When people meet me in person, they're usually surprised at how petite I am because there's this idea that because I'm black, I just look a certain way.
When I was 16, I moved to Torrance, California to train at a more advanced studio, and by 19, I joined the American Ballet Theatre in New York. It all happened so fast - it was pretty unheard of that someone could train for so few years and become a professional at one of the most elite dance companies in the United States.
I have the opportunity, which most people don't experience nearly as much, of being in front of a mirror up to 10 hours a day. Staring at your body, you really get to know every little detail of how to make yourself look your best.
'The Firebird' just symbolizes a lot for me and my career. It was one of the first really big principal roles that I was ever given an opportunity to dance with American Ballet Theatre, and it was a huge step for the African-American community, I think, within the classical ballet world.
I wanted to open the dialogue about race in ballet and bring more people in. It's just beautiful to see the interest that has exploded for such an incredible art form that I will forever be grateful to!
I think most people think of ballerinas as kind of either as a fairytale, far-away thing that's really not attainable, something they can't grasp, or they think of them as European or Russian and kind of their nose up in the air. So, it's cool for me to, like, sit with them and for them to really see themselves as me.
That something that I fought so hard for throughout the beginning of my career is I didn't want to pancake my skin a lighter color to fit into the... ballet. I wanted to be myself. I didn't want to have to wear makeup that made my nose look thinner.