Betty Nichols was one of the first Black students at the School of American Ballet, and in 1946 she became one of the members of Balanchine’s Ballet Society. Nichols toured with Balanchine in Europe before the company was established as New York City Ballet. In addition to Blackface, she was also featured in Todd Bolender’s Zodiac.
In a 2013 interview, she said, “I started at the School of American Ballet, probably in 1943. I was the first black in the school. I knocked on the door and presented myself. I thought there was considerable surprise, but the door was opened, and that was it.” She primarily studied modern during her time in Philadelphia and transitioned her focus towards ballet once she resided in New York.