In December, Misty Copeland was named one of Barbara Walters’ most fascinating people of 2015. There’s no doubt that she deserved it, she became American Ballet Theatre’s first African-American principal dancer. Misty is only ABT’s third African-American soloist, the first in twenty years.
The first time I’d ever heard of Misty Copeland, she was on the Arsenio Hall Show. After seeing her perform, I was captivated. Misty’s story of her rise to stardom despite adversity is very inspiring. Misty Copeland is not your average prima ballerina. She didn’t start dancing until she was thirteen years old. Most dancers would say she was already at least ten years behind. The odds were stacked against her. Misty has been told that she has the wrong body for ballet. At 5’2″ she is considered to be too short. She has been told that her legs are too muscular, and her chest, too large. Misty did not let these discouraging words become a stumbling block for her. Instead, they became a stepping stone. Misty Copeland is a prodigy.
Misty was introduced to ballet at the Boys & Girls Club in San Pedro by Cynthia Bradley, who taught a free class once a week. Soon, she began taking classes at the San Pedro Dance Center. By the time she was fourteen, Misty had won her first solo role and the national ballet contest. She mastered dancing en pointe in just three months as opposed to three years. In 1998, she won first place in the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards. She then studied at the San Francisco Ballet for a six week workshop under a full scholarship. Misty became a member of ABT’s Studio Company in 2000, and a member of the corps de ballet a year later in 2001. By 2007, she was a soloist.
Misty is a perfect example of courage and determination. She was raised by a single mother, living in a motel with five siblings. She was an African-American studying an European art form. She was told she would never make it. She dared to dream and then she beat the odds.