Social media influencer MyKesha “Keeshlinooo” Smith, who stands only 3-foot-5, is used to hearing derogatory comments about her height.
After her recent performance at a concert in Los Angeles, someone commented on her Instagram, “We didn’t come to see a circus.”
Since her days cheering at Livingstone College, Smith, now 30, has become a viral sensation from making clips of cheer routines and hip-hop-inspired dances. She has over 500,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok.
Despite often receiving negative comments, she doesn’t plan to stop.
“My main key is to showcase my talents and what I can do as a little person,” the Clemson, S.C. native told QCity Metro. “Regardless of what others say, I have to prove and show people that I can still do just as well as you can and, believe it or not, probably better.”
Overcoming the odds
When Mykesha’s mother, Patrica, was pregnant, doctors advised her to abort the child, citing her quality of life after birth.
“They said she wouldn’t live because of this long name that I will not attempt to say, but it was a respiratory condition brought on by her dwarfism,” MyKesha’s mother, Patricia told HBCU Buzz in 2016.
Patricia continued the pregnancy and gave birth to her daughter on Oct.18, 1992.
Smith said her mother was always supportive and encouraged her to participate in new activities.
People — even some family members — would try to discourage her, but she used their doubt as motivation, she said. Smith said she tried out for the volleyball team in middle school to prove a point.
“I knew for a fact that I could not [play] no volleyball,” she said. “ But I wanted to prove to them that you can’t tell me I can’t go and try out for volleyball because I’m small.”
She didn’t make the team, but she was proud that she tried.
Smith said her true passion was in dance and cheerleading.
“I was dancing since I was three, so that’s all I knew. I didn’t know anything else,” she said. “ I only knew dance and cheer, and those were like the two loves of my life,”
Smith said she participated in dance, pageants and cheer competitions nationwide from a young child through middle school.
When her mom decided to move to Charlotte from South Carolina, she wanted Smith to continue dancing at Northwest School of the Arts. Smith said she had an audition scheduled for the school but purposely missed it.
“I didn’t wanna move, so I was gonna do whatever I had to do so that I [didn’t] have to leave,” she said. “My plan didn’t work out, and I still had to move.”
Smith ultimately moved to Charlotte with her mother and attended West Mecklenburg High School as a freshman.
She then attended the now-closed Crossroads Charter High School as a sophomore before transferring to West Charlotte High School for her junior and senior years.
Smith said she planned to enroll in community college after graduating high school in 2010, but her mom persuaded her to attend Livingstone College.
She joined the junior varsity cheerleading team and Student Government Association during her freshman year.
Smith said that although she was involved on campus, she “wasn’t adjusted” to the new environment and would go home every weekend.
Becoming a viral sensation
Smith eventually adjusted to being away from home and befriended some of her classmates, one of whom gave her the social media name she still uses today.
Her friend LJ, who went by the name Yeddi Lino, started a group for creatives called Lino Cartell, featuring students involved in campus activities and creative mediums.
“Everybody that was a part of the group, we would add ‘lino’ on the end of our name. Lino stands for Life Is Never Over,” she said. “Everybody called me Keesh, so we just added Lino at the end, and it was Keeshlino.”
Smith’s new name only enhanced the campus notoriety she would soon earn.
As a sophomore, she traveled with the cheerleading team to perform at the CIAA tournament, where she earned significant media attention.
Comedian Rickey Smiley later came to perform at Livingstone’s 2013 Homecoming. During his comedy set, he invited someone to come on stage to dance, and Smith proudly volunteered, she said.
“I was a dancer at the school, so everybody just knew I was gonna dance,” she said. “They put me up on that stage, and after the show, he was like, ‘I’m gonna get you on when you graduate.”
Smith graduated in Dec. 2015, but Smiley’s team never contacted her, she said.
Though she earned a bachelor’s degree in social work, she wasn’t ready to give up on a career in dancing.
“I knew that I didn’t wanna go right into [social work]. I was trying to figure out what exactly I was going to do,” she said.
In January 2016, she began posting videos of herself doing cheer routines, and started following the popular dancing trends of that time, including the Dougie, Hit the Folks, and the Stanky Leg, among others.
She also traveled and performed with her brother, a party and event promoter.
Smith said booking opportunities started to come as her social media platforms grew.
Since growing her online following, Smith has worked with many dancers and music artists. She has appeared in several music videos with artists like Miss Mulatto (now Latto) and Charlotte rapper DaBaby for his songs “Switch” in 2017 and “WIG” in 2022.
Her social media fame has led her to television appearances, such as being a main cast member on Lifetime’s TV show “Little Women of L.A.” season eight and appearances at the BET Hip Hop Awards 2021 and season 18 of MTV’s “Wild‘ N Out.”
On Sunday, March 5, Smith danced on stage with artist Shenseea at Rolling Loud Los Angeles, one of the largest hip-hop festivals in the world. The opportunity, she said, came at the last minute through her direct messages on Instagram the day before the performance.
“Hey, I work with this artist, and we need a dancer for Rolling Loud,” the message read. The person revealed who the artist was and asked if Smith was available.
Smith said she was initially hesitant, concerned about the opportunity’s legitimacy. She accepted the gig, and Shenseea’s management team booked her a flight from Charlotte at 10 pm.
After a connecting flight and layover in Dallas, TX, she arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday morning.
Smith said she expected to learn a choreographed routine but was told to freestyle dance during Shenseea’s performance on stage.
“I made it work and made the best of it,” she said.
Balancing work and personal life
Smith said she is cautious with opportunity she accepts to avoid being portrayed as a spectacle.
She has many supporters through social media but encounters a share of doubters that make negative comments about her height and performance abilities.
She said the comments used to bother her, but now she pays less attention to them.
“They typically say things that I’ve heard a million times before,” she said.
She currently lives in Charlotte and enjoys visiting local high schools and returning to her college alma mater.
Locally, she served as a dance coach for the Carolina Divas Majorette Dance Team and is currently an instructor at Fuzion Force Dance Academy.
Smith said she is known for her fun, goofy personality when dancing on social media but takes a serious approach when teaching her students.
“Dance is my pride, so when I’m here to do a job, I’m not gonna be that person you see on social media,” she said. “ My kids are so used to me as ‘Miss Keesh,’ the teacher. Some of them have no clue as to what I do on social media unless they see it.”
Next, Smith said she plans to pursue a career in acting. She said she is playing in her first film called “Danksgiving,” scheduled for release later this year.
Smith said she doesn’t plan to shy away from “short people roles”and wants to show the world she is proud of who she is.
“I’m comfortable with myself and you have to be comfortable with yourself in order to be comfortable around other people,” she said.