"I want to show people that no matter what stereotypes or boxes you may not fit into, that you can do whatever you’re passionate about," Amanda LaCount tells PEOPLE

By Maria Pasquini
July 09, 2020 02:57 PM
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Amanda LaCount
Lee Gumbs

Amanda LaCount may be young, but the 19-year-old dancer and choreographer has already emerged as a powerful body positivity advocate.

In addition to everything LaCount has already achieved in her career thus far — which includes performing in Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty fashion show last year and being a contestant on this season of America’s Got Talent — the teenager is committed to using her platform to upend stereotypes about what a dancer looks like.

“My whole life growing up as a dancer, I’ve had so many people tell me I don’t have the right body type and I’m never going to make it,” LaCount tells PEOPLE.

“Sometimes it does get difficult. I’m not going to act like the hate never gets to me,” she adds. “But I am very confident and I know that I’m special, and unique, and beautiful, so when people try to tell me that I’m not and tear me down, I really try to remember that, 'no, you’re amazing.' ”

LaCount, who has over 282,000 followers on Instagram, is also the creator of the #BreakingtheStereotype movement.

“That’s what my goal with my career is to do. I want to show people that no matter what stereotypes or boxes you may not fit into, that you can do whatever you’re passionate about,” she says. “It’s your life, so do what makes you happy.”

Amanda LaCount, photo by Lee Gumbs

LaCount’s body positivity activism also played a big role in why she decided to audition for AGT.

“I did not go into it thinking I had any chance of winning,” she tells PEOPLE. “Even though I do have an amazing platform and I’ve already been able to reach so many people, I wanted to share my message with as many people as I could.”

“I want to help other people," she adds. "If I can make one little girl sitting on the floor watching a TV in a small town have hope that she can be something more than that, and make her see herself as beautiful, and powerful, and make her more confident, that was my goal. And I think I achieved it to some extent, which is amazing."

Although LaCount made it past the first round of auditions, not every judge thought she had what it takes, with Heidi Klum quickly hitting her buzzer, leading some on social media to question whether the model had body-shamed the young dancer.

“I don’t think I’m the best dancer in the world, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I deserved a buzzer for my performance,” LaCount says.

Noting that she has no idea what was going through Klum’s mind at the time and did not want to make accusatory statements, LaCount says that she did feel like Klum’s actions “came from a place of negativity and fat-shaming.”

“But I respect her, I think she’s done amazing things in her career and it’s her job at the end of the day,” LaCount adds. “It could have just been she thought I was a terrible dancer, who knows?”

Amanda LaCount
Jill LaCount

In addition to receiving support from Simon Cowell, which LaCount says “really meant a lot," the teenager has also been blown away by the feedback she's gotten from viewers.

“People always think of me as the person who’s inspiring, the great example, but I also look up to so many different people,” she says. “Any time I hear a story of ‘I took my first dance class because of you’ or ‘I wore my first two-piece swimsuit in public because of you,’ that changes my life and that inspires me to really keep doing what I’m doing."

Amanda LaCount
Jim Lafferty

As for the next round, LaCount promises that she's got something very exciting up her sleeve.

"Something that’s different about this performance is I choreographed it myself, which I’m very excited about because I rarely get to showcase my own choreography,” she says.

“I feel like the first round I was more focused on personality and I wanted them to see how much I love dance and what a great performer I was,” she adds. “So now this next round I really want to focus on impressing them with my actual dance capabilities and dance skills.”

LaCount also hopes that her next performance will impress the judges — including Klum.

“I definitely stepped it up with this performance and I think they’re gonna be very impressed,” she says. “Hopefully Heidi will change her mind and see that I am good enough for AGT.”

America's Got Talent airs Tuesdays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.