Roxanne Day was initially skeptical when NBC invited her last fall to try out for Dancing With Myself, a new reality series featuring Shakira, Nick Jonas, and Liza Koshy. When she finally agreed to give it a shot, Day told the network’s representative: “It’s awesome that you’re doing a dancing show for people who wear prosthetics, to show what we’re capable of.”
Sorry for the misunderstanding, the NBC rep answered. This isn’t a show for people with disabilities. You’ll be the only amputee on the show.
That triggered Day’s apprehensions anew. Even though her dance videos have helped attract nearly 30,000 followers to her Instagram account at fleur_de_lis_amputee, Day still has anxieties about body image nearly three years after limb loss. Knowing she would be the only amputee on the show “brought back the whole grieving process, comparing yourself to others because you look different,” she says.
When she expressed her reservations to NBC’s talent scout, the woman reassured her in the strongest terms. “I’ve seen you dance on Instagram,” she reminded Day. “What disability do you really have?”
The episode aired last night at 10 pm Eastern/9 pm Central on NBC. If you missed it, the episode you can still stream the show on Peacock. We spoke with Day on Monday about her experience of limb loss and her improbable stint as a network entertainer. The conversation is edited for length and clarity. Visit Day on Instagram at @fleur_de_lis_amputee.
Dancing With Myself is a new show in its first season. How did you find out about it?
Last November I got a direct message on Instagram. It said, “Hi, I’m so and so with NBC casting. I’ve been watching your social media page for a while, and I just want to say I think you are phenomenal. I think it is so inspiring what you do in that leg. NBC is going to be starting this new dance show, and I think you would be perfect for it. If you’re interested, here’s my email.”
And I was like, “Yeah, right.” I thought it was fake, and it pissed me off. So I stewed on it for a few days and then I messaged her back and said, “I don’t know if you think this is funny, but you don’t mess with people with disabilities like this. You have no idea how hard it is for me to put myself out there.”
It took me a long time before I decided to start sharing my journey on social media, and the reason is because people aren’t nice to people with disabilities. It makes you very vulnerable to put yourself out there and open yourself up. When I got my first prosthesis and looked at myself in the mirror, I started crying. I’m like, “Oh my God, I am hideous. I’m ugly. Look at this thing attached to me.” I felt disfigured. I felt ashamed of myself, like I was not a woman anymore. It was just overwhelming, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It took a while before I finally started trusting the process and got more comfortable with the leg. That’s when I started posting the dancing videos on Instagram. I’ve been a dancer since I was a little girl. I went to dance school when I was three years old, and I took tap, jazz, and ballet. My mother used to have a dance studio.
Anyway, this woman from NBC messaged me back and said, “Oh my gosh, I should have sent credentials. Here are links.” I clicked on those, and then I Googled her and I found out she just presented an award at the Grammys, so then I knew it was for real. I sat on it for a couple more days before I mentioned it to my husband and my kids, because I was afraid they were gonna say, “You can’t do this. You can’t go on TV and dance.” And that would crush me, because I was excited at this point. Anyway, they were super supportive. I don’t even know why I was hesitant, because they’ve always been super supportive.
Did you have to audition after that, or did they just put you on the show based on your Instagram dance videos?
I had to learn four dances and record myself doing them. They got me working with a choreographer, and I made the videos and sent them back to NBC. At the time, I did not know Shakira was going to look at it. I did some Zoom meetings with them, and then I didn’t hear anything for a while, and then I finally got accepted to the show.
In January I went over to Orlando to have some new sockets made by Stan Patterson. Stan made Amy Purdy’s leg for Dancing With the Stars. He said, “Go to the mall and buy yourself some high heels, because I’m gonna make you a high heel leg.”
I guess I need to back up for a second. My residual limb is very short. It’s like four inches, and I have no fat pad at the bottom because all of my muscles were useless. I have a very pronounced tibia bone and a very pronounced fibula bone, plus I have a bone spur. I’ve only had a prosthetic for two years, but I’ve had probably 15 or 20 sockets because my leg has such a weird and unique shape.
Stan made me these custom silicone liners, with silicone for cushioning and protection, and I feel like I’m walking on a TempurPedic. But I still wasn’t sure I could do this show. I haven’t even had this leg two years. And Stan said: “Roxanne, you are doing this. I’ve told you this from day one, you are something special. Nothing stops you. So go do this, go represent yourself and everyone else like you, and be proud.”
When did you tape the show?
That was in March. They taped it in Atlanta—it was gonna be in LA, but they moved it to Atlanta because of COVID. They give you permission to post stuff saying “I have some big news coming up,” but I couldn’t say what the news was. It was the hardest secret I ever had to keep, because I have very loyal followers. and I try my hardest to engage with every single comment. But I had to stay silent. It wasn’t until two weeks before the first show aired that I could say what was up.
Emotionally, how did you respond when you finally did the taping?
It was a surreal, out-of-body experience. NBC was very accommodating. I don’t usually have a problem with sweating under my liner, but when we would stop in between filming each dance, I would take the leg off and let the liner dry out and air it for a little bit. Nick Jonas and Shakira came and spoke with me afterward. And when it was over I was just so freaking proud of myself that I did not let limb loss beat me. It was a very hard process to pull myself out of my struggles and regain my confidence and accept this leg as an extension of me.
Sometimes I’m hesitant to talk about my successes because you will hear from other amputees who compare themselves to you. Maybe they only have one prosthetic leg, but my insurance covered three legs, including my high-heel leg. You don’t want to rub it in anyone’s face. But if there’s one piece of advice I can give, it’s to never compare yourself to another amputee. I used to compare myself to other amputees that I would see on social media, and that can break you. Everyone is on their own journey, and it should never stop you because you can’t do what another person’s doing. For instance, with the snowboarders, it would crush me if I tried to hold myself to their standard. But I’m not them. And I have nothing but joy and happiness for them when I see what they can do, because that inspires me to work even harder. I don’t have to be like them, but it shows me that I’m capable of doing more than I think I can. You just have to get over the fear of failure.