Misty Copeland: An Unlikely Ballerina

MistyCrossover

On June 30, 2015, Misty Copeland made history by becoming the first African American woman to be appointed principal dancer by the American Ballet Theatre Company.

Misty didn’t start dancing until she was 13 years-old, which for ballet is considered a late start, by taking a free ballet class at a local Boys and Girls Club. However, some have titled her a ‘prodigy’ in the ballet sense because she was already winning dancing awards and gaining recognition by age 15. She then went on to accept a couple full scholarships for some intensive programs, one of which was for ABT. Among 150 dancers, Misty was one of 6 girls chosen to join ABT’s Studio Company. She then went on to be chosen as soloist for Swan Lake with the company and was promoted to principal dancer after that.

There are many things that set Misty apart from your ‘average’ ballerina. For one, her late start to ballet and her ability to quickly learn the techniques. Another is what some have said to be her ‘unusually muscular and curvy’ body (for a ballerina). Also that she is African American and a ballerina, two descriptions that don’t find themselves paired too often. In a company of 80 dancers, Misty was the only African American ballerina at ABT for the first 10 years of her career. If this was not enough, Misty Copeland has also been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine this year. Misty’s ad with Under Armour showcases her amazing dancing and has more than 8 million views on YouTube. She has danced along side Prince while he performed and accompanied a couple of his tours. She also has co-authored a children’s book, ‘Firebird’ and written a 2014 memoir, ‘Life in Motion; An Unlikely Ballerina’, which has been optioned for a movie.

Misty throws herself into every opportunity that comes her way, blurring the lines of pop-culture which can be: short lived spurts of what is the newest and hottest trends, with a classic art form such as ballet: described by Misty herself in a PBS interview; ‘(the ballet world), I don’t think is an art form that’s quick to change or to adjust and evolve’.

Misty’s next prospect is making her Broadway debut as Ivy Smith in ‘On the Town’, which includes, not only dancing but, singing as well. She hopes this new challenge will further her in her ballet career.

Her Twitter page is freckled with congratulations after the news broke about her becoming principal dancer. With tweets from Star Jones, Taye Diggs, pics of the Under Armour team delivering a truck literally FULL of flowers to her, and even tweets from Oprah!

She doesn’t let any of this go to her head however. When interviewed on CBS following the announcement of becoming principal dancer in a July 6th interview, Misty humbly stated, ‘…I’m just standing on the shoulders of so many who have set this path for me, and they may not be seen or recognized or have been given an opportunity to have a voice but I’m here representing all of those dancers…’

An interviewer then asked, ‘You know what I love about your story is, you really owned this moment. You didn’t just say I’m a ballerina who happens to be an African American. You understood the symbolism of the moment. What do you want people to see when they see you?’ to which Misty replied, ‘I wanted to set an example for what the future of dance holds. I think ABT is setting that standard now for classical ballet. You can dream big. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, what your background is…that’s the example I want to set and what I want to leave behind.’ She went on to say, ‘I think this is just the start. It doesn’t mean that the work is going to end. It doesn’t mean it’s going to get easier for the next generation…that it’s going to be a walk in the park. But I think it’s going to open up those doors for people….’

She added to this thought in another interview with E! stating that ‘Barrack Obama being president of the United States doesn’t mean racism has disappeared’. She explains how she and all of us have more work to do.

‘Being a black ballerina, definitely, is everything. My life and my path as a ballerina would be completely different if I wasn’t an African American woman. It has provided more obstacles, I think, than I knew when I discovered ballet at 13 years-old but at the same time it has made me want to persevere even more and I think it has made me a stronger person because of it. There’s so many more obstacles to overcome, but I absolutely love classical ballet’.

