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Misty Copeland


Helene

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It matters if people actually believe something or not. Someone who believes a racist fantasy is going to act in racist ways. Someone who just makes agreeable noises to get along is acting shamefully, but that doesn’t make them racist, or mean they’ll act it. (Then again, is birtherism always racism? The Tea Party would look for reasons to discredit a white Obama too. They’re no less kind, if less imaginative, about Reid and Pelosi). Most people do laugh at birthers. What mainstream pols take the birther position in mainstream forums? I think they’re going along to get along. Both sides court their fringes to gain power and keep it, and both sides play up the power and size of the other side’s fringes for political reasons as well.

“Mainstream” Republicans did flirt with the birther position in “mainstream forums.” As aurora and I pointed out earlier, the making of such “agreeable noises” would signify that an important voting bloc for their party required them. It would also mean that they were deliberately encouraging views they knew to be not only nutty and frivolous but detrimental to the legitimacy of the executive in the public eye, an executive who just happened to be a man of mixed race with a funny African name. Not to mention the nationwide distraction the birth certificate business proved to be.

While this topic was on the front burner, some conservatives did attempt to point to the 9/11 Truthers as the Democratic equivalent of the birthers. The truthers started on the fringe and they have remained there. You did not see Democratic politicians and apparatchiks playing footsie with them or openly encouraging them.

Some of you people spend a lot more time tracking birthers than I do. biggrin.png I'll take your word for it that some mainstream Republicans flirted with birtherism, but I've lost track of what that supposedly has to do with racism in ballet. Beyond that, I agree with what you say here.

The people who talk about facing the problem are part of the problem?

No. The problem is racism, and the question is how much of a problem it is. I didn't say talking about racism is racist.

Yes indeed, the problem is racism. I was responding to your statement, quoted above, that personal stories about experiences of racism are “counterproductive,” influencing their auditors to exaggerate a problem that a) does not exist at all or b) isn’t really that big of a deal these days and that such "object lessons" are causing unnecessary and misleading trouble -- and are thus, presumably, contributing to the problem they describe.....

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It matters if people actually believe something or not. Someone who believes a racist fantasy is going to act in racist ways. Someone who just makes agreeable noises to get along is acting shamefully, but that doesn’t make them racist, or mean they’ll act it. (Then again, is birtherism always racism? The Tea Party would look for reasons to discredit a white Obama too. They’re no less kind, if less imaginative, about Reid and Pelosi). Most people do laugh at birthers. What mainstream pols take the birther position in mainstream forums? I think they’re going along to get along. Both sides court their fringes to gain power and keep it, and both sides play up the power and size of the other side’s fringes for political reasons as well.

“Mainstream” Republicans did flirt with the birther position in “mainstream forums.” As aurora and I pointed out earlier, the making of such “agreeable noises” would signify that an important voting bloc for their party required them. It would also mean that they were deliberately encouraging views they knew to be not only nutty and frivolous but detrimental to the legitimacy of the executive in the public eye, an executive who just happened to be a man of mixed race with a funny African name. Not to mention the nationwide distraction the birth certificate business proved to be.

While this topic was on the front burner, some conservatives did attempt to point to the 9/11 Truthers as the Democratic equivalent of the birthers. The truthers started on the fringe and they have remained there. You did not see Democratic politicians and apparatchiks playing footsie with them or openly encouraging them.

Some of you people spend a lot more time tracking birthers than I do. biggrin.png I'll take your word for it that some mainstream Republicans flirted with birtherism, but I've lost track of what that supposedly has to do with racism in ballet. Beyond that, I agree with what you say here.

The people who talk about facing the problem are part of the problem?

No. The problem is racism, and the question is how much of a problem it is. I didn't say talking about racism is racist.

Yes indeed, the problem is racism. I was responding to your statement, quoted above, that personal stories about experiences of racism are “counterproductive,” influencing their auditors to exaggerate a problem that a) does not exist at all or b) isn’t really that big of a deal these days and that such "object lessons" are causing unnecessary and misleading trouble -- and are thus, presumably, contributing to the problem they describe.....

