Maé-Bérénice Meité (FRA) advocates for diversity and inclusion in Figure Skating

Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) posing at the Gala Exhibition during the 2020 ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Graz, Austria. @ISU

French Figure Skater Maé-Bérénice Meité is committed to empower younger generations through her own lived experience.

Born and raised in Paris, Maé-Bérénice Meité did not start Figure Skating out of family tradition, nor did she begin in the sport after watching it on television. Maé-Bérénice simply tried it out as an after-school activity and continued ever since in what has been a remarkable career as a 4-time French national Champion, 5-time World finalist and two-time Olympian.

Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) competes during the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Boston, Massachusetts. @ISU

Maé-Bérénice thanks much of her success to her parents’ efforts and sacrifices, who carved out a better future for themselves when they emigrated to France from the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; a move that is reflected on her sports career as a black woman who has succeeded in breaking countless stereotypes in the world of Figure Skating.

Today, Maé-Bérénice is committed to using her experience to elevate the conversation around diversity and inclusion in sport and to empower younger generations of Figure Skaters, who identify as People of Color (POC), with a simple yet powerful statement: “If I made it, they can too”.

How it all started

As a young black girl growing up in France, a well-known multicultural country, starting Figure Skating in her hometown proved to be a very positive and inclusive experience, and it paved the way for Maé-Bérénice practicing a historically white-dominated sport.

“I can say that as a kid choosing Figure Skating was never an issue to me because in France, at least in my skating club and other places in the country, people from all backgrounds can get into our sport. As a kid, diversity was the norm“and even when we started to get to a higher level, some Figure Skaters were coming from the French west indies, from Arabic countries and we turned out to be a mashup of nationalities.

Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) competes during the 2022 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating – Grand Prix de France in Angers, France. @ISU

Maé-Bérénice acknowledges that growing up she didn’t feel judged by her skin color and generally felt included in her training environment. “We just went on the ice to have fun, like skaters shouldand I never felt race was an issue growing up, at least for me.”

Fortunately for Maé-Bérénice, she grew up with her parents’ full support and the necessary facilities to practice skating. However, this is not the case for every child; ice skating comes at a cost and usually implies a financial burden for many families that cannot afford their children’s practice lessons, thus resulting in a lack of opportunities for many disadvantaged minorities.

“I can say I was lucky because as a single daughter my parents let me choose the sport I wanted to do. At first they were kind of surprised, because it wasn’t the first sport they expected me to choose, but after three months of tryouts, it turned out to be something I really loved.That’s how I got started with Figure Skating.”

Figure Skating Accessibility

Many minority groups do not have the means to practice ice skating, which is an expensive sport. A more inclusive accessibility to ice skating would foster greater diversity on the ice.

That is why it is so important to bring to light the stories of role models such as Maé-Bérénicewho, through different community initiatives, promotes opportunities for POC skaters to practice the sport at an affordable price. Maé-Bérénice has experience skating and practicing in both France and the USA.

Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) competes during the 2019  ISU Team Trophy in Fukuoka, Japan. @ISU

“I would say in France it’s easier to get access to Figure Skating because it’s not as expensive as in the US. In Europe, the set up is different, as we evolve in group settings, so the cost of getting into skating usually is not that expensive. The ugly truth is that some kids don’t even know this sport exists, some others don’t even think they can be Figure Skaters, and that’s the issue. I think the main problem is that it gets too expensive, so even if the kid is talented, the parents can’t afford it.”

Overcoming obstacles

For Maé-Bérénice, like many others, Figure Skating has always been more than just a sport. It’s been a safe space where she could connect with herself and feel free.

But even so, and with her positive experience, this sport can be exclusive and it does not escape from discrimination when it comes to racism, sexism or LGTBQI phobia.

“Honestly, I was fortunate enough because my experience growing up as a Figure Skater was the best. I was lucky to be surrounded by Figure Skaters and people within the Figure Skating community that never made me feel different or inferior because I’m black.”

