Jayna Ledford’s story is one of beauty, courage and bravery. At 18-years-old she decided it was time to be herself and transition to a ballerina.

Jay-bird 2012

Jayna started ballet at the age of 5. Her hard work paid off and she received a full scholarship at the Kirov Academy of Ballet, a preeminent ballet and classical music school in Washington D.C. In January 2018, at the age of 18, she posted a beautiful dance picture of herself to Instagram. The picture – and her story – received a lot of national attention. That’s because when she started dancing at the age of 5, she was the only boy at her dance studio. The scholarship she received at the Kirov Academy of Ballet was a full “male” scholarship.

Today, Jayna is a transgender ballerina who is living out her badassery life wearing leotards, tights and pointe shoes. After coming out at Kirov – and losing the dance scholarship – Jayna took a year off to train fully as a female and master her pointe technique. Today, she’s attending Montclair State University where she’s a dance and exercise science major, involved with her Filipino culture, and an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.

Jayna in 2018

Being one of very few transgender ballerinas is an important responsibility Jayna takes seriously. When her story caught national attention, she heard from famous ballerinas who reached out with support – and also the important message that this was Jayna’s platform now and to use it for good. She has done just that. She has given numerous media interviews, speaks on the topic of transgender, and serves as a mentor and friend to anyone who reaches out to her. “I tell anyone who contacts me that I hear them, and I support them no matter what. I don’t ever want anyone to feel alone for their choices and decisions.”

So, what advice and “lessons learned” does Jayna have for others?

  1. Everyone starts somewhere, so just start thinking, asking, and reaching out to learn more.
  2. Be yourself.
  3. Don’t be afraid.
  4. The world can be a scary and negative place, but don’t let that stop you from being who you are.
  5. Be comfortable with yourself and showcase that to other people.
  6. Be confident even when you’re not.
  7. Just know that I support you no matter what.

Jayna has dreams to dance Giselle, Juliet, Odette/Odile, and Aurora – the roles every little girl dreams of dancing when she grows up and becomes a ballerina. After talking with Jayna and hearing her determination and drive, I have no doubt that her dreams will come true.

Jayna 2018

From Jay to Jaybird to Jayna – all names her friends and family have called her growing up. I recall a time during her transition that someone posted a beautiful dance photo of her on Facebook with the message about it being her time to fly. That message still brings me chills when I think about it because I know she will fly high. Fly Jaybird, Fly! Dance Jayna, Dance!

Jayna 2020

When asked about her gift as a woman, she responded: “I believe I have the gift of strength, courage, and inspiration because of everything I went through and because I just being myself from the very beginning.” What a gift that truly is!

May we all learn something from Jayna and simply be ourselves.

Follow Jayna on Facebook and Instagram @JaynaLedford

One of my favorite stories: