Stephen 'tWitch' Boss: Facts About The Late DJ

This feature references suicide.

It was reported on December 14, 2022 that Stephen "tWitch" Boss had died. Before his untimely death, however, his life story was full of surprises. Boss first got popular on the fourth season of "So You Think You Can Dance" in 2008. The dancing show reality gig led to a chance meeting with guest host Ellen DeGeneres, which of course led to Boss becoming a DJ on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and then later on Ellen's "Game of Games."

From humble beginnings, Boss built a career through many famous inspirations, and along the way picked up a cool nickname that actually has multiple origin stories. Did you know this ripped dancer was actually a nerd at heart? Though he certainly played anything from a nerd in one of his most popular movies, which we'll get to in a moment. 

Do you think you can dance like this silky-smooth DJ? Let's pop-and-lock our way through the untold truth of Ellen's DJ, Stephen tWitch Boss.

How exactly did 'tWitch' get his nickname?

Stephen tWitch Boss earned his moniker during adolescence, as so many do. See, Boss' special style of dance is the famous "popping" — jerky, almost robotic movements — so his peers felt "tWitch" seemed appropriate. Boss confirmed in an interview with Kam Williams that the nickname went all the way back to his childhood when he was constantly in motion. Of course, the word twitch doesn't always have the most flattering connotation, but Boss had no issue dragging it into adulthood. "I don't mind it at all," he told Williams. "Because it's a part of my being. It's become part of my persona, when it comes to dance."

Yes, Boss danced with a specific flair, but he also claimed the nickname came from his previous car – an old, mildly reliable Toyota Paseo from the 1990s, which he affectionately called Twitch. In his words, "I took (the name) Twitch when I was about 20 years old because that was when I first started dancing, going places and teaching dance, and a lot of my dance knowledge and a lot of my dance thoughts took place in that car." Boss added that he'd choreograph moves in the vehicle while driving all around Alabama. Pretty impressive, considering the close quarters inside a vehicle, right?

After his debut on "So You Think You Can Dance," Boss earned a second nickname. According to Reuters, his smile and charming ways led to "Mr. Personality."

How did Ellen's DJ make the magical jump to the big screen?

Stephen tWitch Boss' first major screen appearance was as an uncredited actor — specifically, "Flamboyant Dancer" — in the 2007 comedy "Blades of Glory." How provocative. After some other roles, including "Step Up 3D," Boss made the big leap to a featured player in "Magic Mike XXL." In an interview for Paste, Boss explained that Jenna Dewan-Tatum and Magic Mike himself, Channing Tatum, were both big fans of "So You Think You Can Dance." After Dewan-Tatum came on as a guest judge, she shared with him some good news. "During one of the breaks, she pulled me aside and told me that they were making a sequel for 'Magic Mike' and my name was being tossed around."

The team found a place for Boss, and his acting didn't disappoint. Plus, the movie's biggest star, Tatum — who had a real stripping past — had only the highest praise for the dancer. According to PopSugar, Boss was the first person to come to his mind as the best dancer in "Magic Mike XXL."

Was dancing Stephen 'tWitch' Boss' superpower?

As far as hobbies go, a professional dancer may often lean toward music and other art forms. For Stephen tWitch Boss, his secret love came in the form of comics. More specifically, "Superman is my favorite," Boss told TV Guide. He loved the Man of Steel so much that he even liked to dress a bit like the superhero. Referring to his thick-framed glasses, Boss admitted in an interview with Reuters, "I am a very big Superman fan. So that Clark Kent look is what the glasses is about."

Boss' Instagram account is full of references showing his love for Supes. First, Boss posted a photo of him and his groomsmen — the guys revealed a t-shirt with their favorite superhero beneath each formal suit. Naturally, Boss stood front and center with his Superman shirt. Then for Boss' honeymoon, he posted a video on Instagram of himself dressed in a Superman costume while bungee-jumping. Of course, he took a running leap, with outstretched arms like the superhero. Later, he showed off his two dogs, whose names Krypto and Luna Lane also reference his favorite superhero.