Except of course that’s an oversimplification to the point of distortion of what I actually said. Try again if you like. I’ll help you. You could disagree with the premise in my first clause, upon which the rest of my argument hangs. Or you could accept the premise but say that stories of overcoming racism have a moral weight that makes it important to tell them no matter what. Or you could say that racism is still so bad in ballet companies that the value of preparing kids to face it outweighs the value of encouraging them by emphasizing instead the degree to which, racism having been stigmatized and hated, they'll likely get extra encouragement from many people precisely because they’re black.

See, I’m making your arguments for you. All those are arguments I might not agree with, but that respond to what I actually said. Try working with them. Even try answering my questions.

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... try answering my questions.

I think many of your questions have been given answers--though you and others may not find them convincing...and trading Oprah for Obama remains a version of an issue we have also discussed pretty thoroughly. Their stories may speak to some important cultural/political changes but also can be quite revealing of persistent assumptions about race that are problematic. (Remember Henry Louis Gates?--you know: the Harvard Professor arrested walking into his own house in super liberal Cambridge MA in 2009.)

But actually the kind of race issues that are being raised here cut across liberal/conservative divides. Being liberal or even leftist by no means guarantees one is able to transcend all racial prejudice/assumptions. Heck, being anti-racist doesn't guarantee it. And being conservative does not necessarily align one with racial prejudice/assumptions. A lot depends on your definition of liberal and/or conservative. I bring this up, because throughout this discussion you have referred to your perception of the ballet world as "liberal." I am not sure I agree, but even if I did, I don't think that's the end of the conversation about what happens in the ballet world.

Of course you are right that one should be wary of writing about race issues as if the problems were all due to some unnamed or fringe "them." I would not suggest (as I think you do in your list of questions), that people writing on this thread necessarily assume that they--that is, we--are somehow superior to or outside the problems we are discussing in the ballet world.

But mostly I'm genuinely puzzled by the idea that it's anything other than rather commonplace to note that the ballet world would do well to do a bit of soul searching on this issue--and if we/they are doing it with new energy now (from leadership to fans), well, that's great--but doesn't change a history that is way too recent to be consigned to the past. And maybe Copeland with her much derided "self-promotion" can even take a wee bit of credit for bringing renewed attention to it. ("Renewed" because of course it has been addressed in the past.)

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The questions about whether any of us have witnessed the racism that Copeland describes? As if that is likely on a ballet discussion board.

What I read is a dismissal of a woman's described experience because of a belief, without any proof, that the ballet world's support of a black dancer is so strong that no only is the racism she describes trivial, she is to be taken to task for not appreciating that help and support.

It's one thing if a story doesn't ring true to someone, and there's no rule about expressing it, but that is not an argument.

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Drew wrote:

