A dancer's job is rarely ever just to dance. They are also fitness experts, on-the-fly seamstresses, makeup artists and social media managers. On top of this, many are also taking on the role of "brand ambassador." This title can mean a lot of different things depending on the company the dancer represents, and it's not all free swag and publicity—it's also a big responsibility.
Pointe talked to a few dancers who have taken on the role, for products ranging from dancewear to energy drinks, to find out the benefits and challenges of being a brand ambassador.
Ashley Hod: Gaitline Shoes
NYCB's Ashley Hod balances on a Bosu ball in her Gaitline shoes.
Andrew Veyette, Courtesy Hod
New York City Ballet corps member Ashley Hod was recovering from three torn ankle ligaments when she saw American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher post about Gaitline shoes on Instagram. "I was actually looking for a comfortable shoe to wear on tour to Shanghai," says Hod, who, because of her injury, needed a shoe with extra support. "I got the shoes on my own and absolutely fell in love with them." Then a domino effect occurred: She told fellow corps member Alexa Maxwell about them. Maxwell then bought a pair, posted about them on Instagram and was contacted by the company. Shortly after, Hod became one of a group of NYCB dancers who have struck up an ambassador partnership with Gaitline.
The biggest benefit of being an ambassador for Gaitline is receiving a number of free shoes a year. In exchange, Hod meets with the Gaitline team whenever they're in New York to provide feedback, and, of course, she tags the brand on social media whenever she posts a photo wearing them.
For Hod, the Instagram endorsements were the biggest adjustment. She explains that it wouldn't have been easy for her to endorse just any brand—being authentic on social media is important to her. "I was hesitant to do it at first. But it's a product I really believe in. So I don't mind posting so much about Gaitline on social media. I really am always wearing their sneakers."
Chloé Sherman: Bloch
Chloé Sherman poses with Bloch products at the Joffrey Ballet studios.
Matt de la Pena, Courtesy Sherman
Chloé Sherman, now in her fourth season with The Joffrey Ballet, had worn the same brand of pointe shoes since she was 14, until she switched to Bloch last summer. Shortly after she switched, Sherman, who actively tags the brands she uses in her posts, was contacted by Bloch through Instagram about becoming an ambassador. Now she says her sponsored Bloch Instagram posts are some of her most "liked"—a perk of being associated with a big dancewear company (Bloch often reposts and promotes its ambassadors' Instagram posts).
While one of her main responsibilities is to promote the brand on Instagram, there's room to grow within her relationship with the company. Some Bloch ambassadors have gone on to do larger ad campaigns and photo shoots. As a relatively new ambassador for the brand, Sherman finds perks in the free products she receives monthly. "It's hard as a ballet dancer," says Sherman. "You don't have an abundance of money to spend on leotards, so it's really nice to be sponsored by a company that has incredible leotards that are produced well."
As far as limitations go, Sherman mainly feels a responsibility to bring an authenticity to her personal brand while also representing Bloch. "There's pressure in the sense that I hope I'm doing a good job," she says. On her Instagram, she posts a combination of professional photo shoots alongside pictures from her everyday life in order to find that balance.
Brittany Rand: Celsius Fitness Drinks and EZ Tofu Press
Los Angeles Ballet dancer Brittany Rand poses with her Celsius Energy Drink after a performance.
Brittany Rand is in her third season with Los Angeles Ballet. Her work as a brand ambassador for Celsius Fitness Drinks and EZ Tofu Press is just another part of being in L.A.—the land of influencers and health food. "When you live here you're always being exposed to the new, hottest health brands," says Rand. "I'm constantly influenced to try a new product almost weekly by social media and the L.A. social circle." She was originally introduced to Celsius by a close friend; she loved the drink so much that she searched their social media and found an application to become an ambassador. With EZ Tofu press, the company's creator is a family friend.
Aside from the obvious perks of complimentary products, Rand has found social benefits to being a Celsius ambassador, such as connecting with fellow athletes and networking within the brand. Rand's bubbly energy fits well with her enthusiasm as an ambassador, and her work promoting both of these products, which she normally does through social media content, has spilled into her company life. "I definitely feel like an influencer within my company," she says. "Some of my colleagues have begun to drink Celsius based on my recommendation. I try to encourage everyone in my company with positivity, good energy and happiness, and I like encouraging new products that are great as well!"
Larissa Gerszke: Gaynor Minden
Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Larissa Gerszke
Steven Vanderveldon, Courtesy Gerszke
For Larissa Gerszke, becoming a Gaynor Minden Artist was a no-brainer. "I've used their pointe shoes since my ballet competition days dating back to 2010," she explains. Currently in her fifth season with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Gerszke fell into the brand ambassador position after visiting Gaynor Minden's Manhattan boutique, where she saw a sign calling for fit models (dancers to try on prototypes and give feedback). She was later able to meet founder Eliza Gaynor Minden, who asked her to become one of their official "Artists." Her role now includes appearing in marketing materials, advertisements and promoting Gaynor Minden on social media.
The perks of being a Gaynor Minden Artist also include a merchandise honorarium for pointe shoes, tights, leotards and other products. (Gerszke actually plans on donating her honorarium upon the renewal of her endorsement.) But, of course, there are limitations. "We can't appear wearing other brands of shoes or dancewear, and they will notice!" But Gerszke doesn't seem to mind. Her favorite part is the actual collaborating she gets to do with the company—from tests that made the size 3+ box possible, to the Core Color project. "Being a woman of color in ballet, I always had to dye or 'pancake' my pointe shoes to match my skin tone," she says. "When I was approached to help select satin colors for the inclusivity initiative, I was elated." Gerszke explains that it's her trust in the brand that makes the relationship, and her role, a valuable resource for her.
How to Become One
Wondering how to become a brand ambassador yourself? There are a number of things you can do to make it happen. First, take a cue from Chloé Sherman: Keep an active and engaged social media presence. Tagging your favorite brands in your posts will help get a company's attention, and posting photos that represent you as your most authentic self will help them see if your personal "brand" aligns with the company's image.
Also, make sure you're following a brand's account—occasionally, brands like Gaynor Minden will be actively looking for representatives, and you'll want to be in the loop so you can apply at the right time, in the right way. Each company has its own method of finding ambassadors, so the most important things you can do are do your research, follow through with the appropriate steps and make sure you genuinely love the brand before you commit to the relationship.