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Esie Mensah says the shade of her skin has been an obstacle her whole career. She speaks with Tony Chapman about the issue of shadeism in communities of colour, her journey to transcend her skin tone and the transformative power of her art.

“Esie Mensah was told she was too Black, even when competing for work with other Black dancers. At first, she accepted her skin tone as her reality but soon decided to shape her own destiny. She developed her own dance style and collaborated with artists that include Drake, Arcade Fire and Rihanna.

Esie then decided to use her art to create Shades and move convention away from colour to creativity. Esie is living and moving proof that positive change can happen.” — Tony Chapman

In this edition of Chatter That Matters, Tony welcomes Esie Mensah — dancer, choreographer, movement director, speaker and storyteller. Having danced her whole life, Mensah began pursuing it full-time partway through university when she left her undergraduate track to follow her dreams, enrolling in the George Brown dance program with no formal dance training. While she became extraordinary in her craft, Mensah faced constant obstacles because of her race and skin tone.

She speaks with Chapman about the issues of access in the performance industry, the multi-billion dollar skin bleaching business and the ongoing stereotype that “whiter is better” — that the lighter your skin, the better your access to opportunities may be. She reveals how she moved from accepting the barriers that came with her shade to creating her own path, which has included the invention of a new dance genre, her 2019 Ted Talk on shade-based discrimination and her groundbreaking production Shades, which uncovers the process of healing from shadeism in the Black community.

Having worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and icons, Mensah’s greatest achievement is the creation of her own work and the transformative impact it has had on dancers and audiences alike. She encourages listeners to follow their own paths and their own hearts to bring themselves into the spaces they deserve to be without compromising who they are.

To listen to this show go to, or download Chatter that Matters wherever you get your podcasts, or on these stations:

  • Newstalk 1010, Toronto
  • CFRA 580 Ottawa
  • CJAD 800 Montreal
  • CJBK 1290 London
  • Newstalk 610 St. Catharine’s
  • CKLW 800 Windsor
  • CKFR 1150 Kelowna
    • Fridays at 1 p.m.
  • CFAX 1070 AM Victoria
    • Fridays at 8 p.m.
  • BNN Bloomberg, CFTE 1410 Vancouver

To listen to Tony Chapman’s CHATTER THAT MATTERS Podcast, download Chatter that Matters on I HEART Radio, wherever you get your podcasts, or at: