This Stunning Alvin Ailey Ballerina of Color Shares Her Beauty Routine

Beauty standards bleed into every crease and crevice of America. In the world of ballet dance, Eurocentric, single-minded beliefs of what is considered "acceptable" and "the look" saturate the impressionable minds of little black and brown girls everywhere. Imagine being in class and standing at a dance bar donning the same, required uniform as everyone else—leotard, tights, ballet shoes, and a bun—yet still standing out as a sprinkle of color in a room where everyone else looks the same. The "nude" tights look beige against your dark skin. The pink shoes surely don't blend in as they're intended to. And by nature, there's no way you can physically make the texture of your bun look the same as the dancers standing next to you. This is what it's like being a woman of color in ballet.

Of all genres of dance, ballet presents the hardest challenge for black women. The rigid genre has a longstanding history of a lack of diversity. Due to its deeply rooted reputation of prejudice, successful dancers of color, like Misty Copeland, are considered the exception. Alternatively, they should be the standard and offered the same opportunities as their counterparts since technical skills have nothing to do with the color of your skin or the texture of your hair. “People still have not embraced the notion of diversity within this art form because it's always been seen as an exclusive art form," Virginia Johnson, the artistic director of Dance Theatre of Harlem, told Pointe Magazine. "It's not only been exclusive of people of color. It's been very class-oriented."

Body standards associated with black women in ballet have been equally as problematic. "I've heard from the mouths of dance professionals that black dancers categorically cannot become ballet dancers because they don't have the right body," American Ballet Theatre Executive Director Rachel Moore told Pointe. "I think that is an incredibly unfortunate myth that still exists."

Despite it all, black women haven't backed down and have continued to break barriers in ballet. Alvin Ailey School member Dejah Poole is that woman. Born and raised in the south side of Chicago, Poole has a passion for dance that began at age 3. Years later, she's evolved into a multifaceted artist, using her love of dance to advocate for representation and champion diversity. One scroll through her breathtaking Instagram feed will give you a keen sense of her enviable style, strength, and candid love of dance. She shares her unfiltered story, full of both accolades and challenges, and delves into how being a dancer who is also a black woman has shaped her perception of beauty below.