Allison Holker can still remember the moment she realized all those chats about staying true to yourself had gotten through to 12-year-old daughter Weslie Fowler.
Picking up the then-second grader from school, the So You Think You Can Dance alum noticed an uncharacteristic somberness, perhaps the slightest welling of the eyes. "There was a little bit of tears, but she was staying strong," Allison recalled when she Weslie joined E! News for an exclusive Zoom chat.
The issue, she detailed, was Weslie's attire. "She chose to wear suspenders and a bowtie—and she loved it so much," said Allison. But her classmates lacked her same fashion-forward sensibility. "They kept being like, 'You're a boy. You're wearing boy clothes. What are you doing?' All this stuff," continued Allison. "So she was getting hit really hard."
Sensing a major learning opportunity, she gathered up her best parental wisdom, gently pointing out, "like, 'Weslie, you love that bowtie. What do you want to do about this?'" recalled Allison. "And she was like, 'I'm going to wear it tomorrow.' And she wore it again the next day."
Now, five years later, Allison noted, "We actually still have the bowtie. We kept it around just for, like, memory's sake."
Maybe a little future inspiration as well?
Because these days Weslie has plans to launch her own clothing line. "I want to get big in the fashion department," she told E!. "I've always loved makeup, clothing, fashion, hair." And between her ability to speak with as much conviction and poise as any thirtysomething and her very Gen Z-esque eagerness to change the world (not to mention some 92,000 followers on the Instagram page that's run by Mom and Dad), we're buying whatever this tween is selling.
"I think it's so powerful that from such a young age she was not willing to back down from what she likes, from what she feels comfortable in," reflected Allison. "And she was making major statements in second grade with bowties and, like, little cute suits. It was amazing." More impressive, continued Allison, "I just love that now those people bullying her has only empowered her to really want to move forward with a career of it."
It's just one of many pat-yourself-on-the-back moments Allison has experienced throughout more than a decade of parenting both Weslie, with her former partner, and the younger children she shares with husband of seven years Stephen "tWitch" Boss: Son Maddox, 5, and daughter Zaia, 18 months.
Allison's most pressing goal from the moment she became a mother—in between her eighth-place finish on the second season of So You Think You Can Dance and her return as an all-star in season seven—was to instill in her kids the idea that they can truly be whoever they want to be.
"Like, you definitely have to put in the work and always be prepared for that moment that is going to line up for you to have that chance," said the contemporary dancer and television host, who knows a bit about hustling after your dream job. But ultimately with the right drive and, perhaps, a bit of luck, she continued, "I want them to know any dream they have can become their reality."
That's hard to argue against what with Allison, 33, and tWitch, 38, spinning their turns on SYTYCD into work on Dancing With the Stars and HGTV's Design Star Next Gen (Allison) and a seven-years-and-counting residency as The Ellen DeGeneres Show's in-house DJ and newly named co-executive producer (tWitch).
So while Weslie may still be in middle school, her future ambitions carry quite a bit of weight.
Currently, she said, "I think being an influencer would be great. Like, that's always such a good thing to call yourself. Because you get to do so many things and be a figure to so many people." Plus, she continued, "You kind of grow your own community. Like you meet people through social media and you can do collaborations or go do new things."
It's the sort of job title that would dovetail nicely with her other dream of fashion dominance. And, arguably, it's well within reach.
The tween has already established a strong point of view online. Take the time she thoughtfully responded to the ubiquitous Internet trolls who took issue with her predilection for dark clothing and looser fits.
Informing her TikTok followers that the "patriarchy is dead," Weslie noted, "Just because I don't wear dresses and bright pink doesn't mean I'm dressing like a boy. This is my style." Fashion trends don't have a gender, she continued and, most importantly, she was going to keep doing her regardless of how anyone else felt.
"I was sick of it," she admitted when asked if she'd gotten fed up with having to explain her personal style, "because I think a lot of people wear baggy clothes and it's not for certain reasons, it's just because that's what we like."
Allison was impressed with her daughter's message, reposting it for her own 2.1 million Instagram followers. "But I was also proud as a mom because immediately after she made the video, even before she posted it, she came to bring it to me and was like, 'What are your thoughts? This is what's hanging on my shoulders. I wanted to approach this,'" the mom of three detailed. "And I just loved that she confided in me and wanted to see and make sure it was well-heard."
