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Viral ballerina sheds light on flesh-colored garments

Finding garments in brown flesh tones can be a difficult task. A local ballet teacher weighs in on the woes.

CLEVELAND — Recently, a video of a black ballerina enthusiastically opening up her very first pair of brown flesh-colored satin pointe ballet shoes went viral. 

The video, posted to Tiktok, has received more than two million views and nearly half a million likes in less than a week. 

It's an issue that isn't often thought of.

As a black woman, I can attest to how difficult it can be to try to find garments and undergarments in brown flesh tones. I wanted to know how the ballet community finds brown ballet pointe shoes in a world of white and pink “flesh-colored” slippers. 

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Dava Cansler runs Foluke Cultural Arts Center in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood. As someone who teaches ballet to children of all skin tones and backgrounds, Dava says the viral video hit home for her.

“It’s more about making things inclusive for all ballerinas, not just ballerinas with light skin. Brown-skin ballerinas deserve representation too," Dava said. 

Typically when we think about “flesh-colored” garments, we’re not thinking about brown flesh. Retailers offer lighter flesh tones, but it’s not as easy to find darker flesh-toned garments in stores.

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Black ballerinas usually have to pancake their shoes- meaning cover with brown makeup-  to make them darker flesh colors. 

I reached out to Kohls, Soma, and other clothing retailers for comment on whether they carry brown flesh-toned garments. I didn’t receive a call back in time for them to make it into this story. 

Despite the slow-moving progress to make "flesh-colored" more inclusive, Dava says that the viral ballerina’s video has brought to light a topic many would have never known about.

“It’s nice to see that the world of what we wear is slowly evolving into a more colorful and inclusive one,” says Cansler.

Editor's note: the video in the player below is from a story published on Feb. 20, 2021.