11 Amazing Reasons Why Misty Copeland Should Be Everyone’s Role Model

July 1, 2015  |  
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Misty Copeland recently became the first African-American woman to be named a principal dancer in the 75-year history of American Ballet Theatre. But that’s just one of the reasons why Copeland is one of America’s most influential women.

She Was On The Cover Of TIME

Misty Copeland became one of their 100 Most Influential People this year — the first time a dancer has made the cover in nearly two decades.

TIME Honored Her As A Pioneer

Not just as an artist. They did this in honor of Copeland’s drive to reach the top of her field against all odds.

She Was Told She’d Never Make It

Largely because of discrimination against Black ballerinas. Copeland said, “I think when I joined Ballet Theater [sic], there were people on the staff who did not want to see a brown person in the corps onstage. Even to this day, I hear that I shouldn’t even be wearing a tutu. I don’t have the right legs, my muscles are too big.” But the naysaying just drove her to prove everyone wrong.

Misty Copeland Was A Child Prodigy

Her mentor said of the young dancer, “Misty Copeland had a gift. If she saw a step, she could master it. It takes most ballerinas more than three years to get up on their toes. It took Misty Copeland three months.”

Her Under Armour Commercial Went Viral

Thanks to its inspirational story “I Will What I Want.” Only 6.5 million Americans see live ballet every year, but Copeland’s commercial has been seen by 8 million viewers — so far. Copeland has also done commercials for Diet Dr Pepper and Coach. She even has her own dance wear line.

She’s Written A Memoir

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina is all about Misty’s triumph over adversity to become a ballet phenomenon — and one of the only successful African-American women in a predominantly White ballet world.

Prince Helped Nurture Her Career

One day in 2009, he called her out of the blue. Copeland said, “I was half-asleep. I was, like, ‘Prince who?’” She would go on to become Prince’s muse. She starred in his video “Crimson and Clover” and performed at some his concerts at Madison Square Garden. After that, Copeland became one of ballet’s most well-known dancers.

She Didn’t Start Dancing Until She Was 13

She was in middle school when she saw her first glimpse of a ballet class at the San Pedro Boys & Girls Club. Even though Copeland started years later than other dancers, her natural talent — and willingness to train twice a day — helped her to rise quickly to the top of her field.

She’s Committed To Bringing More Women Of Color To Ballet

“Everything I do is about bringing ballet to more people. It’s incredible to get these letters from girls who have seen the Dr Pepper ads and say, she is brown like me. I hear criticism of what I do in the ballet world, but these opportunities show ballet to people who would never see it otherwise.”

Misty Once Performed On A Broken Leg

Only she didn’t know it was broken — just that she wouldn’t let the pain stop her. Copeland said, “the pressures of knowing how many people were coming out to support, how many people in the African-American community, for the first time that understood what this meant to have an African-American woman in this position, doing this role with American Ballet Theater [sic] at the Metropolitan Opera House. So it was like, ‘I’m doing this!'”

Critics hailed her performance, but doctors told her that she had several fractures and would never dance again. Seven months later — with a plate in her leg — Copeland was back on the dance floor.

Starting From The Bottom Never Stopped Her

Copeland grew up in San Pedro, California with five siblings and a single mother. When she was just two, she remembers “our family began a pattern that would define my siblings’ and my childhood: packing, scrambling, leaving — often barely surviving.” That is until she found dance and the determination to turn her life around.

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