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She has shared a stage with international superstars like Lil Wayne, Pitbull, Jay Sean, and Akon.

But Courtnaé Paul says her success as a breakdancer, DJ and choreographer only came when she finally started leaning into who she is.

The 26-year-old entertainment practitioner says she always saw herself as different to most girls.

“In most cases I was asked to fit in more,” she says.

She grew up in the Northern suburbs of Durban and says she “stumbled” into dance aged 10 with her church dance team.

“It wasn’t something I took too seriously until I got cast for my first big production when I was 16. I was a lead in the show and got to choreograph a few pieces as well. I was terribly underpaid and realised this was something I could see myself doing for a long while. I applied myself and jumped at every opportunity I could.”

Courtnaé took a chance with her very first performance at a professional level and says she will never forget it.

“It was so confusing for me because I was still trying to make sense of how I was on a stage, being paid to do something I loved, but actually had no background or training in.”

Courtnaé found her life really started falling into place when she made Johannesburg her home.

“The move was a drastic change, but it felt so right. Even through all my struggles and not knowing where my next job would come from, I could feel that if there was ever a city in this country that could see my dreams materialise, it is here,” she recalls.

“Joburg is cut-throat and moves at an incredible pace. The entertainment industry can be a cruel one that not everyone can withstand.”

Dance and music go hand-in-hand for Courtnaé, and that eventually led her to making her own beats for her moves.

Today she runs her own company called CP Entertainment, which specialises in creative consulting, conceptualisation and choreographing events for both corporate and commercial companies.

She has worked with South African headliners such as AKA, Mafikizolo, and Cassper Nyovest to name a few.

Despite her climb to the top of the entertainment ladder, Courtnaé still finds that being a woman sometimes overshadows her professional success.

“I am still faced with ‘You’re great – for a female’. I often wonder how men became the bar. In most industries, men are often the gatekeepers and will keep you close until you become competition. I deal with it by not depending on a man to create or dictate my success,” she says.

“Guys find it hard to give props to a girl, especially when she’s a threat.”