French painter Elizabeth Colomba is the first black woman to create a film for the New York City Metropolitan Opera’s short-film series. Colomba, a first-time director, joins a list of past artists, including George Condo and Elizabeth Peyton, with her two-minute vignette, which will be shown during the Met’s performance of the classic French fairy tale Cendrillon (Cinderella).
Colomba is soft-spoken, but her work speaks forcefully to restoring black women to their rightful places in history and myth. Colomba’s classical style of portraiture depicts her subjects—like Biddy Mason, a freed slave and real estate entrepreneur, or a young Virgin Mary—with a gravitas and dignity that celebrates these women for their agency and self-advocacy and for ultimately taking power over their destinies.
For the Met’s production of Cendrillon, Colomba brings the magic of her eye to the big screen. Sudanese Victoria’s Secret model Grace Bol is cast as Cinderella in the film. “I wanted to redefine the notion of what a princess should look like,” said Colomba, who, fittingly, plays the role of Fairy Godmother in the film. In very fairy-godmotherly move, Colomba chose a young, black Parsons School of Design student, Lashun Castor, to create the costumes for the film.
If you can’t make it to the Met this weekend for the debut—no worries. Cendrillon will be shown in its entirety as a simulcast in AMC theaters around the world on Saturday, April 28, at 12:55 pm. Livestream tickets for performances are also available via the Met’s website during the run of the show from now until May 11.