At 10 years old, Aidan Prince Xiong has a career that some professional dancers twice his age can only dream of: He’s shared the stage with Justin Bieber, Missy Elliott, and Flo Rida, and has appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" twice.
With his signature gelled mohawk and Adidas track suits, Xiong — known professionally as Aidan Prince or “BAH Boy” — has also cultivated a sizable social media following that now includes over 126,000 Instagram followers, 133,000 YouTube subscribers, and over 140,000 Facebook fans.
It was through social media that Xiong appeared on DeGeneres' radar in 2014, when a YouTube video of the then-eight-year-old Xiong dancing to Major Lazer’s “Jet Blue Jet” went viral (it currently has over 10 million views).
Xiong was backhand-springing and grooving on the show soon after.
“I was so nervous, but when I started dancing all my nerves started to go away. It was just a great experience, that I got to meet Ellen [DeGeneres],” Xiong told NBC News while at IDA Hollywood, one of the Los Angeles dance studios he practices at every week.
His mother Sheng Xiong — who used to perform and choreograph Hmong cultural dancing — first noticed Aidan's natural dexterity when he was a toddler. “At one-and-a-half years old, he was trying to do a headstand,” she told NBC News.
By age four, Aidan was taking hip-hop classes in the family’s hometown of Riverside, a city an hour and a half east of Los Angeles. He eventually joined a competition dance group, his participation in which inspired his nickname, “BAH Boy.” Sheng started calling him “BAH” — which stands for “beautiful, awesome, happy” — after his performances and says the acronym reflects her feelings when she watches him dance.
His ability to pick up complicated choreography allowed Xiong to start taking master classes at age 7, where he was often the youngest dancer in the room. An agent found him on Instagram and signed him by age 8.
“We’ve been blessed with so many great opportunities coming his way, but we’re still taking it slow because he’s so young. We want him to really love the journey and not be pressured or hate it,” Sheng said.
It’s a journey that has come with some hefty sacrifices for Sheng and her husband Prince Xiong, both of whom are of Hmong descent and immigrated to the United States from Laos as children. Aidan’s grueling five-days-a-week dance schedule requires Prince to commute from their home in Riverside to L.A. Xiong, who starts fifth grade this fall, also participates in singing and acting lessons, gymnastics, and auditions throughout the week.
To accommodate Xiong’s busy schedule, Prince quit his job in engineering a year ago; Sheng still works full-time. The sacrifices, Xiong’s parents say, are worth it.
“When we were growing up, the support wasn’t there. To give him the full support and to see him go this far is just amazing. I think it’s all worth it in the end,” Prince told NBC News.
And Xiong hopes it pays off one day, too.
“My dream job is to be a triple threat: a dancer, singer, and an actor,” he said. He has aspirations of starring in his own Nickelodeon or Disney show and performing with artists like Jason Derulo, Justin Timberlake, and Usher.
He also wants to stay connected to Hmong culture: Xiong says he wants to learn how to speak Hmong and counts sticky rice among his favorite Laotian dishes.
Sheng, a former wardrobe stylist, is acutely aware of the heartbreak Hollywood performers routinely face, especially Asian-American ones, but hopes that Xiong can set himself apart through his talent. She holds up Lucy Liu as an example: after auditioning for a role that eventually went to Australian actress Portia de Rossi, Liu won the role of Ling Woo, a part Ally McBeal writers wrote specifically for the Chinese-American actress.
“My goal go for him is, 'You go in as yourself, and you change their mind.' They may want a white kid, but you go in there and you blow them away, they may write you a part,” Sheng said. “He has proven to so many people — little kids, adults — that age really is just a number when it comes to following your dreams and being passionate about what you do.”
Xiong agrees. “It makes me feel great that I’m inspiring all these little kids [to dance],” he said, grinning. “One kid even got a mohawk.”