Pride is an everyday sense of self, an empowered embrace of who you are at your core. Those who practice pride become beacons for all those still stumbling around in the dark. We could all learn a lesson in pride from Harper Watters. The 26-year-old, black, gay ballet dancer is a soloist with the Houston Ballet (the fourth-largest professional ballet company in the country) who is one of the brightest beacons of pride in the sky.
“My 3-year-old son told me recently that boys don't do ballet. Apparently his preschool teacher told him ballet slippers/ballet is for girls. So we watch your videos together!” This comment found on Harper’s Instagram is one of many from those who feel the warmth of his light, urging them forward into their true selves. Under that warm light is every intersection of Harper’s identity, including his new role as an ambassador for the I am Life® campaign. The City of Houston's Health Department’s first-ever HIV prevention campaign directly reaching out to African American and Hispanic/Latinx members of the LGBTQ community, I am Life® is breaking ground and creating awareness in the most diverse city in the country.
“Health isn’t just a personal thing, it involves everyone around you, the people you love and the things you care about. Just get tested! There are stereotypes and preconceived notions about your health and your status, much like ballet, but HIV is no longer a death sentence. You can achieve undetectable status, you can prevent transmission, and that’s the importance of this campaign. I am life — and I’m going to live my best life.”
Harper’s passion for life is palpable — “I want to be the Wendy Williams of ballet.” Harper admires the way his problematic fav, Wendy, unapologetically commands her audience and embraces her identity. “I’m a dancer but I’m also someone with opinions. I speak my mind and engage in conversations and forms of expression. I’m not an Oprah, I’m not an Ellen, I’m a Wendy.”
Now in his tenth year as a Houstonian after being scooped up by Houston Ballet as a teenager, Harper is loving the place he now calls home, especially with Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion, and Normani drawing attention to it and furthering Beyonce’s vision of taking Houston worldwide.
A fan of Beyonce’s noted fav, The Menil, Harper loves the Montrose area and Houston’s thriving food scene. “We love a Barbarella moment. Chris Shepherd is a big supporter of the ballet and we love his restaurants. Coltivare, Better Luck Tomorrow, Indigo.” Recently falling in love with MATCH, Harper is a big supporter of TUTS and Houston theatre, thanks to his roots at a performing arts high school.
“My motto this season is ‘show up and work hard’. I step in the studio and just focus on being myself. I don’t conform to opinions about what ballet should be, what I should be. What I’m trying to say with my dancing is important and should be heard.” His sentiments echo the mission of the I am Life™ campaign perfectly: I am here. I exist. I matter.
“Just show up for yourself, for your art, for your loved ones. Show up and be passionate.”