Natalie Portman's Husband Reveals the Reason He Quit His Job

December 30th 2016

Almie Rose

Benjamin Millepied is a ballet dancer and choreographer, but up until recently, his most noted role was probably that of Natalie Portman's husband.

Benjamin Millepied and natalie portman

However, he's being talked about in the media for a different reason.

Millepied, who choreographed the film Black Swan, was briefly the dance director for Opera de Paris, a premiere ballet company. In February he resigned, citing "personal reasons."

But now, he's revealing in a documentary that his real reason for leaving was a direct response to racism in the industry, according to Page Six. In the film he explains:

"I heard someone say a black girl in a ballet is a distraction. If there are 25 white girls, everyone will look at the black girl. Everyone must be alike in a company, meaning everyone must be white."

He decided it was up to him to make a change, saying, "I have to shatter this racist idea."

Per Huffington Post, Millepied assumed his role at Opera de Paris with high hopes of dragging the "300-year-old company into the 21st century, in part by incorporating more dancers of color into an industry with a lily-white past."

"For the first time at Opera de Paris," according to the film via Page Six, "Benjamin Millepied [gave] a mixed-race dancer the lead role in a classical ballet." That dancer, according to arts and culture website Thalo, was Letizia Galloni.

Ultimately, Millepied could not continue working with a company he deemed racist. "I’ve realized that it’s too hard to turn this [organization] into what I think is most relevant for ballet today," he said at a press conference, according to Page Six.

Ironically, the most famous ballet dancer in the world right now is arguably Misty Copeland.

Copeland, who has a Barbie doll made her image, is the first black woman to be promoted as a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre.

In March, Copeland joined President Barack Obama for a discussion with TIME magazine about black women and body image.

However, Copeland's success doesn't mean there isn't a long way to go.

Copeland is an exception, not the rule. Pointe Magazine, the premiere ballet magazine, declared that ballet "has a diversity problem." Writer Joseph Carman states "ballet has a lily-white reputation" and there is a reluctance from some dance companies to change it.

Virginia Johnson, the artistic director of Dance Theatre of Harlem told Pointe, "People still have not embraced the notion of diversity within this art form because it’s always been seen as an exclusive art form. It’s not only been exclusive of people of color—it’s been very class-oriented."

Rachel Moore, of the aforementioned American Ballet Theatre added, "I’ve heard from the mouths of dance professionals that black dancers categorically cannot become ballet dancers because they don’t have the right body. I think that is an incredibly unfortunate myth that still exists."