Misty Copeland breaks barriers to become first Black principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland just made history again with the American Ballet Theatre as their first Black principal dancer. The American Ballet Theatre has been around for 75 years and this is the company’s highest honor.

Before this well-deserved promotion, the 32-year-old ballerina was only the third African American woman to ever achieve the rank of soloist in the American Ballet Theatre company’s history. She is also the first ever ballerina to be endorsed by the fitness clothing company Under Armour, has danced for the likes of Prince and other music royalty and now, with the release of her memoir, Life in Motion, she’s also an author.

But it wasn’t always glitz and glamour for the ballerina. There were so many who told her ‘no’ or tried to derail her from her passion. Some even said that her attributes, being “curvy and Black” would go against her in the world of ballet. That led to being unsure about herself and her body.

“Being a woman in general it’s hard to be completely comfortable and confident with how you look,” said Copeland. “Especially in an art form like this when it is about your physicality and what you look like. It’s difficult being critiqued and judged on that basis.”
But it wasn’t until she accepted who she was as a woman, a Black woman, that allowed her to go to new heights.

“I had a breakthrough with accepting my body,” said Copeland. “I surrounded myself with other women who looked like me and who were successful—other successful Black women. Even though they weren’t in my field, having that motivation helped me to come to terms and accept myself.”

In a recent interview, Misty described how she stayed focused no matter what the distraction is:
“Just the way ballet is so beautifully structured it ingrains this commitment into you. There’s so much happening and so much you’re trying to understand, and something that’s so beautiful about a dance class is that you don’t feel like you’re just doing repetitive movements, but you’re enjoying it and you’re listening to music and it doesn’t seem like work. When you’re really dancing or exercising, the way you feel, your body starts to crave it. The more consistent I am about going, the easier it becomes to go because I need that feeling again.”