Brown Girls Do Ballet Builds a Successful BrandBy Lauren Bealore on June 27th, 2016 /
As I watched another Independent Lens documentary, my eyes began to be filled with water. It was heavy of emotions that included a combination of tears of joy and triumph. That is what watching the recent showing of A Ballerina’s Tale, a documentary following the career span of principal American Ballet dancer Misty Copeland did for me while inspiring the subject matter for this article.
Historically, the world of ballet is synonymous with Wasp, European, Anglo-Saxon decent that glorifies the technical form and talent of a sea of creamy complexions that embody that representation. What has been found in recent years is that just like any other industry, women of color can infiltrate and dominate this realm of entertainment, turning ballerinas into business moguls…and that is just what our Y.A.B. Venture Partner from Texas Brown Girls Do Ballet sought to explore.
In June of 2013, we received an application for our venture partnership from a woman who was looking to start a non-profit seeking to celebrate dancers of color in the genre of ballet and provide them with scholarship aid to pursue more opportunities in the dance world. TaKiyah Wallace, a former 11-year teacher for gifted and talented students in the Texas urban school district, decided that when she entered motherhood, she wanted to provide a space for young women of color that looked like her daughter to give birth to new possibilities in this classic form of dance.
In her personal statement, TaKiyah stated “I love everything Y.A.B. stands for and hope to be able to contribute using my talents whether in photography or entrepreneurship in some way.”…and from there Brown Girls Do Ballet was our newest addition to the Y.A.B. network.
Building a Diverse Brand with Social Media
To build the brand, Brown Girls Do Ballet began as a social media movement. Through their Instagram account, this philanthropic organization used this media outlet to highlight young ballerinas of color while catching the attention of Buzz Feed, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and Black Enterprise just to name a few. Prior to the cultural phenom of Misty Copeland’s rise in to the mainstream after her groundbreaking achievement that broke the one dimensional mold of ballet, there was not much emphasis focused on dancers of color outside of contemporary hip hop and jazz dance. The entrance of Brown Girls Do Ballet provided an inspirational outlet for young girls of color and also showed the profit possibility.
Due to the lack of diversity in school dance programming, TaKiyah utilized the lack of minority population to create a movement that has now resulted in: a brown ballerina ambassador program that allots for mentorship and training from experienced ballerinas for girls ages 10-17, an affiliate photography program that allows for photographers to capture dancers city to city to help them build a national brand, blog contributors to write articles specific to a dancer’s journey, and a foundation and scholarship program to aid in the funding of a dancer’s opportunities to pursue technical training through schooling nationally.
The company has also published more traditional media to tell their story through The Ballerina’s Little Black Book, a compilation of stories from women who are currently breaking down barriers in the ballet world such as Aesha Ash, Alicia Graf Mack and even a personal message from none other than Misty Copeland.
What our Texas Y.A.B. Venture Partner has done is not only created a pathway for our network being the first business we worked with out of that state but also gave women of color the first taste of branding the art of ballet and the modern day ballerina. Lack of cultural diversity and representation have given many entrepreneurs of color a platform to implement change and create pipelines of resources in order to revamp the narrative.
Today’s ballerina’s tale is not one of tears of sadness but the same tears of joy I experienced watching someone else’s story…and with businesses like this we can be certain that the book of stories are bound to grow.