To close up Black history month, the last person we’ll be talking about is Prima ballerina, Misty Copeland. Misty Copeland is a ballet dancer at the American Ballet Theatre in New York City. She recently became the company’s first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in its 75 year history. Misty Copeland manage to overcome all odds and open doors for other dancers of color.
Misty Copeland’s journey began on Sept. 10, 1982 in Kansas City, Missouri. She grew up with five siblings and was raised by a single mother. As a young child Misty moved with her family from Missouri to San Pedro, California, where her mother would remarry. Unfortunately the man would be emotionally and physically abusive, causing the family to uproot and live in a motel. It was around this time, Misty discovered ballet.
At the age of 13, Copeland began learning ballet at her local boys and girls club. Her teacher, Cynthia “Cindy” Bradley, noticed the young girl’s immediate talent, and quickly labeled Copeland as a prodigy. She would go on to win competitions and eventually live with her teacher, at the age of 15. Her living with Bradley led to a custody battle between her teacher and her mother, resulting in Copeland going back to live with her mother. Misty would continue her ballet training at the Lauridsen Ballet Centre and would attend summer intensives at the American Ballet Theatre.
In 2000, Copeland joined the Ballet company, where she was the only black Corps de Ballet dancer. Throughout that time, Copeland would face discrimination not only for her skin color, but for her curvy body which was not considered the traditional body shape of a ballet dancer. In August of 2007, Misty Copeland became the American Ballet Theatre’s first African-American soloist in two decades. The following years would bring immense media attention from news and magazine sources like CBS, The Today Show, 60 Minutes, and Essence magazine. Finally in 2015, Misty Copeland reached her goal of becoming a Principal Dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, thus making her the first in the company’s history.
Today Copeland still dances at the ABT and continues to give back, working with many charitable organizations and mentoring young girls and boys. In 2014, former President Barack Obama, made her a member of the Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. She has also published two books, one a children’s book titled “Firebird” and a memoir called “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina.” Copeland has also appeared in music videos, TV shows, movies, and has even a Barbie doll made in her honor.