But actually the kind of race issues that are being raised here cut across liberal/conservative divides. Being liberal or even leftist by no means guarantees one is able to transcend all racial prejudice/assumptions. Heck, being anti-racist doesn't guarantee it. And being conservative does not necessarily align one with racial prejudice/assumptions. A lot depends on your definition of liberal and/or conservative. I bring this up, because throughout this discussion you have referred to your perception of the ballet world as "liberal." I am not sure I agree, but even if I did, I don't think that's the end of the conversation about what happens in the ballet world.
I agree and I think that's important to note. However, it seems to me that one assumption progressives hold is that minorities are always correct and right, and hence their self-described experiences should never be doubted. Hence to doubt them is not to have transcended, as you put it, racism in oneself. That’s an honorable impulse proceeding from empathy. But even though minorities unfortunately have to learn to look out for racism, being a minority individual doesn’t give one authoritative insight into what individual white people think.
Of course you are right that one should be wary of writing about race issues as if the problems were all due to some unnamed or fringe "them." I would not suggest (as I think you do in your list of questions), that people writing on this thread necessarily assume that they--that is, we--are somehow superior to or outside the problems we are discussing in the ballet world.
I don’t assume that, upon reflection, they would. My point is that, except for people who think that they themselves might have frowned upon Copeland’s career, taking her story on face value logically implies that they are. So if that’s not true, maybe the story is off too.
But mostly I'm genuinely puzzled by the idea that it's anything other than rather commonplace to note that the ballet world would do well to do a bit of soul searching on this issue--and if we/they are doing it with new energy now (from leadership to fans), well, that's great--but doesn't change a history that is way too recent to be consigned to the past. And maybe Copeland with her much derided "self-promotion" can even take a wee bit of credit for bringing renewed attention to it. ("Renewed" because of course it has been addressed in the past.)
I agree with both those sentences. I just wish the emphasis were on celebrating a black ballerina, like we celebrated a black president.
Helene wrote:
The questions about whether any of us have witnessed the racism that Copeland describes? As if that is likely on a ballet discussion board.
Do we not usually evaluate what people say? See above.
What I read is a dismissal of a woman's described experience because of a belief, without any proof, that the ballet world's support of a black dancer is so strong that no only is the racism she describes trivial, she is to be taken to task for not appreciating that help and support.
Is the key word there “woman”? There is no proof on either side here. If a white male who was there was to speak up and say “it didn’t happen like that,” what kind of a reception do you think he’d get? What if he said, “in private discussions the people Copeland thinks were against her had doubts about this or that, but wanted her to succeed””"? Would he get a lot of sympathetic press, or would he be shouted down?
It's one thing if a story doesn't ring true to someone, and there's no rule about expressing it, but that is not an argument.
Reasons make up an argument. I’ve given mine for why it rings not certainly untrue, but merits skepticism. I emphasize again that I’m not saying she’s lying.
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This is an emotionally charged topic for many reasons but an obvious one is that so few dancers ever succeed at becoming professionals, much less having a career - thus putting all aspirants at a "disadvantage" - whether skin color, body type, height, facility, training, politics, etc. Most of us have a long list of dancers that we've watched over many years who have day after day put in the hard work with devotion, single-mindedness and maturity beyond their years - all to eventually realize that they cannot get a job as a dancer. It is heartbreaking. Yes, those years have created hard-working, purposeful individuals who will succeed in their next endeavor.

At some point in the journey, speaking of "disadvantage" loses it's relevance as professional dancers' (men and women) careers will depend mostly on the decisions of a single person - their Artistic Director - and any advantage (or "disadvantage") that got you there is now history - inspiring history for sure! But now it comes down to what that person sees as best for that company and, yes, casting can be political or strategic as they are responsible for putting thrilling work on stage and for building an audience. Although I'm sympathetic to individual stories of adversity, it seems to me that professional dancers (even Principals!) feel the daily struggle of "adversity" - not being cast for something they wanted, new dancers catching the AD's eye, too short/too tall, nagging injury, age, politics... So kudos and my thanks to all the brave dancers who strive to brighten our lives with the beauty of their souls!

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I totally get that ballet is hard. I get that it's difficult even if you are a woman who is so white that you make the British royal family look like they are from the developing world. But let's be honest, Being white in ballet has never been something that put you at a disadvantage.

Those of us who are impatient about its lack of diversity don't want unqualified black women to be promoted. That's tokenism at it's worst.

But we're not buying the explanation that no black woman has ever been good enough for the principle ranks. Lack of acess to good training doesn't explain everything. Nor do the idiosyncratic tastes of artistic directors..

I don't think most artistic directors are racist so much as artistically myopic. They are just more comfortable with the familiar.(See Peter Martins) They probably don't want to rock the boat with wealthy donors, many of whom expect ballet to look like the Mariinsky in 1965. Also, AD's probably don't see themselves as social crusaders for diversity. They just want to put on a good show. I understand and sympathize.

But for those of us who see strength and beauty in diversity, the lily whiteness of ballet just seems so yesterday. Diversifying ballet won't make it as popular in the U.S. as it is in Russia. But it will make it richer.

Finally, I promise you that all my complaining isn't because I think Misty is the be-all or end-all of black female ballet dancers. She's just the most visible symbol.

