SAN FRANCISCO -- Alaja Badalich, 17, has been dancing since she was 2 years old and dancing classical ballet since she was 10 years old. Though she's a regular on the stage, she says she never quite felt she fit in.
"I think for me being on stage and having a tutu on and having the straps not match my skin tone and then have the tights not match my skin tone and then have the shoes, but more like my upper body is my skin tone was, like, not fun for me, because everyone else had it," said Badalich.
She's not alone. Imajin Lias, 19, understands. For years she struggled to make her pink pointe shoes more closely match her skin tone.
"It throws it off completely because when you're on stage, people just go directly to the foot," said Lias.
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Both women are students in the Alonzo King Lines Ballet training program in San Francisco.
For the first time, shoe companies are offering pointe shoes in different shades.
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"It's a simple thing but really it's a big deal," said Badalich.
The new shoe options will also save dancers time and money.
Lias described the painstaking process of "pancaking" her pointe shoes.
"I buy, like, liquid foundation. I buy at least two bottles and then I get, like, the makeup swabs. I'll sit for maybe 2-3 hours just painting my shoes," said Lias.
When pointe shoes match a dancer's skin tone, it creates a long line that's aesthetically pleasing to the audience.
"I think it's more inclusive and it gives dancers of color a bigger voice in the dance world," said Badalich.
Tights in different shades have been available for some time, but not pointe shoes. It's a change these dancers say is a step in the right direction.
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Ballet students celebrate pointe shoes in different shades to match skin tones