“Why do you dash?”
It’s a question that many seasoned Dashers are asked, and their answers are always uniquely personal and inspiring. Sometimes, it’s the flexibility of working on their own schedule. Other times, it’s because their earnings let them focus on other passion projects and creative and entrepreneurial pursuits.
Justin P. is a Dasher who lives, drives, dreams, and creates in Los Angeles, California. His deliveries take him all over one of the country’s largest and most dynamic cities — and so do his projects as a dancer and choreographer, which have allowed him to work with some of the biggest names in the arts and entertainment industry.
Why dancing inspires me
I’ve been moving to music for as long as I can remember —from mastering the Crip Walk with my older brothers, to being fascinated by Tommy the Clown’s clowning and krumping. My mom saw my passion and energy and enrolled me in dance classes. But what really got me started was when the iconic Debbie Allen gave a lecture and dance demonstration at my school when I was in fourth grade. She asked the audience if anyone wanted to come up and freestyle, and I begged my teacher to let me go on stage. I finally got the chance to go up there, and I killed it, which led to a scholarship at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.
I was so fortunate that Debbie Allen saw something in me and took me under her wing. At the Academy, I also had a chance to train with David Scott, the famous choreographer who put B2K and Omarion on the map. They helped me stay on track — Debbie encouraged me to get good grades and do well in school so that I could keep my scholarship. And it didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to become a professional dancer and choreographer.
How I started dancing professionally
I’d done a lot of work teaching and choreographing at the Academy. But, my mentors and instructors weren’t sure I was ready to leave the nest. So I had to ask myself: “How am I going to know if I’m ready or not?” If I didn’t try to fly — if I didn’t find my own wings — I would never know what I was capable of.
I have a fire and a passion for creativity, but there are expenses and sacrifices that come with being a professional dancer. Auditions take time, and travel and training require money. One day, after coming back from New York with no new jobs lined up and no cash in my pockets, I discovered what a difference a few delivery gigs can make.
Dashing lets me pursue my passion
There was a time in my life when I tried to work a regular nine-to-five job — but the problem was, when I got an opportunity for a dance gig or was invited for an audition, I felt like I couldn’t turn it down. But I’m also an empathetic person who strongly believes in loyalty and honoring your commitments, and I hated bailing on work, even if it was to follow my dreams. So, finding a gig with flexibility made sense.
DoorDash gives me that flexibility. Delivery gigs have definitely helped me pay my bills and support myself financially while dancing professionally. Dashing also gave me time to further hone my craft and take classes. I remember one moment a couple of years back when I was low on money but desperately wanted to take a dance class, which I thought could help improve my chances of booking a backup dancer spot on an international tour for a multi-platinum singer. The class cost 40 dollars, and I dashed that day to make enough money to enroll.
To me, that perfectly encapsulates the type of freedom and flexibility that dashing offers for creatives, and I’ve recommended it to several of my friends. Ultimately, I didn’t get cast for the tour — but the universe has a way of working out. Instead, I was booked on the Canadian tour of one of drag’s legendary performers from RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2022.
What I like best about dashing
As a professional dancer and choreographer, I need to take classes to grow my skills and network, and I need to go to auditions and rehearsals. And like everyone else, I still need to keep the lights on and feed myself. Dashing provides me with funds to support my lifestyle and my craft. Here are my four favorite things about it.
1. I work when I need to
When I first started, I was surprised by how quickly DoorDash orders came in, and how many deliveries I could fulfill in a day. Of course, there will always be ebbs and flows — just like the entertainment industry. But overall, when I need a gig, I’ve been able to get one.
2. I have access to hands-on assistance from an actual team
I remember one time when I picked up an order in Beverly Hills, but the customer was all the way in the Eastside because her address in the app was incorrect. She called me directly to tell me she was canceling the order, and then the Dasher support team quickly followed up with me and refunded me for my time. I was grateful to have a group of actual people on the other line looking out for me and offering help.
3. I earn instantly with the DasherDirect* program
By setting up a DasherDirect account, I’m able to get my earnings deposited immediately with every dash. There are also opportunities for perks like cash-back rewards and savings (including cash back on gas), so it feels like I’m always getting these little bonuses even when I don’t expect them.
4. I meet some amazing people
Because of dashing, just like with dancing, I cross paths with incredible people. I’ll never forget this one day in Koreatown when I met a really sweet customer — she came down the stairs to get her order from me and complimented me on my jacket. After our short exchange, I realized she had given me a generous tip. It seems like such a small thing, but it meant so much to me because I was going through a really hard time in my personal life. That interaction turned my whole day around and made me feel great.
There are also amazing merchants. One time, I was picking up an order at a Hawaiian restaurant, and they were running behind. Of course, that cost me because I could have been doing other deliveries rather than waiting. But the gentleman behind the counter made me some food and gave me a drink while I was waiting, and I was really moved by the kindness of the gesture.
Advice for life: don’t be afraid to take a leap
My main advice to other Dashers is this: just keep going. Keep going after whatever it is you want out of life. Because persistence, determination, and tenacity will help you achieve your goals. Too many people let themselves get discouraged by life, or they give in to pressure from their peers or family and stop moving forward. But you need to follow your heart.
That’s my other piece of advice. Follow your heart because it will tell you what it needs to feel fulfilled. Just as your body lets you know when it’s sick or when you’re injured, your heart will tell you what you need to keep your dreams alive.
I’m ride or die for my craft, and it makes me so happy — it’s the most fulfilling thing for me. And while I still have a lot I want to accomplish, I’ve already achieved some pretty big milestones, including getting booked as a backup dancer in music videos for two of today’s most iconic pop stars.
Recently, I was hired as an associate choreographer for a new HBO Max show, and I ended up running all the choreography for the rehearsals. I had to teach the actors how to move, learn the script, and adapt my ideas to fit the scene. It was unlike anything I’d done before — and it was a reminder there’s always more to learn — but also that I’m capable of so much more than I realized. I was talking to my mentor on the way home after rehearsal, and she told me: “The people who don’t quit, who don’t stop — those are the ones that make it.”
And that’s why I dash.
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You can catch more of Justin P. on his linktree.
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