Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty; Paras Griffin/Getty
Nearly one week after competing with her now-viral floor routine, the UCLA athlete appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, airing Thursday, where she discussed the inspiration behind her routine and her reaction to the former first lady's response.
On Jan. 23, Dennis set the floor on fire at UCLA's season-opener competition against Arizona State with her high-energy routine set to songs by Black musicians including Kendrick Lamar, Tupac Shakur, Beyoncé, Missy Elliott, Megan Thee Stallion, and Soulja Boy.
"This routine, I believe, is a reflection of everything that I am as a woman today," the UCLA senior told DeGeneres. "I picked a lot of really influential artists, Black artists that had a huge impact on the Black community."
For example, the 21-year-old said she used one of Lamar's tracks as he is "a huge activist in music."
"We're not allowed to use words and sounds in our floor routine so I figured if I wasn't gonna be able to say it, I wanted to do it in a different way and shine a light on gymnastics," she continued.
Following her routine — which helped clinch her school's victory at the match — Obama, 57, reposted the clip and praised Dennis for her unique performance.
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) January 26, 2021
"Now that's what I call fierce! You're a star, @DennisNia! ⭐️👏🏽," the Becoming author tweeted Tuesday.
Speaking to DeGeneres about Obama's reaction, Dennis said it was "so insane" that the former first lady shared the clip.
"Oh my gosh. Michelle Obama, first of all I love you, I was speechless," she admitted.
Dennis said she first found out that Obama had responded while at practice with her teammates.
"All my teammates came over to me and we were all cheering and so excited," she shared.
"Not only did she tweet me, she actually posted the entire video so that means she must have it in her camera roll or something and must watch it in her free time," Dennis added with a laugh.
The athlete also received compliments from both Elliott and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles for her moves, the latter of whom retweeted the video posted by UCLA with the caption, "Okay @DennisNia do the damn thing girl" and a fire emoji.
UCLA Gymnastics Twitter Nia Dennis
"Snappin," wrote Elliott, 49, in a reply to the video, adding her own flames emoji.
As for what's next for Dennis, the athlete told DeGeneres she hopes to get into "stunt doubling or dancing" after she graduates.