By Anne Raso
Meet Misty Copeland: The Groundbreaking First Black Principal Ballerina
Misty Copeland is a groundbreaking dancer who, in the face of adversity, achieved her dreams and now belongs to one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. Copeland is the first black ballerina to hold principal dancer position in the American Ballet Theatre, and was also dubbed one of TIME’s 100 most influential people.
Copeland went from escaping an abusive father to a motel room with a single mom and five siblings, to finding her creative outlet and voice through the power of dance. She discovered ballet at age 13, which is considered old in the ballet world. But this successful dancer is proof that you’re never too old to do anything, if you put in hard work. She progressed quickly through hard work and got picked up by American Ballet Company at age 18.
in 2012, she performed in the Fire Bird and completed the show, even with 6 stress fractures in tibia, half of them almost fully through the bone, told she might never dance again. 7 months later, she was back on stage with plate in her leg, and 2 years after that in2015, got promoted to principal dancer, making history. People once thought ballerinas couldn’t be brown or black but Copeland’s achievements fight those stereotypes along with preconceptions on their appearance due to her gorgeously muscular build.In this way, she’s an inspiration by encouraging strong over skinny, and remembering that ballerinas are athletes. In a self esteem damaging industry and world, she’s a beacon of much-needed confidence, and body positivity.
The ballerina has worked with Under Armour and her famously emotional 2014 ad she did for them is emblematic of her inner strength and the message that it’s possible to achieve the seemingly impossible. She’s also partnered with New York City ballet soloist and choreographer Justin Peck for “Ballet Across America”, a program that celebrates innovation, inclusivity and diversity in ballet. She’s also close friends with another inspiring woman: Michele Obama. they bonded in being different and “firsts” in their own worlds. Both of these women stand for progression and a fight for acceptance in their communities, and are a reminder to celebrate what makes us unique – it might just end up creating change.
Copeland gets fan mail not just for aspiring black dancers, but for people of all backgrounds, who sense a kindred spirit in feeling like they aren’t accepted, or don’t belong. She finds power in lifting up others and carrying them with her as motivation to keep persevering, as we all should. She’s not afraid to speak out against prejudices and a lack of diversity, and inspires the rest of us to stand out from the crowd and fight for justice as well.
Misty Copeland has been told she’s too old, too black, too injured, and too muscular. But she still achieved her dreams. What one person sees negatively is what another sees as the very definition of beauty, so don’t be afraid to boldly flaunt those so-called flaws, and define who you are by your own terms.