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At last night's condo association party here in DC, I had a chance to 'talk ballet' with circle of fellow condo members, mostly African American ladies. Please believe me when I say that most of my dear neighbors think that Misty is THE star of ABT. They have no conception of the difference between Principal and Soloist...I.e., Misty is the one who is talked about so she is the star.

I certainly wasn't going to break their hearts and reveal the difference. Misty is THE star and that's all there is to that, in their minds. (Even their husbands know who is Misty Copeland.)

Everybody is clamoring for tickets to one of Misty's two SWAN LAKE performances with Washington Ballet in April, although they've been sold out for a long time.

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At last night's condo association party here in DC, I had a chance to 'talk ballet' with circle of fellow condo members, mostly African American ladies. Please believe me when I say that most of my dear neighbors think that Misty is THE star of ABT. They have no conception of the difference between Principal and Soloist...I.e., Misty is the one who is talked about so she is the star.

I certainly wasn't going to break their hearts and reveal the difference. Misty is THE star and that's all there is to that, in their minds. (Even their husbands know who is Misty Copeland.)

Everybody is clamoring for tickets to one of Misty's two SWAN LAKE performances with Washington Ballet in April, although they've been sold out for a long time.

LOL! Misty may not be "famous" famous, but as Chris Rock would say, for aspirational black people, she's certainly "black famous!"

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At last night's condo association party here in DC, I had a chance to 'talk ballet' with circle of fellow condo members, mostly African American ladies. Please believe me when I say that most of my dear neighbors think that Misty is THE star of ABT. They have no conception of the difference between Principal and Soloist...I.e., Misty is the one who is talked about so she is the star.

I certainly wasn't going to break their hearts and reveal the difference. Misty is THE star and that's all there is to that, in their minds. (Even their husbands know who is Misty Copeland.)

Everybody is clamoring for tickets to one of Misty's two SWAN LAKE performances with Washington Ballet in April, although they've been sold out for a long time.

LOL! Misty may not be "famous" famous, but as Chris Rock would say, for aspirational black people, she's certainly "black famous!"

Like it or not, it's just a matter of time that we read about Misty's promo to Principal. There will be movie deals, further book deals , etc. I happen to admire her talents in tailor-made ballets or modern works like the Tharp or Ratmansky's rep. How she tackles leading roles in Petipa classics will be telling.

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Even if she never becomes a principal, she's been a trailblazer for people like Katelyn Addison, Michaela DePrince, Precious Adams, Jasmine Perry, Kimberly Braylock and Kayla Rowser.



And god knows Precious Adams can dance Petipa.


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Lauren Anderson made principal at Houston Ballet, Tapfan. (After all your opining you still haven’t bothered to inform yourself?) People much more knowledgeable than I think others should have been elevated to soloist or principal. Plenty of others, no doubt, if they'd had chances early on.

If you have knowledge of wealthy donors who expect ballet to look like the Mariinsky in 1965, or reasons to think they do, I’m all ears. Otherwise, I'm sorry, but that's just reverse prejudice. But whenever I've ask you for knowledge or viewing experience, I've come up short.

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she's been a trailblazer for people like

I would not attribute Misty being a trailblazer for many of the dancers you mentioned in the manner I believe you to mean. (Addison, DePrince, Rowser, Perry, etc.) While I am sure all the dancers mentioned admire Misty and are supportive of her successes, even applauding them and looking up to her. It is important not to assume that Misty has somehow helped these dancers land where they are or that she has made the way for them. They have done so at the same time Misty has been on her journey. Let's not lessen their individual successes by making those Misty's doing.

It is also important to note the number of African American women dancing in unranked companies. In reality, those women will be the ones who make change. If every African American female dancer is not satisfied until they reach ABT or NYCB, then we will lose a generation of dancers who could be working dancers somewhere turning one voice into many. This in the interim of having a ground swell of more dancers of color training for classical ballet.

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Lauren Anderson made principal at Houston Ballet, Tapfan. (After all your opining you still haven’t bothered to inform yourself?) People much more knowledgeable than I think others should have been elevated to soloist or principal. Plenty of others, no doubt, if they'd had chances early on.

