How a ballet dancer overcame her scoliosis: "Giving up was not an option for me"

In our series, Pushing the Limits, we introduce you to a dance star who has relied on her fierce determination to overcome barriers and achieve greatness.


The only thing Paige Fraser ever dreamed of becoming was a ballerina. The dancer has displayed effortless elegance as she performs with Beyoncé, or in a TV commercial.

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Despite curvature of the spine, dancer Paige Fraser has displayed effortless elegance on stage. CBS News

So, when she was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 13, the highly-invasive surgery that might correct it, scared her. "I went in for a physical and the doctor made me bend over and bend up. And he said, I see a slight curvature,'" Fraser recalled. "I was, like, 'This is insane.' My spine literally curved in two places. I was very unsure and angry that this was happening to me … Hearing the word 'surgery,' knowing that that could and possibly would end my career as a dancer. Just the surgery alone consisted of putting rods in your spine.

"You know, I cried for days."

Deciding against surgery, Fraser turned those tears into fierce tenacity.

"In a ballet class, your hips need to be square; your shoulders need to be square," she said. "And all of these things are altered with scoliosis. One shoulder is higher; one hip is higher."

With years of physical therapy and corrective back braces, Fraser stabilized her chronic spinal condition, becoming an award-wining dancer.

She's performed in Beyoncé's "Mrs. Carter World Tour," and in her own Intel commercial.

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Paige Fraser danced in a commercial for Intel. Intel

And now, at 28 years old, Fraser has made her musical theater debut at Chicago's famed Lyric Opera, in "West Side Story."

Fraser said, "I think everything I've gone through with the scoliosis and being a dancer of color and having to be the best in the room prepared me for this, because I walked in ready."

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Paige Fraser appearing in a recent Chicago production of "West Side Story." CBS News

Fraser credits her parents, Alexia and Edward, for the resilience she's needed to keep going. "It was hard financially for my family," she said. "And I think about it. I'm, like, 'Wow, my parents really sacrificed.' I'm thankful."

Fraser is sharing her blessings with young, aspiring dancers, offering workshops through her own foundation.

"I feel in my heart it's very important to share my testimony with other dancers, especially dancers of color," she said.

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Through the Paige Fraser Foundation, the ballerina holds workshops for young dancers.  CBS News

Correspondent Errol Barnett asked, "What do you say to someone watching this, maybe they're into dance or athletics or something completely different, and they, too, have a disability that makes them hesitate, makes them self-doubt?"

"Giving up was not an option for me, and I don't advise it," Fraser said. "I don't, because then you're feeding into that negativity. And I think you have to push yourself to see the light."