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The story of Lizzy Howell, one of Bilal Hassani’s dancers in Tel Aviv

Ever since the first rehearsal for France at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, they have received a lot of attention. Odds have gone crazy for Bilal Hassani and he is now a favourite to win the contest. However, a lot of attention is on the performance. Especially for one of their dancers: ballerina Lizzy Howell.

Be like the rest

All little girls in pre-school were dancing and I wanted to be like them.

Lizzy Howell to Brut

The girl we see on stage with Bilal Hassani is 18 year old Lizzy Howell. The dancer from Delaware, United States, has a story to tell. Lizzy went viral at the age of 15 when she uploaded a clip of herself doing fouettés, a ballet move, on Instagram. Since that moment, her account there has nearly 200,000 followers.

Lizzy started dancing at the age of five and has been battling weight issues for years now. She however decided not to let it get in her way. She doesn’t want to be classified as a plus-size dancer, mainly because she says a dancer is a dancer, no matter their size or appearance. She is right.

A career like Lizzy’s won’t come without struggle. She has dealt with bullying more than once. Not only at school did she feel left out because of her size, it’s also a common occurance on Instagram. A quick scroll through her Instagram posts and you’re bound to see hateful comments directed at her appearance. She hardly ever responds to any of those comments, as she says she doesn’t want those commenting to know their comments actually get to her. Thankfully for the 18 year old, many comments show love and appreciation for the challenges Lizzy has mounted and the skills she is displaying on her channel.

A story of acceptance

It feels good to represent the diversity in dance.
But there shouldn’t need to be a diversity. We should all be equal.

Lizzy Howell to Teen Vogue

When she found out how a good a dancer she actually could be, she was nine years old. Her teacher back then however told her to lose weight in order to get the more difficult parts in important plays, such as “The Nutcracker”. Despite training endlessly and getting better, Lizzy never got the parts she desired. A few dance schools later, she’s now in a happy place. She’s not the only one there whose appearance doesn’t follow the standard set of rules for ballet. On a daily basis, she trains over four hours to improve her skills.

Since she was thirteen, Lizzy has been suffering from panic attacks and anxiety. She emphasises how important it is to seek help when dealing with issues like that. Her anxiety is mostly under control now, thanks to counseling, medication and dance. Lizzy Howell says dance does actually make her anxious, but at the same time helps prevent it. Dance is an important part of life for Lizzy.

Her story also has to be the reason why Bilal Hassani has brought her on stage for his performance at the Eurovision Song Contest. The French singer is trying to convey a message of acceptance and tolerance in his stage performance. The idea of asking Lizzy on stage for the show comes from Marika Prochet, who has designed the staging for Bilal this year. To 20Minutes, Head of Delegation Steven Clérima spoke about finding Lizzy Howell:

Marika told us about Lizzy Howell, whose story is similar to Bilal’s. But we thought it would be difficult to have her working with us.

Steven Clérima, Head of Delegation for France

No matter how you’re classified by the outside world, it is important to keep doing what you love. It is the message Lizzy Howell and Bilal Hassani are sending out to the Eurovision Song Contest 2019. They will, thanks to being part of the Big Five, represent France at the Grand Final this Saturday.

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