can be done on social media.
How do you protect yourself from negativity on social media?
I take breaks from social media. Most of the time, I’ll take a week off. It helps me to stay mentally healthy and come back fresh with new ideas.
I love that people can identify with me in different ways, even as a woman; as an African woman, as a dancer and more.
Your dance just like your style is flawless! Can we expect a clothing line or collaboration between you and a fashion brand soon?
I am a dancer first, so whatever I do I love to be comfortable in my outfits. It’s very simple, lol! If I can’t dance with it, I won’t wear it. Even though I love sportswear, I can also be more classy and wear clothes like jumpsuits, skirts, and colourful dresses. I am definitely interested in doing more fashion collaborations. I have so many ideas. In my work, I really want to support women to be comfortable and accept themselves. So, why not use fashion as a statement just as I do with some of my hairstyles.
Self-care, when you travel the world, is extremely important. Can you speak to us about your self-care routine?
I do travel a lot. I had to learn how to take care of my body, mind, and spirit. My job requires the use of my body every day. While travelling, I make sure to exercise, get some good sleep, and have a nice daily & nightly skincare routine. When I go to the gym, I do a lot of cardio because it helps with endurance and increases my capacity to dance faster and avoid injury. I love massages and meditation. I am a very spiritual person, so praying is important for me to stay connected to God. It makes me feel complete. I take care of my natural hair. I am very careful with who’s touching my hair. I don’t use a lot of products. I like my hair to breathe. For my skin, I am so grateful that I have good skin. I always remove makeup properly. I use natural oils and shea butter. I don’t really do much. The less you touch your skin, the better it is. Find what works for you. If you find a good routine, maintain it!
A lot of young women look up to you. They are inspired and influenced by you. What does women empowerment mean to you?
To me, empowerment means sharing knowledge. I like to see women supporting other women and growing together. I truly believe there is room for all of us to be successful. At 30, I would like to write a book about my experiences, sharing some of the highs and lows. I am a fan of documentaries so, I would eventually work on a film. That will also be a part of my legacy. I believe that my life is a testimony that could help other women. It’s important to support one another. Some young women are in very toxic relationships, whether it is friendships that never served them or love. Often they cling on to situations, opportunities, and people that God never intended to keep in their lives, not always understanding that any time spent on something that is not for you or left is too much time and that your destiny is never connected to anything that left you.
I travel a lot. I had to learn to take care of my body, my face, my hair and my spirit while I am traveling. I have to take care of my body because my body is my work tool.
What advice would you give to these young women and girls?
Trust me, I know a lot about toxic relationships. I am a survivor of domestic violence. Today, I feel a bit more comfortable talking about my experience. I am finally free and strong enough to speak about it. I come from a big family of 8. I grew up watching my mom. I am from Congo and in our culture marriage is very important. I did not receive a lot of advice from my mother about relationships so it was a bit difficult for me. If I have a daughter, I will make sure to talk to her about relationships even at a young age. I never had this opportunity with my mom. As Africans, it can be hard to speak about that with your parents. I did have a hard time understanding what exactly is a toxic relationship. I thought what was happening to me was normal, and that’s how a man is supposed to treat a woman. Unfortunately, the man I was with made me believe that his behaviour was normal. I didn’t understand he was manipulating me. It was my first relationship. I had no prior experience. I got engaged and I could never imagine that it could go wrong. With my career taking another level, I had more opportunities to educate myself, be more exposed to other types of relationships, and have a better understanding of what was happening to me. When I started coaching other young women, the responsibility to get out of such a toxic relationship became urgent. I could not advise other women while staying in a toxic relationship. I could not be a hypocrite. I could not ask other women to be courageous and lack the courage to leave my bad situation. It was extremely difficult. I can now stand up for myself. I am out of that relationship and I feel good. I do not feel ashamed or feel bad. I don’t know what my future will look like but I am really happy with the woman I am becoming. I feel comfortable and free. Freedom is important. I want to encourage people to say NO and to say STOP. Do not hide and don’t be scared! Find your happiness. Your happiness is your responsibility. I am on the path of rebuilding and reaffirming myself. I am grateful for that experience because I am becoming a better, stronger, and more assertive version of myself. Don’t allow toxic relationships to define you. Know where you come from to know better where you are going! Do not be ashamed of your bad experiences and failures. Don’t hide nor stay in dangerous or unhappy spaces. My story is my legacy. I will one day take the time to write a book and share it with the world. I am a Black woman and I want to inspire other women. I will do anything I can to help create a better life for women in my community.
What is your hope for the future?
A world where women are not afraid to speak up for themselves. A world where every human being understands that there is room for everyone to win! Also, I am very proud to become the first Black African woman on the cover of this magazine. I want Black women to believe that it’s POSSIBLE to be on the cover of a worldwide, renowned magazine such as LOFFICIEL.
I take care of my Afro hair. I am very careful with my hair. I don’t let just anyone touch my hair. I let my natural hair breathe.