When scrolling through the substantial offering of emojis on Apple products, users will find a pink — and only pink — pair of pointe ballet shoes. Misty Copeland wants to change that.
The veteran ballerina, now 41, launched a petition Thursday to urge Apple and the Unicode Consortium, which creates and regulates the symbols, to introduce more skin tones for the pointe shoe emoji. “In an era where Apple showcases diversity across its emoji spectrum, why is the pointe shoe left behind?” Copeland wrote in the petition, which had just more than 7,700 signatures Friday.
“This petition isn’t just about an emoji. It’s about ensuring the art of ballet, in all its forms, celebrates every dancer’s story and shade,” she said.
Copeland, who made history in 2015 as the American Ballet Theatre’s first Black female principal dancer, has long been candid about the struggles she has endured in the overwhelmingly white, professional ballet industry. She’s spoken about being asked to paint her skin white, wear pink tights and shading her nose to meet white beauty standards. As part of her efforts to bring diversity to the field, she began painting her ballet shoes from the standard pink to match her brown skin tone.
Ballet shoes have usually come in a specific color known as “European pink,” since the industry’s inception. But the so-called nude didn’t account for many nonwhite skin tones. It’s been a common practice for Black dancers to paint their pointe shoes to match their skin to achieve the seamless visual line that ballet requires, Black dancers told NPR. The practice, called “pancaking,” usually involves spreading makeup over pointe shoes. There are several YouTube videos and other tutorials online for pancaking pointe shoes.
In recent years though, companies like Gaynor Minden, Freed of London, and Capezio have begun offering brown pointe shoes.
Now, Copeland wants Apple and Unicode to follow suit.
“I am so happy that several of the pointe shoe brands have expanded to include a wide range of flesh-colored pointe shoes that are more reflective of the variety of skin color tones that dance ballet,” Copeland said in a social media video announcing the petition.
“This is an important show of inclusivity and welcomeness and I want to encourage Apple to join by creating the many tones of the pointe shoe emoji.”
In the caption, she encouraged the public to join her “#MakeaPointe” campaign with their own social media posts.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Unicode, Katherine Clark, said “Emoji proposals are accepted based on the strength of the proposal alone, and are not impacted by petitions and lobbying.” She added that the company accepts the proposals on their website.