 

References:

All retrieved on July 13, 2015:

http://www.mistycopeland.com/home.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/misty-copeland-on-new-broadway-role-on-the-town-first-black-principal-dancer-at-american-ballet/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misty_Copeland

http://nypost.com/2015/07/13/misty-copelands-tough-balancing-act/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRJ8oDSy21Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-VgXR_rl9U

Power of Produce

By Sonsie Zamora

foodjustice

I recently read about and am inspired by this business in Oakland that is called the People’s Grocery. They strive to create socioeconomic change through education of healthy produce and food awareness. Their goal is to have healthy and sustainable food options available to everyone. Their specific targets are under-invested neighborhoods, such as Oakland, and then eventually spreading the like-minded change to other similarly under-invested neighborhoods.

In addition to selling groceries at their store and providing nutrition education, they also host three community gardens and offer cooking classes that collaborate with local hospitals to target people with health issues that can benefit from the services. They’ve also developed the Mobile Market which is essentially a food truck that sells and delivers groceries. This aids people that have difficulties finding transportation to get to the store. It’s a highly innovative and brilliant concept, I think. I’ve ordered groceries from Safeway online before when I didn’t have transportation and it is very convenient. I can imagine it’s similarly convenient with the Mobile Market; being able to deliver fresh produce directly to your doorstep when you don’t have transportation to get yourself or your family to the store for whatever reason, or if you don’t have internet access to be able order groceries from a delivery company. You can easily receive unhealthy food to your door, like ordering a pizza or Chinese food for example, but it’s difficult to get fresh produce delivered.

This business inspires me because it brings to light quite a few issues that need to be discussed; the importance of health and nutrition and the lack of education about it, specifically in more urban areas, and also the absence of availability of fresh produce to these areas. These are not issues that only affect us individually, as obesity and other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, are highly prevalent.  This affects us as families and subsequently as a community. On their website, The People’s Grocery refers to Oakland as an ‘urban food desert’, meaning there is a severe lack of fresh produce easily available as liquor stores and convenient stores replace grocery stores and overpopulate the area.

I also didn’t know anything about the Food Justice Movement, whose motto is stated as ‘food for people, not for profit’, until I saw it mentioned on The People’s Grocery website and I then read more about it. It’s amazing to see how far the movement stretches and that there are more people that care about other people and that are dedicated to making efforts toward a more sustainable future for everyone. It’s refreshing to learn about businesses, and the people involved, that are in business for the sole purpose of making a difference, when so many are only in it for profit and could care less about your personal health, the well being of your family and therefore our future as a whole. This makes me believe that sustainability starts with the right mind set, not solely in the act of doing something sustainable such as making changes in your personal diet and habits or starting a garden of your own. These are great things to do, but you could be taking it one step further too and doing that much more for others that can’t and for those in the future as well.

To learn more or get involved, visit:

Cafoodjustice.org

Peoplesgrocery.org

Goal Oriented

By Sonsie Zamora

Guide to setting and achieving goals:

checklist

Being accomplished is a sense of self. Having the ability to set goals, and achieve them makes you feel good. You get things done, you have a clearer mind, less stress and you feel better about life because you’re moving forward and on to the next goal as you accomplish others. If there are so many upsides to getting things done, then why are there so many of us that procrastinate? It’s easy to get distracted, there are so many things that can deter us from our course and throw us off track. I’ll give you a step-by-step guide how I set and accomplish goals and maybe it can help you to avoid the distractions and get those things that you’ve been meaning to get done, once and for all.

The first thing I do is make a list of any and all things that I need/want to get done, whether they are major things or just little day-to-day things. Such as; cleaning out that one junk drawer closet in the house, sorting through all of the loose paperwork that has accumulated, finding recipes for dinners, finishing school, applying to scholarships, finally finishing that make-over you started, etc… All of those things that keep me up at night and rattle around in my mind. I find that once I jot them down, I feel much less stressed already. Next I break that major list into three smaller lists; things that must get done this week, things that can be done in a few months, and long-term goals to be accomplished within the year or even more. Depending on the items on your list, you may require even more ‘smaller’ lists. I like to focus on what can be achieved within the year at the most however, because I feel it helps your momentum when you can keep checking short term goals off of your list. It also allows for procrastination when you set your goals too far into the future, because you might think ‘I still have time,’ then before you know it time is up and you missed your opportunity or you’re still stuck with the same to-do list and nothing has been checked off it.