If you have knowledge of wealthy donors who expect ballet to look like the Mariinsky in 1965, or reasons to think they do, I’m all ears. Otherwise, I'm sorry, but that's just reverse prejudice. But whenever I've ask you for knowledge or viewing experience, I've come up short.

I know that Lauren Anderson and Tai Jimenez both danced as principals in major U.S. companies. But they're both retired. And Tai probably wouldn't have had her one year as principal at Boston Ballet if DTOH hadn't gone on hiatus.

Yet unfortunately, no black woman has danced as principal with either of the so-called American Big Three - SFB, ABT or NYCB. And none of the most prestigeous international companies like The Royal Ballet, Parish Opera Ballet, The Bolshoi, The Mariinsky, The Royal Danish Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada or The Dutch National ballet has had a black woman in the principal ranks.

I know that great ballet dancing goes on at places other than those well-known companies. And high profile aspiring black dancers like Shannon Harkness have said that their research into hiring of black classical dancers in the U.S., shows that chances for black dancers to get employed are greater in regional companies.

Katelyn Addison at Ballet West, Kayla Rowser at Nashville Ballet and Dara Homes and Erica Edwards at Joffrey ballet are encouraging examples.

But just as it was a big deal for Leontyne Price to be the first black woman to sing a lead role at La Scala, it would be a big deal for a black woman to dance as a principal with a major international company. And if given the choice, MOST women of any color would rather be on the world stage.

After all, Carlos Acosta could have remained at Houston Ballet and before that , he could have stayed at National Ballet of Cuba. But he saw each move as a chance to be seen on a bigger world stage.

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she's been a trailblazer for people like

I would not attribute Misty being a trailblazer for many of the dancers you mentioned in the manner I believe you to mean. (Addison, DePrince, Rowser, Perry, etc.) While I am sure all the dancers mentioned admire Misty and are supportive of her successes, even applauding them and looking up to her. It is important not to assume that Misty has somehow helped these dancers land where they are or that she has made the way for them. They have done so at the same time Misty has been on her journey. Let's not lessen their individual successes by making those Misty's doing.

It is also important to note the number of African American women dancing in unranked companies. In reality, those women will be the ones who make change. If every African American female dancer is not satisfied until they reach ABT or NYCB, then we will lose a generation of dancers who could be working dancers somewhere turning one voice into many. This in the interim of having a ground swell of more dancers of color training for classical ballet.

When I say that Misty is a trailblazer, I mean that her high profile is helping people, especially little black girls, get used to the very thought of black women in ballet.

The success these women have had is of course, due to their own talent and drive.

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See, I’m making your arguments for you. All those are arguments I might not agree with, but that respond to what I actually said. Try working with them. Even try answering my questions.

The proffered help is appreciated, but I may just go back to strumpet jokes.

So kudos and my thanks to all the brave dancers who strive to brighten our lives with the beauty of their souls!

Amen to that, mira.

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Lauren Anderson made principal at Houston Ballet, Tapfan. (After all your opining you still haven’t bothered to inform yourself?) People much more knowledgeable than I think others should have been elevated to soloist or principal. Plenty of others, no doubt, if they'd had chances early on.

If you have knowledge of wealthy donors who expect ballet to look like the Mariinsky in 1965, or reasons to think they do, I’m all ears. Otherwise, I'm sorry, but that's just reverse prejudice. But whenever I've ask you for knowledge or viewing experience, I've come up short.

I know that Lauren Anderson and Tai Jimenez both danced as principals in major U.S. companies.

That's good, because what you wrote is that

we're not buying the explanation that no black woman has ever been good enough for the principle ranks.
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Several years ago, the beautiful Jennifer Kronenberg Guerra told me she believes the reason why she's had a long career is because of honesty - so it's not about a battle for success but a willingness to share yourself with your audience.

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Lauren Anderson made principal at Houston Ballet, Tapfan. (After all your opining you still haven’t bothered to inform yourself?) People much more knowledgeable than I think others should have been elevated to soloist or principal. Plenty of others, no doubt, if they'd had chances early on.