Boss was no one-trick pony

There's really no debate that Stephen tWitch Boss was an insanely good dancer. Almost all of his early appearance credits involved busting a move, whether that meant appearing as himself and strutting some moves on TV, or appearing in big-budget dance movies like "Step Up 3D" and "Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming." But while he could easily stick to this style, Boss had many other talents that he wanted to nurture. 

"I would prefer mostly acting, but I would like to still like to be in the dance world, as well," Boss told Kam Williams, adding, "I've been studying acting in preparation for the next opportunity where a role comes along that isn't attached to a dance component." Sure enough, Boss took that first leap — no, not the dancing kind — when he joined Ellen DeGeneres as the house DJ for her daytime series "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in 2012. However, he also appeared as a police officer in the 2016 "Ghostbuster" reboot.

Where 'tWitch' first pulled on his dancing shoes

Fortunately, Stephen tWitch Boss didn't grow up in Elmore City, Oklahoma– the religious town that once banned dancing and loosely inspired the classic film "Footloose." But, he grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. "I was raised religious, for the most part," he said in an interview with Kam Williams. Of course, that city is perhaps most famous for its role in the civil rights movement, a fact not lost on Boss at all. "Its history is very deep, and I'm so grateful to be from there," Boss told Williams, adding, "It really helps me in my day-to-day life. It helped me establish my values, my base of who I am and how I feel about things." 

Though he started dancing as a kid, Boss didn't think seriously about dancing as a career until high school. In fact, he even planned to join the navy if "So You Think You Can Dance" failed to work out, according to Reuters. Luckily, Boss drew inspiration from his classmates, who performed ballet, jazz, and other styles of dance that he hadn't been aware of previously. This challenged him to ... step up and start taking dance seriously as a possible career track.

Ellen's DJ learned that grooming can be painful

Stephen tWitch Boss was known for a lot of incredible moments — ones that left viewers' mouths agape. And there's no doubt that pulling off incredible dance moves has the tendency to leave a sore muscle or two. But one time, Boss' boss — Ellen DeGeneres — arranged for the world to see his pain at the hands of an esthetician. Yes, Boss endured his very first wax live on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." In preparation for his role as a stripper in "Magic Mike XXL," the hair had to go. But for such a large and athletic guy, it must have been easy, right? After the experience, he admitted to PopSugar, "Oh, I didn't like it. I didn't like it at all. The experience was incredibly painful, but the results were smooth."

Sure, waxing is usually painful, but maybe the results are worth it. Well, not according to Boss. In an interview with Vibe, he recommended that guys don't ever try it, saying, "The good thing about it was I've now become an advocate for anybody who says they don't wanna wax anymore."

Was tWitch in love with (being) a stripper?

When Stephen tWitch Boss signed on for the sequel of "Magic Mike" — 2015's "Magic Mike XXL" — the movie clearly came with some prerequisites. For one, learning how to wear a thong, mankini, banana hammock — you get the idea. What did the dancer think about his first time in such little fabric? Boss told PopSugar, "[It was] slightly painful, the first couple of steps." But he also admitted, "Yeah, then you get used to it, oddly enough, you do."

As far as dancing, Boss admitted that he stripped for fun at high school parties when the mood struck. Still, Boss needed a signature song for his solo stripping performance in the movie. After plenty of exploration, he landed on "Sex You" by Bando Jonez. Plus, preparation for the role involved more than just listening to music. In an interview with Paste, Boss said of his extensive research for the role, "I didn't visit any strip clubs but I watched more videos of male entertainers than I would like to say that I did."

Even with all his hard work, Boss still wanted to keep a few family members from seeing the film. To avoid awkward holiday conversations, he told PopSugar, "My grandparents are not going to see this movie, and my in-laws will not be seeing this movie."

