In Leslie’s shoes: I belong here

Name: Leslie Short

Hometown: NYC, NY

Where do you live? Brooklyn, NY

What does it mean to have a voice? Understanding your inner power and what you will and will not except. Understanding your limits; not for what you can do, but for what you will allow others to do or determine for you. Understanding as you continue to grow your voice will change.

How did you find your voice?

I don’t remember not having a voice. I was a kid that questioned things and knew what I wanted. What others thought of me was not important and I had no problem letting people know that I could think for myself.

What event or series of events led to you finding your voice?

My parents always told me I was my own person and that respect was not given but earned, regardless of age or position.  I can’t remember a time when my parents didn’t have my back. I was taught to hold my head high when walking into a room. One of my 6th grade teachers said my parents needed to stop sending me to school like I was going to a fashion show because there is no such thing as a black ballerina so they just need to stop. After she received a call, she watched what she said to me. Knowing my parents always had my back allowed me to stand up, even as a kid, if I felt something was not just. I learned to treat others as you want to be treated and think about others since they share space on earth with you. People will respect you if you carry yourself with respect and show that to others.

Tell me about when you finally found your voice.
I’ve always had a voice but my career path has reinforced it. It strengthened my voice since dancing is not a team sport. Needing to stand up for myself at such an early age gave me an advantage – I was chosen at age 7 to be trained as a classical ballet dancer and turned professional at age 12. My voice gets stronger and wiser with experience and knowledge because no one can silence your voice if you understand your strengths and weaknesses in a situation.

Define “voice” and why it is important?

Being able to express your thoughts and feelings in your personal and professional life will always allow you to have power over your thoughts and movements. You create your journey and should never allow anyone else to dictate it. Others may guide or join you, but you need to lead the way. If you don’t have a voice then you will follow someone else’s voice; ten out of ten that’s their journey, not yours!

What advice do you have for someone trying to find their voice?

Sit and be quiet. Then be true with yourself about what you like and what you don’t like. Begin to express those things and you will see that you feel empowered by knowing what makes you happy. Taking the time to sit and be quiet, or taking a moment to respond to your true self will begin to come easier. This will allow your voice to become clearer and stronger.

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