Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - EDITOR -

Two pro­files to­day: Bill Bragg is English, white, male and push­ing 60. Misty Copeland is a 30-some­thing Amer­i­can black woman. But they have a few things in com­mon too – they’re both per­form­ers and both change mak­ers. He’s been on­stage with his gui­tar, rail­ing against the sys­tem since Thatcherite Bri­tain; she just has to show up to work and she’s mak­ing a state­ment. Lead­ing black bal­leri­nas are a rare sight. And black women play­ing any role that isn’t os­ten­ta­tiously “eth­nic” in a Dis­ney film – un­heard of.

Copeland is the bal­le­rina in Dis­ney’s up­com­ing adap­ta­tion of the Christ­mas clas­sic The Nutcracker. And it’s clear that, de­spite al­ready be­ing the star of the pres­ti­gious Amer­i­can Bal­let The­atre and the face of Es­tee Lauder, she was blown away to be ap­proached for the role. “It was, like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s go­ing to be this movie that will live on, a Dis­ney film that peo­ple will look at, and it’s not a black bal­le­rina. It’s just nor­mal. It is what it is.’”

Her as­ton­ish­ment is sad, in 2018, but we all know what she means. When Dis­ney de­picts a non-white woman as one of its famed princesses she tends to be wear­ing fringed moc­casins or singing the blues while stir­ring a pot of gumbo or try­ing to coax a ge­nie out of a bot­tle.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms opens on Novem­ber 22, which is also the mid­dle date of Bragg’s three gigs in Auck­land. How­ever, tick­ets for Bragg have sold out so, if you’re in the mood to cel­e­brate change that night, you’ll have to go and see the Dis­ney flick.

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