If you have knowledge of wealthy donors who expect ballet to look like the Mariinsky in 1965, or reasons to think they do, I’m all ears. Otherwise, I'm sorry, but that's just reverse prejudice. But whenever I've ask you for knowledge or viewing experience, I've come up short.

I know that Lauren Anderson and Tai Jimenez both danced as principals in major U.S. companies.

That's good, because what you wrote is that

we're not buying the explanation that no black woman has ever been good enough for the principle ranks.

I didn't explain myself very well. I meant in a major international company. Heck, if one is counting all companies, then you have to include DTOH and other mostly black companies as companies where black women have the position of principle if not the actual rank.

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Lauren Anderson made principal at Houston Ballet, Tapfan. (After all your opining you still haven’t bothered to inform yourself?) People much more knowledgeable than I think others should have been elevated to soloist or principal. Plenty of others, no doubt, if they'd had chances early on.

If you have knowledge of wealthy donors who expect ballet to look like the Mariinsky in 1965, or reasons to think they do, I’m all ears. Otherwise, I'm sorry, but that's just reverse prejudice. But whenever I've ask you for knowledge or viewing experience, I've come up short.

I know that Lauren Anderson and Tai Jimenez both danced as principals in major U.S. companies.

That's good, because what you wrote is that

we're not buying the explanation that no black woman has ever been good enough for the principle ranks.

I didn't explain myself very well.

OK, thanks for clarifying. I've certainly made the same mistake sometimes.

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hen you have to include DTOH and other mostly black companies as companies where black women have the position of principle if not the actual rank.

I don't believe you do have to include them under those parameters. The issue we are discussing revolves around Classical Ballet companies. DTH in it's earlier years would fit in that category, but many others would not.

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Also, I don't think that Misty as really "using her minority status" to get anything. She is continuing a relevant conversation that other great dancers like Raven Wilkinson and Lauren Anderson began.

(from this thread: http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/39677-with-a-chance-of-rain/page-4)

You must not own a television Pique Arabesque. Misty has been on The PBS NewsHour and NY1 talking about her problems as a black ballerina all summer, fall and winter. She always makes a point in these interviews of saying how hard it was for because she was black and that now she wants to be a principal "ABT's first black principal". I found it refreshing when the NewsHour interviewed Patty McBride,who said those sorts of comments dumbfounded her. She said in her day "people just wanted to dance"; I'm sure they also wanted roles. But the aggressiveness of saying you want to be a principal and that if you're not made one it's because the AD, the board or someone else is racist ridiculously OTP.

Misty also made an Under Armour commercial where the voiceover explicitly states her intention to become ABT's first black principal. Nothing whatsoever to do with the athletic wear she is selling.

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You must not own a television Pique Arabesque. Misty has been on The PBS NewsHour and NY1 talking about her problems as a black ballerina all summer, fall and winter. She always makes a point in these interviews of saying how hard it was for because she was black and that now she wants to be a principal "ABT's first black principal". I found it refreshing when the NewsHour interviewed Patty McBride,who said those sorts of comments dumbfounded her. She said in her day "people just wanted to dance"; I'm sure they also wanted roles. But the aggressiveness of saying you want to be a principal and that if you're not made one it's because the AD, the board or someone else is racist ridiculously OTP.

I do own a television, and I am very familiar with Misty's media appearances. Though I have heard her talk about struggling with weight and wanting to be "seen" earlier in her career, she has also frequently discussed being in a really great place at this point in her life. Misty is also not the first dancer to express her desire to be a principal. If I recall correctly, Ashley Bouder said in one of the city.ballet episodes that she knew from a young age that she wanted to move to New York be a principal at City Ballet. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious and setting goals for oneself, and Misty has never accused ABT of not promoting her to the principal rank because of racism.

Misty also made an Under Armour commercial where the voiceover explicitly states her intention to become ABT's first black principal. Nothing whatsoever to do with the athletic wear she is selling.

I have not seen that commercial. I saw a different commercial, in which Misty does chaine turns while a voiceover reads a rejection letter (which was not an actual rejection letter received by Misty).

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