Prima Ballerina Misty Copeland Breaking Ballet Stereotypes

Misty Copeland for Net-a-porter

Meet Misty Copeland, if you haven’t already yet. She is a 30 year old ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre. That in itself is a huge achievement, as anyone who knows anything about the dance, or watched movies like ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Save The Last Dance’, can attest to. But her amazing achievements don’t stop there.

In an interview with Net-A-Porter’s online magazine ‘The Edit’, she is described as “defying the odds” and “challenging stereotypes” to be unofficially dubbed as the world’s coolest ballerina. Wow!

Copeland is African American, and was born in Kansas Missouri, a far cry from the cutthroat dance industry hub in New York City where she resides today.

She grew up in a family of 6 children who struggled financially, and who weren’t allowed the luxury of after school activities. She got her love of ballet by taking free classes at her local Boys & Girls Club of America at age 13. After showing a lot of potential, she was able to gain a coveted scholarship to study ballet full time. It was then she knew she wanted to dedicate her life to ballet.

Cut to today, and she is making history by becoming the first African-American soloist in the ABT in over 20 years! What an achievement for a young girl who came from a poor upbringing.

The Edit describes her as single handedly redefining expectations, as we normally think of ballerina’s to be bone thin, with no breasts, thighs or fat anywhere on their bodies. When you look at Copeland she is healthy, not flat-chested, and curvaceous.

“I have worked my way from the bottom to soloist – my goal is to set a positive example for minority dancers; to make it easier for them in years to come,” she says.

Misty Copeland

Today she is still the only black dancer at the ABT (despite being there 3 years) in a company of 80 dancers. But it’s only a matter of time before she gains more and more recognition and inspires more young minorities to pursue their love of dance.

“It’s getting the idea into people’s heads that ballerinas can have brown skin that is frustrating. There are so many stereotypes.”

But that hasn’t stopped her from climbing up the ladder of success and getting noticed.

“Not many dancers get the media attention that I do,” she says, “and it’s because I’m so different from the typical ballet dancer.”

Part of that attention was from Prince, who spotted her and asked her to be in his music video ‘Crimson and Clover’ in 2009. She told NY Mag in May 2011 she got a phone call early one morning. “I was asked if Prince could have my cell number,” she says. “I was literally still waking up. ‘What? Prince who?’ ”

After the video shoot the pop start asked her to dance for him on his Welcome 2 America tour in 2010, which is definitely not something you see the average ballerina doing these days. But her journey is something to take note of, because she is essentially breaking the rules and could be considered a ‘rebel’ of the dance world.

While she is heavily lauded by ballet critics for her performances in the ABT’s productions of on Quixote, Le Corsaire, Romeo & Juliet, Sylvia and Sleeping Beauty, Copeland says her ultimate dream would be to play both black and white swans in Swan Lake.

“To dance that role, especially as a black woman, would be huge.” We have no doubt it’s only a matter of time before she will do this, and is going to have to set herself another goal. If her track record is anything to go by.

The best thing about Misty is her dedication to hard work and being the best at what she does. “I am still struggling. I haven’t arrived,” she insists, “[but] I am aware that my life is not normal.”

Thank goodness for dynamic powerful women like Misty who are going after their dreams, breaking down stereotypes, changing the way people see things, and changing the rules along the way. In her wake, many women will follow and be inspired to be pioneers no matter what the status quo is.

Misty Copeland


  1. Kathleen Gilfillan says:

    Misty is absolutely beautiful!! I’d love to see her dance. Any chance of a tv special or online viewing?

  2. Pingback: Misty Copeland Teams Up With Under Armour For Inspirational Video

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