Things that ‘must’ get done of course take priority and I like to focus on the harder things at the beginning of the week so you can get them out of the way. I usually sit down Sunday night before bedtime and write out my weekly schedule, allotting realistic time frames for each thing that needs to get done during the week. If I have a paper for a class due by the end of the week, for example, I’ll allow myself an hour on Monday to write out a quick draft and outline with my ideas. On Wednesday I’ll clean up the draft and add any research and by Friday I’ll finalize the paper. This way I’m not stressing come Friday to try to finish the entire paper all in one sitting. I find by breaking things into tiny weekly to-do’s, that I am more successful and less stressed.

One can apply the same concept of breaking goals up into little tasks, to long-term goals. Let’s say your long-term goal is to lose weight. You wouldn’t start by simply saying ‘tomorrow I will begin losing weight’. First you’d want to establish how many pounds you want to lose and what would be reasonable to lose each week and each month therefore figuring out how much time it would take to reach your final goal. Then you want to write down all of the things involved with losing weight and break those into weekly and monthly goals as well. Such as; cut sugar and fried foods, increase water intake, start a workout regimen, get fun new workout clothes for motivation, join a gym or find a local area to workout, buy a bike, etc. Make sure to keep the goals realistic and break them up into small, un-daunting tasks so you can keep moving toward your final goal and not get stuck along the way.

Distractions can be a huge problem in not reaching your goals. Especially today with all of the cell phone alerts, news feeds, Facebook updates, etc. Try to either turn off your phone and TV when focusing on your tasks, especially if you’re allotting just an hour or so at a time each day for your goals, you can feel less anxiety about allowing yourself that short and uninterrupted time. There’s nothing that can’t wait an hour, especially when the focus is yourself, which is a lot more important that so-and-so’s latest relationship drama or whatever it is. Also allowing your mind to be clear not only sharpens your focus but can also generate new thoughts and ideas and make for a more creative, alert and less stressed mind. Make sure you plan out your ‘fun times’ too. If you’ve been grinding all week, don’t let yourself skip Friday girls’ night, you deserve it. Tomorrow is always another day and you can get right back to the grind again then.

Once you start successfully scratching things off of your list of goals, you will feel your confidence growing and you may start reaching even higher for your next set of goal. Go ahead and start dreaming big! Travel to different countries, do a marathon, write a book, invent something, finish college, get into your best physical shape or whatever else you dream about. You now have a formula to get you there. I hope this helps and don’t stop setting and achieving goals. When you look back on your life 80 years from now, you will feel so fulfilled having accomplished as much as you possibly could and getting the most you desired out of life.

Red Light on Sex Trafficking

By Sonsie Zamora

NotforSale

Human trafficking generates $9.5 billion annually in the US (www.thecoveringhouse.org, 2015). This is startling. It gets worse. The average age of entry into prostitution for a child victim in the US is 13-14 years old. We always think this could never happen to me, not to my family. But it does happen to children in all walks of life. There is no stereotypical child that this happens to. I watched a documentary recently called ’Tricked’ (2013), where this happened to educated college girls, girls from wealthy families, girls sold by their own families and many other examples. About 300,000 children in the US are at risk of being prostituted.

First let’s break down the stereotypes and barriers so we can better understand these situations. Many times we think, ‘well, if the girls don’t want to be prostitutes, why don’t they just leave?’ There are many reasons why not. These girls (and boys) can be young, naive and vulnerable for one. Also pimps have an approach called ‘boyfriending’ where they pretend to be your boyfriend initially in order to lure you in, then they’ll suddenly change the situation and get physically abusive, cut you off from family and friends, lock you in rooms and threaten you, among many other things. This is their tactic to gain trust and then control over the prostitute. A pimp can also wine, dine and promise these young individuals lots of money and pretty things to entice them into believing this lifestyle is glamorous and promising. Many times these young people have zero choice about being where they are. They are trapped. This is modern-day slavery, to say it mildly.