It was love at first dance for Stephen 'tWitch' Boss

In a truly heartwarming story, two dancers — Stephen tWitch Boss and Allison Holker — met and fell in love. Both Boss and Holker were on separate seasons of "So You Think You Can Dance" but came together for the all-star seventh season. As Holker explained in an interview for Hollywood Life, "We never went on a first date. Never had a conversation longer than 'hello' and 'how are you?' We shared a dance together and have been together ever since." It's not to say she didn't send some signals early on. As Holker said, "I touched his butt in a rehearsal and he still didn't get the hint!"

Since those early days, the pair went on to build an incredible family. Boss said that his relationship with Holker worked because they were complimentary to one another. In his words, "We are quite literally the yin and yang. The ebb and flow. One's struggle is the other's strength." And in 2019, Boss and Holker welcomed their third child together. The dad shared his happy news via an Instagram post.

His charitable side

The man once referred to as "Mr. Personality" — Stephen tWitch Boss — clearly got his name from being more than just a pretty face and dancer. In fact, he and his wife Allison Holker were involved in philanthropic activities. For example, the pair partnered with JetBlue to ensure that children have access to books.

JetBlue's Soar with Reading program provided free books to children in underserved communities via a vending machine. In an interview with AskMen, Boss said there was a reason why the partnership worked so well. "They're doing something that helps kids who are the same age as ours become better learners," he explained. The dancer added that he and his wife love to nurture their children's minds at home. "We love reading together we want to encourage every family to make that a part of their routine."

Additionally, in an interview with Kam Williams, Boss shared his charitable goals for the future. Once he became famous enough, he wanted to build a community center in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. 

The origins of Stephen 'tWitch' Boss' dance moves

No one is born with a pair of tap shoes on, so the moves must come from somewhere. For Stephen tWitch Boss, his inspiration came from the King of Pop. Boss said that Michael Jackson was his favorite dancer and his inspiration to start dancing. When talking about his dancing hero, Boss said, "With Michael, when he was onstage every single movement that he did, even if he just titled [sic] his head and the rest of him was still standing still you could still feel his movement and I could never not watch him."

Then, Boss' high school cast him in the Jackson-led "The Wizard of Oz"-inspired "The Wiz." "It was the first time I had to learn choreography and that's when my mind was blown," Boss told Vibe. From that moment on, he started forming his personal style by watching his classmates and music videos.

Even after going pro, Boss still found inspiration from all over. Take, for example, his boss Ellen DeGeneres. He said that he watched her for a few moves in preparation for his role as a stripper in "Magic Mike XXL." He said, "I get to watch her dance every day, so of course I picked up on certain moves that she likes to do." Um, was he watching the same show we watched? 

Competition in stripping got intense

For "Magic Mike XXL" — a movie set full of many shirtless men playing male strippers — it's no surprise that there was a lot of competition. Even people with limited roles brought their A-game. For example, Stephen tWitch Boss admitted that he thought Michael Strahan — once a professional football player — had amazing moves. "He took it 100 percent serious," Boss said. But in an interview with Vibe, Boss actually clarified that it wasn't a total ego and testosterone-filled set. "[If there was] any competition, it was healthy and it was more supportive than anything."

Still, the demands of being on the big screen may have fueled Boss' intense workout regimen. Even co-star Channing Tatum called him out for his time in the gym. In an interview with PopSugar, the dancer revealed, "Channing gets on me because I work out too much." To be fair, he was dancing alongside some gigantic guys. As Boss said, "I was just trying to keep up with Joe [Manganiello]. He looks like Superman." True.

