Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline to connect with a trained counselor or visit the Lifeline site.
Social media was flooded Wednesday with tributes to Stephen “tWitch” Boss as everyone from Viola Davis and Channing Tatum to Michelle Obama spoke lovingly of the dancer, actor and DJ. They were simply returning a bit of the kindness and love Boss poured into the world.
Boss, who rose from being a dancer and actor to a mainstay of daytime television as the DJ and co-executive producer for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” died by suicide Tuesday at the age of 40.
His tragic death has stirred public shock, expressions of grief and confusion about how it was possible given the joy Boss seemed to exude in his work.
The man who first found fame on “So You Think You Can Dance” and went on to star in projects like Disney+’s recent “The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” often shared videos of himself dancing with his wife, fellow professional dancer Allison Holker Boss, and happy times with their three children.
Those who knew him personally confirmed that Boss was as good a person privately as he appeared to be publicly.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear that someone who brought so much joy to a room, was hurting so much behind closed doors,” Justin Timberlake wrote in a tribute on Instagram. “I’ve known [Boss] for over 20 years through the dance community – he always lit everything and everyone up. You just never know what someone is going through.”
Actress and dancer Jade Chynoweth recalled how Boss worked to uplift other young performers.
“All I can say is that EVERY single person he has met he has changed their lives for the better. That’s why I had to post, so that the world knows the gravity of this loss,” Chynoweth wrote.
“Seeing my whole industry and his loved ones sharing how much he impacted our lives. He Inspired so many young dancers with his charisma, talent, kindness, intelligence, but most of all made you feel seen,” she wrote. “The warmth and support he gave to me and so many others made us believe in ourselves. He has been my idol and friend and it hurts to know that the love he made others feel masked his true emotions.”
Shaun King, an author and activist, shared on his Instagram that Boss “was a big supporter of our movement for racial justice.”
“He spoke out against police violence and used his platform in smart ways as he could,” King wrote. “After the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor he sought advice from many of us on how to speak to Ellen about it and how she could possibly use her show to talk about it. My wife and I just loved his joy. And dancing. And energy.”
Boss talked the walk as well.
In what would be one of his last interviews, Boss told E! that “No act of kindness is too small.”
“You don’t have to be of a particular status or anything to actually commit a kind act and have that do its ripple effect,” he said at the Industry Dance Awards in October. “I think sometimes a lot of people put a lot of precedence on helping others when it’s just like nah, you can start right now.”
He and Holker Boss were credited with helping their followers on social media make it through the height of the pandemic with spirited quarantine dance videos.
Boss talked to Yahoo in April 2021 about trying to move their way through those difficult months.
“We have definitely used dance as a vehicle to keep us sane, healthy, motivated and excited about getting up every single day,” Boss said.
In public, there didn’t seem to be signs Boss may have been struggling. He was often upbeat, even when discussing tough times.
In a 2017 conversation on the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast,” Boss talked about dancing and perseverance through challenge.
“When you feel good, you dance,” Boss said. “No matter what, life is going to move forward.”