We are all blessed with gifts that are innate and undeniable. However, sometimes, life's twists and turns can make us feel robbed of our talent and opportunity.
Consequently, we are seemingly forced to forfeit our dreams to the many misfortunes we encounter along our journey. For professional ballerina Paige Fraser, despite being met with obstacle after obstacle, she stands firmly in the face of opposition. She was built for this.
The young dancer has an extensive resume that includes her work with Beyonce, BET, Intel, and a number of other industry giants but did not rise to fame without overcoming her own personal challenges. Paige first discovered her inclination toward dance at just four years old, and had decided to become a professional dancer by the age of 10. After becoming the first African-American girl at her studio to play the lead role in The Nutcracker, her career path was set, and it was clear that Paige would be a force to be reckoned with.
At the time, the vivacious preteen had no idea that less than five years later, she would receive a diagnosis that would change her life forever. She told xoNecole, "I was diagnosed with Scoliosis when I was 13. I had just started attending the Professional Performing Arts High School where I would receive free dance training at the prestigious Alvin Ailey School in Manhattan. As you can imagine, this was a very tough thing to deal with as a freshman in high school."
Scoliosis is a disorder that causes an abnormal curvature of the backbone or spine that occurs most often during or right before puberty. Upon diagnosis, the condition put her lifelong dream of a dance career on hold, and doctors recommended surgery. This was understandably devastating to the aspiring dancer who recalled, "I remember hearing the words surgery come out of the doctor's mouth. I cried like a baby as he described that surgery would consist of putting metal rods in my back, affecting my range of motion. I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer and having spinal mobility was imperative."
"I cried like a baby… I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer and having spinal mobility was imperative."
Luckily, Paige's parents were a strong support system who were empathetic of her love for dance, and understood that invasive surgery would stifle her opportunity to practice her craft forever. With their support and against her doctor's wishes, their family sought alternative solutions. "We found a Chiropractor in NYC (Dr. Alex Eingorn) who adjusted my spine twice a week. He also suggested I wear a back brace; one that I would wear to school and one that I wore to bed. I was only able to take my brace off when I was training in dance. Those were the best hours of my life."
With persistence, dedication, and the support of a teacher who had also been diagnosed with scoliosis, Paige became a master of her craft. The Bronx-born dancer says that since her diagnosis, her physical imperfections have only fueled her desire to conquer the challenges that had once tried to conquer her. "My drive fuels me even when the days are hard and dark. Each day is another chance to strive to be better than yesterday. Do the work and stay in your lane and remain in faith that it will always work out as it should."
Despite her queen-like stature, persistent hustle, and fearless demeanor, Paige, like most of us, had to learn to find resolve in rejection. The 27-year-old creative professional said that it was only after learning how to manage constructive criticism and defining her purpose that she was able to ditch the idea of giving up to reach her fullest potential.
"As artists, we deal with a lot of rejection," she explained. "Over the years, I have developed a tough skin. Being a professional dancer is very humbling. There are going to be moments when you don't get the job you want or a specific role in a piece. What keeps me going is remembering why I started and thinking back to the beautiful moments make it all worth it. I also grew to understand that timing is everything."
"What keeps me going is remembering why I started."
When you realize your purpose, you have the power to be unstoppable. The 10-year-old girl who once played Clara in The Nutcracker, was later diagnosed with a life-changing physical disorder. Now, that same little girl has has graced some of the biggest stages the world has ever seen. "By fully trusting in my path, I can avoid stressing over what is next or comparing myself to others. Days when I want to quit, I quickly remind myself that I have persevered my whole life, and I'm built for this."
Despite the bumps and bruises that she's acquired along her path to success, Paige was prepared for the ride before she even got in the car. She said that even if you don't quite know where your destination is, if you continue to walk in purpose, you'll end up exactly where you should be.
"Life is going to throw you a lot of curveballs, but it is how you respond to them. As I said earlier, being a dancer is not easy but if you love it, you will find ways to navigate through. For those dealing with a Scoliosis diagnosis, reach out to others who are in the same boat. There is a huge Scoliosis community and now, with social media, it is easy to connect. No one should suffer alone. Remind yourself everyday you are beautiful, strong, and unique. Having Scoliosis is not the end of the world and everyone has something they are dealing with."
"Having Scoliosis is not the end of the world and everyone has something they are dealing with."
We can all learn a lesson or two from Paige, who used her obstacles to create a platform. Now an advocate for Scoliosis, as well as a major player in the dance industry, Paige seeks to use her story to inspire other women. "I hope that my story inspires people to never give up. I am a black girl from the Bronx who has dealt with many challenges, but I chose to persevere through it all. I refuse to let anything hold me back. I am guided by my purpose and I want to give back to the next generation. I want people to look at my story and be inspired to go after their dreams. Nothing about me is perfect. I am unique."
"I refuse to let anything hold me back. I am guided by my purpose."
This year, Paige plans to raise awareness for Scoliosis on an even larger scale with the launch of her foundation. The Paige Fraser Foundation is dedicated to giving inner city students with or without physical challenges a safe space to study art.
Paige is a reminder to be diligent with the gifts that we are given. Many times, the fruits of our productivity aren't meant for self-nourishment, but to feed others. It is your responsibility to use your gifts, despite your personal challenges and obstacles. She proves that if you continue to walk in your purpose despite life's curveballs, you can ultimately win the game.
For more Paige, follow her on Instagram.
*Featured image of Paige by Melika Dez for The Black Iris Project