Natural hair is not something you typically see on stage during a classical ballet performance. While strides toward diversity have certainly been made in the dance industry, you can't deny its same eurocentric beauty standards still hang overhead. After all, it's still considered headline-worthy — an exception, even — when someone like Misty Copeland rises up the ranks. For ballerina and Miss Black USA winner Daphne Lee, that's just another reason to proudly display her identity through her hair.
In an interview with Allure, Daphne opened up about facing the beauty standards of ballet as a black woman. When asked about chemically relaxing her hair, she said she used to do it when she was younger and saw others in dance and entertainment straighten their strands. Eventually, she started questioning, "Am I conforming into something that I'm not?"
The Afro-Latina dancer has type 4c hair, tightly coiled, and she's worn it in cornrows, locs, an afro, and in countless other styles. She said, "When I do photoshoots...I make sure that I show that yes, I'm a black ballerina, but I can show unique styles that can benefit staying true to myself, [while] also staying true to the classical form."
As for the significance of her textured hairstyles, Daphne explained, "We never made it political. Our hair was always just our hair growing from our head. When we couldn't wear it a certain way and we couldn't get jobs because of it, that's when it got political. It's not our fault that our hair grows this way."
She also claimed, "I don't want to say that I'm using my hair to make a statement. It happens because it's still not the norm."
Daphne continued, "I'm just wearing my hair a regular way, you know. As long as I'm alive, it's going to grow, and I make sure that it's conducive to my job, which happens to be dance. So I want to make sure I'm able to have diverse styles."
In other words, the way Daphne wears her hair for dance should be NBD. As she said in the interview, "It's normal!" But, because ballet has long put forward singular (read: white) ideals of what beauty looks like, her "normal" is another necessary step forward in making dance more inclusive.