Under Armour, the athletic clothing brand, is on a mission to prove that their products are for women just as much as they are for men. Under Armour’s CEO Kevin Plank said, during a launch event for the new initiative that “[t]here is a new way Under Armour is going to speak to female athletes and create a voice for athletic females. So today we are starting that conversation and positioning our women’s business to equal or surpass our men’s business in the future…that is the march we are on today.”
Earlier this year, they released a string of ads starring Black ballerina and American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland, the first African American soloist in the past twenty years. Initially they were all just print ads but earlier this week the brand released the first video advertisement with Misty as model of perseverance. And it’s beautiful and quite inspiring.
The commercial called “I Will What I Want” features Misty training in a studio while the voice of 14-year-old Raiya Goodman reads a rejection letter from a ballet school.
Thank you for your application to our ballet academy. Unfortunately you have not been accepted. You lack the right feet, Achilles tendons, turner, torso length and bust. You have the wrong body for ballet. And at 13, you are too old to be considered.
As each one of her “flaws” are listed, the camera makes them the focal point. But then the scene shifts and the music changes as Copeland dances, muscles fully flexed, onto a dimly lit stage. Then as Misty stares directly into the camera, her title “professional ballet dancer” rolls across the screen.
And at the end the words, “I Will What I Want” appear.
Misty Copeland told the New York Times that she never received a rejection letter that so brashly listed the reasons she was unfit to be a ballerina but she said it did accurately represent the resistance she faced throughout her career.
“Once I hit puberty I experienced all of those things. I was told I had the wrong body type, to lose weight, that I had to lengthen because I was too muscular and that my bust was too big.”
Leanne Fremar told the New York Times: “Misty is a ballerina, she’s not a competitive athlete, but she brings a modern athleticism to a very traditional art form, and she pushes the boundaries on the status quo of the word ‘athlete.’ There are a lot of sports, activities, hobbies and passions that women are engaging in that are athletic and physical and should be celebrated, whether it’s dance or soccer or kickboxing or spinning.”
And Misty said of ballet, “A lot of people think of dance as a really sort of frivolous thing, that you just kind of get on the stage and twirl around. [But the commercial is] showing the physicality of what it takes to be a dancer, and to be a professional ballerina, and is giving us the respect that we are just as hardworking as any athlete.”