What makes Cinderella’s story so captivating story for so many? Is it the magic and glamour of fairy godmothers and pumpkin carriages? Is it the rags-to-riches premise that everyone secretly wishes they could live themselves? Indeed the most admirable trait of Cinderella –a. k. a. Cendrillon in Massenet’s opera – is her maintenance of her values even as she finds fantastical new worlds. Celebrities who remain true to their humble beginnings are called Cinderella stories. These days, the public is witnessing the rise of Chicago’s own Cinderella, Chance the Rapper.
Before he was a Lollapalooza headliner, Chance grew up in a middle-class home on Chicago’s South Side. His Grammy-winning album, Coloring Book, discusses his experiences using Chicago-based artists. In his own words, the album explores the themes of “God, love, Chicago, and dance.” Cendrillon’s values were also formed during her upbringing. Though her father is loving and supportive, Cendrillon endured an often-hostile environment in her stepmother’s home. Through it all, she found kindness, love, and hope within herself, values that serve her throughout the story.
But where would Cendrillon be without her fairy godmother? Despite her strength of character, Cendrillon does not rise to the top on her own – she benefits from divine intervention. Chance received a little divine intervention of his own from self-proclaimed god Kanye West. West, who also hails from Chicago, was already a successful hip hop artist and producer by the time he met up-and-comer Chance. Recognizing his talent, West invited Chance to collaborate on his new album, The Life of Pablo, introducing Chance to a wider audience. Just like the moment Cendrillon walks into the prince’s ball, Chance had arrived, a snapback cap in place of glass slippers.
Cendrillon’s moment in the spotlight is brief: at midnight, she returns home. She doesn’t let her whirlwind experience at the ball extricate her central values of love and kindness. She sees that her father struggles, finding his daughter’s treatment at the hands of his new wife very painful. Not wanting to see her father in pain, Cendrillon feels compelled to act by going out on her own rather than cause more grief. Seeing the struggles of his hometown, Chance feels that same compulsion. On his track “Angels,” he discusses Chicago’s rate of gun deaths, saying “It’s too many young angels on the southside / Got us scared to let our grandmommas outside.” Chance uses his platform and understanding of Chicago to promote campaigns against gun violence, many of which have had a measurable impact on the community. Chance has also made major financial contributions – for example, donating $1,000,000 to Chicago Public Schools in 2017.
Cinderella stories have captivated audiences for centuries; everyone can see themselves in the character. Cendrillon and Chance the Rapper remind audiences of the ability for everyday people to overcome enormous odds, achieve success with a little help from friends, and still retain the values that they found in their humble beginnings. They are role models for communities and for audiences.