In other words, she didn't make a video for the haters, she wasn't like "'Don't say these things! Like, Ugh!'" noted Allison. "She really was concerned about the right messaging and wanting them to hear her concern and her want of people to stop bullying each other. So I love that it was out of a place of education and love and not from a place of like, 'I'm so over this.'"
For Allison it felt like the result of so many conversations about how to best deal with those who feel it's their place to tell a young girl how to live. "It's hard as a parent, I've seen her bullied so much, unfortunately," noted Allison. "So we definitely had conversations of how to overcome it and how to approach it. And it's really rewarding to see that she's grown into this little human that is so strong."
And one that's just getting started. Still weeks away from her 13th birthday, Weslie is readily discussing the Big Issues with her friends on the regular, a situation that never fails to amaze Mom.
"I hear so many crazy things about Gen Z and I'm like, 'Y'all, no. They are the ones. They get it. They're doing everything, they're making change and they're not scared of it,'" Allison raved of her daughter's crew. "I'm always impressed to hear the conversations that she's having with her friends. When I was 12, I was super awkward. I didn't know what was happening in the world at all. So it's just cool to see. It's cool that they get involved and they want to have change and also they want to help."
The way Weslie sees it "there are a lot of issues," bubbling up in the collective conscious right now. "So I feel like the more you address them, the more people understand."
Which is why her family has made it a point of discussing the tough stuff, tackling the topics of race, sex and other societal issues in between the family's group cooking sessions, competitive game nights ("We play this game called Sevens," shared Weslie. "It gets very intense") and frequent dance parties.
Gender fluidity is a constant as well as white privilege, Allison still wading through responses from their powerful June 2020 TikTok that highlighted all of the microaggressions husband tWitch encounters on a daily basis.
"We always talk about everything that's happening in the world," Weslie said. "So with all the protests that went on, we went to a couple and it was just cool to go to. Because you got to feel the energy of other people that helped the same cause. We talk about everything. No matter what the topic is or how hard it is, too, because we do have open dialogue as a family."
So as a seventh grader, Weslie is already well aware that her life experiences aren't going to be the same as her brother and sister's. "Both of my parents are white," she noted. "So it's going to be a lot different for me compared to my siblings growing up." But her eyes are wide open to the inevitable inequities that lie ahead. "Even though I won't experience it on my own, I still have a Black father figure in my life. And I have Black siblings," she explained. "I won't experience it, but I can still hear and protect my own siblings."
As for having those type of heavy talks with her tiniest offspring, Allison said it's just about having the conversation. "I think that's the first step," she said. "As parents, it's pretty alarming everything that's happened in the world and we always want to be the protectors of our children. And that is a huge duty of ours. But, also, in protection, you have to educate and inform them because someone might fall into a situation. If you've never had those hard conversations, then they're not going to know how to deal with it."
Sure, it's scary "to step into some really deep topics," she continued, but, "I would much rather—even if I don't have the perfect words—try. So we just sit down and it's not like I've even thought or formulated the perfect plan in how to educate or have these kind of talks. We just kind of go for it."
Because one of her biggest rules of thumb as a parent is to remember that having a child doesn't mean that you automatically get the answer key to life. "I want my kids to always know that as a parent I will do everything I can to help and be there and I'm always going to support them," she explained. "But I'm still a student in life. And I think that's a huge thing that I want more parents to be okay with. Sometimes it's okay to be a parent and not know. Like, I don't have all the answers."
What she does have is a willingness to uncover them. "If there's something going on in the world that I didn't know and don't really know how to address it, well, let's look up some things. Let's read a book about it," Allison shared. "I don't have all the answers, but I'll definitely do my best and we can work together in finding out how we feel about it."
Because there's always room for growth in the Boss family, a concept that works in tandem with their other mantra. "Our family stays how they are no matter what happens," Weslie said, the messaging about being true to the person you are at your core even as you evolve with each new experience. "I think it's just good to know to be yourself," she continued, "and even if someone says something about the way I dress or the way I speak, like, that's just who I am."
That kind of self-assuredness was all Allison ever wanted for the daughter she calls her mini me. "My ultimate goal is for her to stay true to who she is, 100 percent, and never back down," Allison shared. "As long as she's working on herself, working on her path and trying to be her best self, don't let anyone ever change that."
She wouldn't dare.