The end of Ellen was bittersweet

In 2020, Stephen tWitch Boss received a well-earned promotion from the DJ to co-executive producer of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." This all happened during a controversial time for DeGeneres but ratings were as high as ever. By the time the series ended in 2022, Boss had been with the talk show for a decade and had over 100 episodes to his name. After completing filming on the final episode, the show's executive producer, Andy Lassner gave a speech to the cast and crew about the big change for many people. In a video posted on Instagram by former Warner Bros. executive, Johanna Fuentes, Lassner is shown saying, "It's ok to be sad and to reach out to each other." In the background, Boss can be seen nodding supportively. 

Understandably, the goodbye was bittersweet. "[The show] completely changed my life and also just gave me such family and such friendship," he told E! News. "That's unforgettable." Reflecting back on the experience, Boss said he loved to see non-celebrity guests use the platform as a way to bring awareness to various causes. Looking to the future, he explained, "I really hope that we will see a lot more places, whether it be in talk show form or what, shining a light on ordinary people doing incredible things." He also admitted that he would miss the laughter on set most of all.

What Stephen tWitch Boss thought about his famous judges

In 2021, Stephen tWitch Boss became the host of the reality competition, "Clash of the Cover Bands." In the series, different musical acts competed for a grand prize and the chance to perform on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon." In the judges' seats were famous musical artists, Meghan Trainor, Adam Lambert, and Ester "The Song Machine" Dean. 

When discussing their judging styles with E! News, Boss felt Lambert was the compassionate one given his rise to fame as a contestant on "American Idol." As for Trainor, he commented that she brought experience from performing and songwriting. Meanwhile, he suggested that Dean could expertly comment on how performers were interpreting song lyrics, given her impressive resume as a hit songwriter. 

Overall, Boss was pleased with the distribution of roles on the show, including his own. "I feel like I've got the greatest position because the judges ... kind of have the hardest job because the talent is serious," he mused. "For me, I just get to come out and be a cheerleader for everybody." Reflecting on the overall experience, Boss added, "Honestly, it was so much fun. It was literally like a concert every episode." Karen Hester, a Dolly Parton cover artist, won the first season and performed a medley of hits on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon."

Life as a dad for Stephen tWitch Boss

When Stephen tWitch Boss started dating Allison Holker, she had a daughter, Weslie from a previous relationship. However, the TV star adopted the child when he and Holker got married in 2013. From the start, the dancer said he was thrilled to become a dad. "It was a huge moment for me, but I was ready going into it. I had a stepfather myself, so I could relate to the situation," he told L.A. Parent about adopting. "I see myself as an extra source of unconditional love." To build their relationship, he added that he and his daughter played games together and even developed a secret handshake. 

In 2016, Boss and Holker welcomed their first child together, son Maddox. While the star seemed elated to grow the family, he admitted it was a major life change. "Going from one child to two changes everything, and it's not always easy. Your time is no longer yours, but there is so much joy to be found. I love seeing Maddox's relationship with his sister — that dynamic is incredible," he explained. Three years later, they added a daughter, Zaia, to their family. All three kids occasionally made appearances in TikTok videos featuring Boss and Holker dancing.

On "The Jennifer Hudson Show" in late 2022, Holker admitted she missed having an infant around the house and that the couple would love to try for another one. "I love the little babies and it's a constant conversation," Boss said.

His tragic death

On December 14, 2022, Stephen tWitch Boss was reported dead, aged 40. His wife, Allison Holker Boss, gave a statement to CNN, which read in part, "It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to share my husband Stephen has left us. Stephen lit up every room he stepped into. He valued family, friends, and community above all else, and leading with love and light was everything to him. He was the backbone of our family, the best husband and father, and an inspiration to his fans." The couple had celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary just days prior to his death. The hugely talented entertainer left behind three children. 

Tributes poured in from many who worked with Boss or simply knew him. On Instagram, Ellen DeGeneres posted a picture of the two of them hugging each other with the caption, "I'm heartbroken ... He was my family, and I loved him with all my heart." Paula Abdul, Jada Pinkett Smith, Olivia Munn, and former "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" producer, Andy Lassner are just some of the names who also expressed their sadness at a life cut short.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.