"My dream is to use the gifts I've been blessed with to bring positive change to the world," says Canadian former competitive figure skater Elladj Baldé.
A video Baldé posted with the caption "[w]hen you FINALLY find some ice during lockdown" went viral just a few days after he posted it. The video displaying his captivating skills and infectious energy had accumulated over 5 million views on TikTok in less just 72 hours.
Born in Moscow to a Russian mother and a Guinean father, Elladj Baldé and his family moved to Canada when he was two years old. At the age of seven his mother introduced him to skating and it wasn't love at first on the ice. He used to try and get out of practice, and it wasn't until three years in that he really began to love skating.
Baldé has been an active member of the Canadian figure skating team since 2007 and competed internationally for Canada 27 times as a junior and senior competitor. He won the Canadian Junior Title in 2008 and went on to compete at nine senior Canadian championships. He made the national team five times and won his first gold medal at the 2015 Nebelhorn Trophy.
Baldé's Instagram bio reads "spread love and be a light in the world," and that is undoubtedly what he is doing. Following the murder of George Floyd, Baldé and a few other skaters, came together to use their platforms to start the conversation of racial discrimination within the figure skating community. They created the Figure Skating Diversity and Inclusion Alliance. Figure skating typically sees minimal representation among Black skaters like himself and there are barriers for skaters of color, so the purpose of the group is to make the sport more inclusive for athletes in the BIPOC community.
Growing up with an African father and a Russian mother, Baldé has been surrounded by different cultures his whole life, which inspired him to challenge the restrictive predetermined mold that exist for figure skaters. "It's a very tight box where, in order to succeed in the sport on the Olympic level and on the world level, you have to fit this mold and follow certain rules and follow certain ways of skating and choices of music and all that stuff," he explained, making it apparent that people of color have historically not been welcomed by the world of figure skating.
"I want to inspire young Black boys, young Black girls, and Indigenous people and people of color to not be afraid to be different, to be unique, and to embrace that uniqueness, because there's magic that happens once uniqueness is embraced in that way," Baldé told PopSugar.
Baldé made a powerful statement at the 2018 Home Season with his performance of "The Sound of Silence." In his personal statement about the piece he wrote,
"The sound of silence... Although there is immense power in silence, it is not the method used during this shift. Silence can be a revolutionary tool, but our voices have been forcefully silenced for centuries. It’s time to be heard and it’s time to be loud.
The power of the people is being reclaimed. We are standing up for what’s right and demanding for the system not to change, but to be rebuilt from its foundation.
We have reached a level of awareness that now reclaims our dignity and authenticity not only here in the U.S. but throughout the world.
Having experienced racial profiling, systemic racism and racist comments myself is one thing, but hearing about my father’s stories and witnessing what he had to go through in his lifetime has left me speechless. And he is one of MANY who have experienced a level of injustice that would make you think that the human race has no consideration for life.
Let’s keep taking actions that will force a foundational change in our society. We’ve all had enough and the time is now."
Baldé's talent is undeniable and his performances are indeed captivating, but what really makes him magic is how he is using his platform to send a message that is much larger than himself. While blazing a path for Black people in the world of figure skating, he also hopes to encourage young Black boys as he breaks down society's preconceived notions of masculinity. "I want to inspire young boys to not be afraid to express themselves, not be afraid to emote," he said, "I want to tell young boys that it's OK to be vulnerable; it's OK to be emotional; it's OK to show that side of yourself."