“As I moved more and more for summer camps and training abroad, I was able to learn from some of the best coaches in the world. I never felt unsafe or discriminated against when it comes to the people within Ffigure skating.” Meité noted. “When I competed internationally, I was just a Figure Skater among the others, as we were just competing against each other.” she adds, “Sometimes I would win, sometimes others, and that’s all that matters. Although I’m aware it is not always like this, as there’s more to be done to achieve real inclusion to reflect diversity on the ice”.

Unfortunately, discrimination and racism still exist. We see it happening everyday, notably on social media where people hidden behind their screen can be extremely mean and have a direct impact on athletes’ and their mental health.

Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) performs during the 2016 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Grand Prix de France in Paris, France. @ISU

“I usually try to protect myself, specially during competitions, to not read anything such as blogs, forums or event comments on my YouTube channel, just because I know how people can be evil. And the thing is that they don’t even know your life story. Their pastime is to comment and pick on other people”.

Opening up to certain situations is not so easy. Behind every athlete, there’s human being with their own story of sacrifices and struggles. To Maé-Bérénice, being a POC skater has been a long-life lesson that has definitely shaped her to be a more resilient woman.

Breaking stereotypes

Figure Skating is probably one of the most judged sports, inside and outside competitions, as it usually leads to misinterpretations of commonly established stereotypes. For example, the question about being feminine or masculine enough depending on which discipline you compete in.

Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) during the 2020 ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Graz, Austria. @ISU

Maé-Bérénice distinguishes herself with her unique style as a skater that never fitted in the mold of what was expected from her. Pushing the boundaries of the stereotype of a “gentle” female skater on the ice has instead given her the opportunity to show her skills and resilience through hard work.


After a long and tireless time off due to an injury, Maé-Bérénice has returned to the ice this last season, ready to take it step by step as a more experienced skater, enjoying every step of the way.

“Especially now, I really want to improve and showcase my uniqueness. I understand the codes and the standards in Figure Skating and I’m using those to bring my own species, if I may say. What skating taught me is not about perfection, rather it’s about progression. So I’m now allowing myself to be a little bit more vulnerable, by making mistakes, by trying new things and by getting out of my comfort zone trying to find my goals and find the ways to fully express myself on the ice”.

Committed to Diversity and Inclusion in sport

Maé-Bérénice did not only find her passion in Figure Skating, but also a purpose through her own experiences, as she is motivated to work towards a more diverse and inclusive environment in sport, and is committed to set an example through her own skating journey to other skaters out there.

Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) competes during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, Korea. @AFP

“I did not fully understand what I was doing and the impact I could have as a figure representation, until recently actually, until 2019-2020 when the whole thing happened with the Black Live Matters movement. That’s when I started to realize that it was much more than just what I saw as a game. That’s when I realized the responsibility that I could hold. It was not only aboutf making my country proud and contributing to a global reach, it was also a little bit deeper than that in regards to representation for kids and minorities”.

As Maé-Bérénice realized her potential as a public figure, role model to future generations in the sport, she pursues her skating career today motivated  not only by setting new skating goals, but also achieve meaningful accomplishments representing and speaking up for others, on the ice through her powerful performances and off-ice through campaigns.

“Definitely, one of my main motivators is being able to give back, to create opportunities for skaters or children in general, for those who are not as fortunate to have a family that could invest as much as mine did, or to those who are growing up in very harsh environments”.

Inclusive Business Mindset

With an entrepreneurial mindset, Maé-Bérénice not only advocates for the sport, but also takes concrete actions working on building her own business to improve the sport’s inclusion, as she acknowledges that one can not be an athlete forever.

Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) competes during the 2022 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Grand Prix de France in Angers, France. @ISU

“Aligned with my vision, I want to make an impact on the ice and off the ice, and now through social media I have the capability to be seen by billions of people, send messages, build communities. So there’re many things we can do.I want to use my personal branding to impact people’s lives in multiple ways, not just as Figure Skater, but also as an entrepreneur, as a woman, as a philanthropist later on. It’s just a beautiful journey and I’m embracing every second of it, on and off the ice, and I cannot wait to see it come to life!”.

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