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Misty Copeland

Calling: Ballet Dancer

Why we’re saluting her: 

Misty Copeland is proof that age can never keep you from your true destiny unless you let it. While most little girls start off in ballet class at a very young age, Copeland didn’t take her very first class until she was 13 years old; yet she still went on to become the first African American female soloist at the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States, in two decades, and the third in the company’s entire history.

Because of Copeland’s swift rise to stardom, she is considered a prodigy in the ballet world. Though she didn’t begin ballet until she was a teenager, she was en pointe after just three months of training. At 15, Copeland won first place in the prestigious Los Angeles Spotlight awards, declaring her the best dancer in southern California. After attending the American ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive Program in 2000, Misty joined ABT’s Corps De Ballet in 2001, and became one of the company’s youngest soloists in 2007.

In addition to being a trailblazer for diversity in the world of ballet, Copeland is also inspirational for overcoming a rough patch in her early career when her mother and dance instructors were enthralled in a highly publicized custody battle over her. In the end everything worked out for Copeland’s benefit and she continues to thrive as the only African American woman in the American Ballet Theatre — a position she has held throughout her entire career. The dancer, who has recently expanded her presence beyond the stage into a line of dancewear labeled, M by Misty, is expected to discuss her rise to to the top of the ballet world as well as her ability to overcome adversity in a memoir due in 2014.

For her courage to excel in a world of individuals who look nothing like her and the use of her platform to speak out about the importance of strength and an appreciation of the arts and danced among girls of color, we salute Misty Copeland.

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