The morning after Nya Reed’s “Meet the Bruins” preseason performance, she slept in. The graduate-student transfer from the University of Florida had left everything she had on the floor in her debut for UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. Reed woke up to dozens of missed calls from her friends and family excited about her quickly-becoming-viral performance.
“My mom [and] my dad was going crazy. I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ because I’m thinking I missed practice or something, and my family was like, ‘No, your performance was doing numbers,'” Reed said.
Reed’s floor routine was choreographed by BJ Das and has now received over 3 million views — and counting — across multiple social platforms.
The performance was a tribute to her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, one of the National Pan-Hellenic Council’s nine Black Greek organizations.
Nya Reed has arrived 🤩 pic.twitter.com/6AuUogFYjm
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) December 16, 2023
The Bruins worked with sportswear company Sylvia P to design their leotards as part of “Operation Peacock,” where each member of the team is allowed to present their own themed routine and a custom leotard to coordinate with it. Her sorority holds a special place in her life and her collegiate career, and she wanted to ensure she could display that she was a proud member through the sport.
Reed, a spring 2022 initiate of the Lambda Psi chapter, became a member of the sorority through the inspiration of her mother, who sparked Reed’s vision of wanting to be a pioneer in the community through sisterhood and service. She found a way to display those traits through gymnastics.
“Delta was a huge turning point for me, especially when being a collegiate athlete. [And] I definitely wanted to incorporate that into my leotard,” Reed told ESPN.
Her vision was to have the Greek letters printed somewhere small on her leotard, but designers recognized what the moment and organization meant to Reed and insisted on going all out with the design.
The Greek letters sparkled in big font across the chest area with gold lining to embody Reed becoming a Bruin, with “UCLA” printed toward the bottom.
Reed, a six-time All-American at Florida, has scored a perfect 10.0 on floor twice in her career, and is expected to contribute big on vault this season as well. She wanted her UCLA debut to be astounding, after taking time away from the sport to focus on her mental health.
Her main goal now: Have fun.
Reed customized her floor routine to celebrate Black culture. Her mix starts with a snippet of 2 Chainz’ “Money Maker,” which samples a trombone fanfare from the Southern University “Human Jukebox” marching band. The mix also included Too Short’s “Blow the Whistle,” CeeLo Green’s “I’ll Be Around” and Cheryl Lynn’s “Got to be Real.”
Each song in Reed’s floor routine reflects something significant in her life.
Reed describes the opening of her routine as a tribute to historically Black colleges and universities — an area where she hopes to see gymnastics grow for those who share the same passion for the sport.
“The HBCU theme came because for me, I want to see more HBCUs have my sport, and I think it’s very important for African American people to feel as though they have a safe space everywhere,” Reed said.
After mounting with a difficult double layout tumbling pass, she embedded strolling moves from her sorority into her routine to the back-and-forth mix of “Blow the Whistle” and “I’ll Be Around.”
“For me, I saw it as blowing the whistle for some change. So, not having to confine [conform to] the rules of having to wear your hair a certain way [or] having to have your nails a certain way or a specific body type or having to look a certain way, and do gymnastics a certain way,” Reed said. “It’s for me to be like, ‘You’re blowing the whistle, be different.'”
Reed hails from Fort Washington, Maryland, and wanted to paint a picture of her home origins during her routine with a hint of go-go music — a genre signature native to the Washington D.C. area — allowing her to hit each beat accurately with poise.
She concluded her floor routine with “Got to be Real” — a landmark line-dance song of her sorority.
UCLA’s official season doesn’t start until Jan. 6, but Reed’s already viral floor routine has her pumped for her final season in collegiate gymnastics, and she plans to continue to use the sport to push Black excellence.
“I want people to be able to watch me, definitely little Black girls and other gymnasts and I want them to be like, ‘OK, I see her, I see what she stands for, I see the amount of work she puts into it, and I feel like I can do that and even more,'” she said.