Growing up on 35th and King Drive, Andrea Kelly was destined to be a performer.
As a child, in full dance gear, complete with leg warmers, Kelly would get in the middle of the living room floor and class was in session. Her teacher was Debbie Allen and “Fame” was on the television.
“My mother would move the table out the way and I was ready. Baby, when I tell you I was ready for class, I was. Sometimes my mother couldn’t afford to send me to dance class so when “Fame” came on, it was class time. I worked it each time to the instruction of Debbie Allen and the show,” Kelly told the Defender.
The dancer-choreographer and now reality television star said she was born to dance.
A graduate of Beasley Academic Center and Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Kelly was involved in anything dance-related and cheerleading.
Afterwards she made a career out of her passion. She was a dancer-choreographer and stylist for entertainers on tour, including ex-husband R. Kelly, and later opened her own dance studio.
Now, the mother of three is in the national spotlight as a breakout star in the reality television show “Hollywood Exes” on VH1.
Kelly, who splits her time among Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles, said she’s passed over other reality show offers, namely “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” because it wasn’t the right fit for her. But, when she was approached about “Hollywood Exes” and did her homework about the show’s premise, “it felt right.”
“I get to tell my story from my point of view. You’re getting to know me for me,” she said.
Viewers get to see firsthand Kelly’s love for dance, her passion as a mother and her drive to expand her business.
Kelly closed her local dance studio and is looking to open one in California. Her and fellow castmate Mayte, also a dancer and close friend of Kelly’s, are exploring opening a dance studio together.
When she’s not dancing, Kelly is involved with her organization “Change for Change.”
“I understand that every child can’t afford to take dance lessons. I get it. I’ve been there. We allow a child to bring the change in their pocket as payment. I’m very passionate about what I do and giving back,” she said.
While dancing comes natural for Kelly, she’s jumping into another section of the arena: a clothing line for dancers.
“I didn’t want to be another celebrity with a clothing line. I wanted to stay in my lane and do what I know. My line, Anansa, is about being a dancer and performer. During auditions I would see grown women come in with bubble gum pink leotards or something else like leopard print. When you come to audition, I feel you should come looking the part and ready to perform. My line will provide them with the dancewear to achieve that,” she said.
She came up with the name while doing Dance Africa. She expects the line to debut next year.
When she’s not dancing or in the reality spotlight, Kelly spends time with her three children, ages 14, 12 and 10.
“Each has their special talents,” she said, adding they dance, sing, play piano, keyboards, guitar and drums.
Follow Andrea Kelly on Twitter: @DreaKelly