January 11, 2017 07:59 AM

You would think dancing in two Beyoncé videos would be enough of a resumé boost for a dancer to land an agent. But Akira Armstrong kept getting rejected because of her size.

“I was already a professional dancer, and that’s when I flew to Los Angeles. I kind of got like the side-eye, like, ‘Who is this girl?’ Like, she doesn’t really belong,” Armstrong says in a video for The Scene. “People behind the desk were like, ‘What do we do with her?’ “

“People look at you and already judge you based on your size, [thinking] she’s not going to be able to do the job, without even giving you a chance to really prove yourself. I felt discouraged.”

But it wasn’t unfamiliar territory for Armstrong — she’s dealt with body shaming her entire life.

“Growing up in a dance environment, I did feel like my body was a negative,” she said. “I couldn’t fit [into] costumes, and my costume was always different from everyone else’s.”

“Family members used to make fun of me,” she says, tearing up. “It was frustrating.”

When she got back home to New York City, Armstrong decided that if no one else would help her, she would have to do it herself, and started the Pretty Big Movement dance company for curvy women.

“After going on auditions and being told no, I wanted to create a platform for other plus-sized women to feel comfortable,” she says.

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She hopes her group’s performances help other women who have doubted their bodies.

“When they see us perform, I want them to feel inspired. I want them to be blown away. I want the little girl who’s watching to be like, ‘Look mom, I can do that too. Look at those big girls up there with afros on,’ ” Armstrong says.

“It’s about uplifting and empowering women to feel like they can do anything, not just dance.”

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