Born on March 7, 1917, Janet Collins is remembered as a powerful force with regard to breaking through racial barriers in her endeavors, being one of the very few classically trained Black ballet dancers of her time.
In 1932, at age 16, Collins auditioned - very successfully - for a place with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. After offering her a place in the company, they also added a stipulation that Collins would be required to paint her face, and all visible skin white.
Collins rejected this notion, and flatly turned down the position, unwilling to be seen as anything other than what she truly was:
An extremely talented, proud Black woman.
This decision was soon proven to be beneficial to her, as she went on to perform in Aida, Carmen, and perhaps most notably went on to become the very first Black ballerina to ever perform at the Metropolitan Opera in 1951.
She would dance there, shattering boundaries for the next 4 years.
In the year 2000, as her health began to fade, Janet Collins moved to Fort Worth to be close to her family. She passed away three years later at the age of 86.
Her legacy however, lives on.
Here's to Janet Collins (1917 - 2003)