When Houston Ballet demi-soloist Harper Watters first posted a short video of himself in bubblegum pink heels, he went to sleep with 4,000 Instagram followers. He awoke to more than double that, and 500-plus comments. Now at nearly 65,000 followers, Watters knows he (and his partner in crime, fellow Houston Ballet dancer Rhys Kosakowski) struck a fun chord with a new audience.
What inspired you to put on those heels?
My best friend Rhys and I each got a pair as a gag gift from a former company member. Honestly, before that it never crossed my mind to dance in heels! I've also been really inspired by James Whiteside, Yannis Marshall and local drag queens, too.
Why did you decide to post a heels video online?
One day after rehearsal, Rhys was on the treadmill in heels, doing hysterical moves, and we decided we had to post it. The first video I think I just ran in heels and did one tilt. After the attention it received, I had to give the people what they want. It evolved naturally (as naturally as a boy in heels on a treadmill!).
Social media has opened the doors to many creative projects. I've met other artists, had teaching opportunities, and connected to other young boys fighting the same fight as me. Hopefully viewers are able to look further and see I'm a classically-trained, serious artist. I'm obsessed with Beyoncé and heels, but it doesn't mean I can't be masculine enough for fight scenes or to lift a girl over my head.
Were you concerned about how it might affect your job?
I was nervous, but if anything it's had a positive effect. I was promoted to demi-soloist in October and my workload increased. I also run the Houston Ballet Instagram and every week I work with our PR department. It opened my eyes to creating a brand for myself. I'm grateful to work in a place where I feel accepted for who I am.
Are you nervous about getting injured wearing those heels?
YES! I'm so nervous about hurting myself, I've fallen a ton and turned my ankles. I really don't dance in them very often, so I'll change outfits three to four times so I have a bank of work to edit from.
Which is more difficult: pointe or heels?
I did pointe as a stepsister in Stanton Welch's Cinderella, and pointe is way harder. The amount of taping and blisters, the control and strength to roll up and down.
What's the difference in feeling between classical ballet and "heels ballet"?
When I put the heels on I feel invincible, taller, there is a confidence that comes from it that I've actually carried over into my classical dancing.
Talk us through your production ideas for your videos. What's the vibe you're going for?
With anything I do, I need to be 100 percent authentic. I liked the idea that you could recognize me as Harper the ballet dancer; the only difference is the heels. No glitz and glam, no makeup or wigs or costumes. I taught myself all the editing, so the videos are simple because I don't know how else to do it yet! Someday I'll have seven cameras following me for my reality show about my fabulous life.