So the system is flawed already because it’s designed to prosecute the prostitute, who likely doesn’t want to be there in the first place, and not the pimp. The prostitutes are the ones making the transaction and the one in the limelight doing the act, so they make for easy targets. The pimps hide easily and if they do get caught, the prostitutes will usually lie for them for fear of retaliation. Because these vulnerable and mold-able young women are dragged into this lifestyle so young, after some time, they might not know any other way. Even if they did, they are fearful for their life, their families lives and don’t know how to get in contact with anyone that will believe and help them. If they do contemplate it or have means, they are filled with so much fear and shame over what they’ve been forced to do, so they don’t want to come forward. It’s easier to give up. Their spirits have been broken.

So what can we do to change this? We can start by teaching ourselves and our children to be cautious of whom they trust. If someone is promising you the world and it sounds too good to be true…it probably is. There is no ‘easy money’ in life. Everything in life has a price, just like everyone in life has a value. We need to be aware of the facts as adults, parents and neighbors, and don’t turn a blind eye. Don’t think your family cannot be touched by this. One in three teens on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.

We also need to change the way the legal system works. We are persecuting our youth for prostituting when we need to be asking who is behind it. Can we offer the youth help? Can we get in contact with their families? We need to crack down on the johns that enter into this behavior also. The documentary ‘Tricked’ that I watched interviewed johns justifying their behavior of purchasing sex because they said the girls ‘were earning a living just like anybody else’ or that they ‘appeared to be happy and enjoyed what they did’. This isn’t the case. No little girl in the US dreams of becoming a prostitute when they grow up…and certainly not when they haven’t even grown up yet.

 

References:

The Covering House. (2015). The Facts. Retrieved from http://thecoveringhouse.org/act/resources-2/sex-trafficking-statistics-source-documentation/

Wells, J. (Producer). Wasson, John-Keith & Wells, J. (Directors). (2013). Tricked: The Documentary.

Role Models

By Sonsie Zamora

mlkdreamEveryone can benefit by having someone to look up to and goals to strive toward. Do you have a role model?

When I say ‘role model’, I don’t mean Beyonce because she’s amazing or Jennifer Lawrence because she’s famous. I mean on a deeper level; really study what they stand/stood for and how they got to where they are/were. Choose someone whose life and goals are something that you hope to be in sync with. As young people, we feel like we have all the time in the world to achieve everything we want to but the reality is that there is a small window of opportunity where we can really shape and decide who we are and who we want to become. Choices we make now will follow us forever and influence other choices we make later in life. Nobody wants to look back on their life 50 years from now and wish they would have done more. Now is the time!

Maybe you have a lot of people motivating you in life, or maybe you have no one. But I want to make sure to tell you that you truly can be anything and anybody you want to be in life. Don’t let your surroundings or people decide for you. Find someone that motivates you in life, if you don’t have someone already, and make a clear path to the goals you want to achieve and stay focused. A role model can be a source of constant motivation when you need that boost. They can keep you on track when friends, or life, try to steer you in another direction.

There are many people and qualities that inspire me but one example of someone I strive to be like is JK Rowling. She believed in the stories she had to tell so much so that she continued to persevere despite many set backs. It took her 7 years to write the first Harry Potter book and during the same time period she got a divorce, became a single mother and lost her own mother. She stayed motivated however despite all of this and kept writing. In the span of 5 years following that period, she went from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status. That is amazing and her current success is astronomical and something out of a fairy tale, to me.

If you don’t have a role model off the top of your head, start by thinking about what qualities you would appreciate in a role model; someone that is hard working? Someone that is brave and stays positive no matter what? Someone that is accomplished and successful? Someone that makes a difference in the world? Someone that overcame a huge obstacle or tragedy in life? Someone athletic? Someone that dedicated their lives to others? Think of any and all qualities that you wish to be or that motivate you and list them. If this doesn’t make you think of any one person that inspires you, that’s ok. There can be many, many people that inspire you or sometimes it’s certain qualities about people that keep us in awe. The point is to never stop being motivated and inspired by others and to never stop dreaming as big as you possibly can.

