“I’m just doing what I love”

Giovanni+Castiglione+dancing+with+the+Starlettes.+Courtesy+of+the+Solon+Starlettes%27+Facebook.+Photo+taken+by+T.A.+Badowski.
Giovanni Castiglione dancing with the Starlettes. Courtesy of the Solon Starlettes' Facebook. Photo taken by T.A. Badowski.

Giovanni Castiglione dancing with the Starlettes. Courtesy of the Solon Starlettes' Facebook. Photo taken by T.A. Badowski.

Giovanni Castiglione dancing with the Starlettes. Courtesy of the Solon Starlettes' Facebook. Photo taken by T.A. Badowski.

Melissa Ellin, Editor in Chief

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Males can be minorities too.

Don’t believe me?

This year, Solon High School (SHS) junior Giovanni (Gio) Castiglione was welcomed as the first male onto the Starlettes, the SHS dance team that performs with the band. He is currently the only male on the team, but he said the group welcomed him with open arms.

“Everyone’s been extremely welcoming in the group so far,” Castiglione said. “I love every single one of them and I’ve had no negativity whatsoever.”

Castiglione found his way to Starlettes because of his passion for dance. He said that he was looking for an outlet other than Music in Motion (MIM), the SHS show choir, and although the Starlettes were all females, he wanted in.

“I talked to the director of the Starlettes and she said ‘Oh yeah, if you want to audition go for it,’” Castiglione said. “‘It’s a whole process, but we’ll let you audition.”’

Castiglione went through the same auditions and preparations as all the girls, and soon, he was a full-fledged Starlette. Starlette and SHS senior Destiny Coe said that there was initial uncertainty regarding Castiglione’s enrollment, but when a change as big as this occurs, immediate heartfelt connections are a stretch.

“No one ignored him,” Coe said. “It just took a while for everyone to warm up to who he was and get to know him, but after band camp, we all loved him. We all still love him, it just took a while to get used to having a guy on the team.”

On the other hand, the reception outside the team has been mixed. Castiglione said the majority of people he’s encountered have been encouraging, but there are still people opposed to his actions. Despite this, Castiglione has learned to shake the haters off.

“I’ve gotten some pretty rude comments both in and outside of the game from people who aren’t in band, and even sometimes in band itself, but I’ve learned to ignore it because there’s going to be people that are not going to like what you’re doing either one, because they’re jealous or number two, because they think it’s not right, but I’m doing what I love and I’m happy that there are people out there who actually accept me,” Castiglione said.

And there are plenty of people who not only accept Castiglione, but adore him because of what he’s doing. Coe mentioned that after going to Band Bash, Castiglione became somewhat of a celebrity.

“There  was a huge Band Bash [Snapchat group], and then [Aurora High School students] posted videos of Gio…” Coe said. “And then the whole entire Band Bash Snap was just videos of Gio, and people raving about him… The whole Aurora [dance] team ended up adding him on Snap after the night was over.”

Even though people are widely receptive to Castiglione’s Starlette status, there are practical obstacles that come with having a male on an all-girls team. For one, when there are Starlette sleepovers, Starlette and SHS junior Rachel Verbiar mentioned that Castiglione can’t spend the night. But with modern technology, this problem was an easy fix.

“We have Starlettes sleepovers, and we wanted him to sleep over, and he obviously can’t…” Verbiar said. “But he stayed until midnight and left, and we Facetimed him, then he fell asleep on the phone.”

Additionally, while the girls prepare for games in the Orchestra room and Castiglione gets ready in the bathroom, the team tries to include him in every step of the process.

“We can’t change in front of him, but he waits outside and then comes in after we’re done changing,” Verbiar said. “We get ready an hour before the game and we put on our makeup and he sits in there while we put on our makeup and talks to us.”

Regardless, there are some gaps that cannot be bridged quite yet, such as the Starlettes costume. The female Starlettes wear skirts, adorn glittery apparel and shake pom poms. So, people on the Starlettes and band have all been asking the question: why doesn’t Gio have pom poms? Starlettes’ Coach, Kelly Wilson, chose not to comment on the matter, but Verbiar was able to shed some light on the topic.

“I think it’s just [that] the coaches want to protect him from anybody making fun of him, so they dial everything down,” Verbiar said.

While Castiglione may not use pom poms in the immediate future, the case is far from closed. Verbiar added that the team is “working on it.”

Another uncertainty: whether we can expect to see more males join the team. There have been no hints to another male trying out, but nobody is taking the idea off the table.

“I think now that he’s started it, I don’t think it will stop,” Verbiar said.

Even if no additional males join the team, Castiglione said he’s gained plenty from this experience. Not only was he able to find another creative outlet for the sport he loves, but he’s learned valuable lessons about optimism and achieving goals.

“Follow your dreams unconditionally,” Castiglione said. “That’s the most important thing I’ve had in my mind throughout all these years. People have always been [like] ‘Oh, this kid’s doing drama and music and all that sort of stuff, he must be this and that.’ And I’m just doing what I love. That’s all I’m doing.”

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