Vanity Markee is a trailblazer in the Philadelphia dance community, starting the city’s first heels company, Bad Girls in Heels. Offering technique and terminology to dancers in a heel with the intention of promoting women’s empowerment is a cornerstone of Vanity’s brand. Between collaborations with notable brands such as FashionNova and artists like Tanya Nolan, Vanity’s story is only just beginning.
K: Please introduce yourself.
V: I’m Vanity Markee and I’ve lived in Philly all my life. I have the first heels company which is Bad Girls in Heels. I started my heels journey at my alma mater Lincoln University. That’s when I was the director of the fashion club and it got me into heels. I later transitioned into heels training, teaching and choreographing in 2013 once I graduated. I’ve performed and worked with Chris Grant, Brandy, and the Millenium Tour, as well as opened up for Pharrell Williams at the Something in the Water Festival. I love women empowerment and it’s a huge part of the Bad Girls in Heels brand.
K: How did BGIH start?
V: It started as just a pop up class. I was teaching heels in Philly as just something I love to do and to share with the community. 3 or 4 years later after offering classes weekly or monthly, I wanted to provide deeper heels training for philly natives and visitors alike. I started to build workshops and intensives through the BGIH brand. Now we have members who train with us consistently every week.
K: What was it like building a new lane that hasn’t been seen before in Philly?
V: When you’re starting something new, it takes a while for others to get involved or wanting to come out. It was hard having sometimes 1 person in class, to no one coming to class, to building to 3 or 4. It was a rewarding challenge to start my company and I became a leader in Philly when it came to heels.
K: What inspired the name for BGIH? What is a bad girl?
V: *laughs* The funny thing is when I first thought of the name BGIH I felt there were a lot of shows with the name bad girl with awful representation of women. I wanted to redefine the name in that way. I thought back to when my mom, dad, uncle, or grandma would say that’s a bad outfit or that’s a bad woman. Bad actually meant something good. Not a nasty attitude or acting crazy on tv. It actually starts inside of you outside of the physical. Of course you’re beautiful, you’re talented, but you’re also intelligent. You’re true to yourself, you don’t need acknowledgement from others because you have that within yourself. It’s self love, it’s how you carry yourself whether in or out of a heel. Whether training inside a dance studio or walking down the street. I really wanted to flip the meaning of what is considered bad with what is typically seen as good as the inspiration for the company name.
K: What does the company look like for you today?
V: Developing our members’ technique and artistry by providing consistent training and various branding opportunities. Coming into a space and being a leader, I want to make sure I am training and growing within myself so that I can provide great training to the people apart of my company. It’s been motivating, challenging, and rewarding at the same time.
K: How do you see your personal brand as similar or different from the BGIH brand?
V: They are intersected in a way but when it comes to BGIH, that’s a dance and entertainment service I provide to others as it’s about them and their experience. But I have other things in my personal brand like fashion or beauty. Those are things that I explore within the company with our projects but for myself, I definitely want to dive into it more. For myself and BGIH they are intertwined but there’s also another side to Vanity Markee. If I were to say BGIH is the only thing about Van would be to limit myself. Vanity Markee is what I do for myself, BGIH is what I give to others and to connect to my community.
K: What are some of the behind the scenes things we may not know about running BGIH?
V: When it comes to the business side with performances and preparing the day of a show, it’s very intense. You want your presentation to look good. You show up to the venue and maybe you’re missing a dancer, the lighting is wrong, or your music isn’t playing. There’s so many things that can happen. You don’t see those moments where you have to let it out in private then pull it together and get back to work. Because things happen! Sometimes things happen at the last minute with updated choreography changes or transitions. If you’re not quick on your feet, or quick in your mind with your thoughts, then you can really take a fall.
K: What is the mission of BGIH?
V: Bad Girls In Heels mission is to build character, confident and courageous women, in and out of the studio, while maintaining an uplifting and supportive community. To be intelligent, confident, humble, talented, true to yourself from knowing who you are is what it means to be a Bad Girl In Heels.