Beauty is a Beast

ethnicbeautyWe all have at least one thing we want to change; a thinner waist, smaller nose, fuller lips, thicker hair, bigger breasts, etc…However, when does a healthy inventory of ourselves turn into an unhealthy self image? Where do these desires to perfect one self stem from, and how far would you be willing to go to achieve your ideal self?

From websites walking you through step-by-step how to become a bulimic or an anorexic, to waist training rituals, and celebrities that lose unimaginable amounts of weight in short periods of time, and the quadruple M threat: magazines, models, movies and media. These messages that we need to be younger, thinner and prettier are all around us.

This isn’t a new phenomenon however. The Greeks and Romans used to take crocodile dung baths with the belief that it would tone the body and held anti-aging properties (http://mom.me/mind-body/7471-weirdest-beauty-rituals-throughout-history/item/tapeworm-diet/ K.Thor Jensen, Mar. 2015). They would also ship in human urine from Portugal and use it as mouthwash as it was believed to be a potent cleaning agent. During the 1800’s in England, people would take tape worm larvae in pill form in order to lose weight. Dating as early as the 19th Century, women in China would bind their feet to the point of not being able to walk in order to achieve the desired ‘lotus flower foot’ (a 3 inch foot was the goal). This was a sign of wealth and status because if your feet were so tiny that you couldn’t walk, that demonstrated that you were too wealthy to have to work. This practice would start on girls as young as 4 years old and began by breaking all their toes except their big toe and binding them so they couldn’t grow. Another example from this era is people taking arsenic in small doses because it was said to give you a ‘healthy glow’.

These practices may seem shocking, but are they really any different than some of the practices we do today? One example is injecting Botox, a toxin, into your face. Another is elective plastic surgery which seems to almost be the norm at this point. Specifically, plastic surgery done on adolescent girls whose bodies aren’t even done developing yet. Diet pills and supplements with the promise to help you lose weight, some of which aren’t approved by the FDA. Waist training trends, despite the potential health risks and that the benefits are unproven. Crash diets, such as the baby food diet or liquid-only cleanses. We put our bodies through so much abuse, and for what? To be desired by men and women alike? Because ‘sex is power’? But…power over what? Obviously not ourselves if we’re letting these messages control our actions.

We’re fed these messages from an early age, in children’s toys and TV programs. So it’s no wonder that statistically, adolescent girls are targeted and affected the most by these messages, due to their desire to fit in with their peers, their thirst for the newest and latest trends and media targeting this group the hardest knowing their susceptibility. This vulnerability can easily manifest unhealthy images and negative behavior patterns in these girls, which then go on to develop body dissatisfaction, low self esteem, eating disorders, and many other issues that further feed into these skewed beauty ideals.

These warped messages of what we need to do in order to feel ‘beautiful’ are going to be accessible no matter what. I’m not going to attempt to argue that we need to change society and the media, as it can’t be done overnight, and might not ever happen for that matter. The fight needs to start within ourselves. We need to change the way that we see ourselves and stop obsessing over unattainable ideals of beauty. We need to love ourselves daily, look in the mirror and tell ourselves things that we like and wouldn’t change. We need to surround ourselves with other healthy, positive people and stop comparing ourselves to one another as there is no comparison. We are each individual. We are each beautiful. As women, we have so much more to offer society than a pretty face or a slim figure. We are smart, powerful, creative, innovative, loving and healthy. I believe we can teach ourselves to take in the parts of the messages that are healthy, such as getting a new haircut or wearing the latest trends, but filter out the parts of the messages that make you feel badly about yourself or tell you that you need to change who you are from the inside out and take on unhealthy trends or ideals. Let’s let a healthy self image be the newest and latest trend!