In her new memoir, New York City Ballet’s first Asian-American soloist speaks out about racism and sexual bullying in ballet. Now she wants to overhaul the industry from within

When Georgina Pazcoguin was 19 years old, she went to see a doctor about her thighs. A dancer at the New York City Ballet, Pazcoguin had previously had what was known among dancers as “the fat talk” with the company’s then leader, Peter Martins. During their meeting Martins had told her she didn’t “fit in”, silently indicating the area between her backside and her knees. And so, following a recommendation from a friend, she visited the office of one Dr Wilcox, who told her she should consume no more than 720 calories a day – the recommended number for the average woman is closer to 2,000 – and gave her some sealed packets of powder. For the next four months, she subsisted on the powder, plus a single chicken breast and two pounds of spinach or lettuce, which would make up her evening meal.

“No one wants to be told their body is insufficient,” says Pazcoguin, now 36. “I mean, line is essential in my business; there is a certain aesthetic [that is expected]. But I am not an ectomorph. As a dancer you are staring at your body all day long in a mirror. But to try to intimidate me to make me look like this stick figure? Some women are just born a particular way. And there [should be] flexibility within the ballet world for more body types than just this waif-thin idea.”

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