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She’s Black: Misty Copeland

In my last post titled “Blogging for 9 Months Now” I told you all that I would be introducing a new category that would highlight the accomplishments of black women.

The first woman that I decided to highlight has been an inspiration to me for years. As soon as I came up with the idea to introduce this category I knew she would, without a doubt, be the first woman I write about. Since I used to dance ballet, it was easy for me to directly relate to Misty Copeland. But the main reason why I felt she was perfect for the category was because even if you don’t dance, her story is still relatable, especially to the minority.

Copeland discovered her love for ballet at the age of 13, which if you don’t know anything about dance, is an extremely late age to begin training on pointe. In an interview with Carol Jenkins, host of a series titled, Black America on the YouTube channel cunytv75, Copeland talks about what led up to her discovering ballet as her passion. As we all know, life is all about trial and error and Copeland could most likely attest to this being that she had taken an interest in gymnastics and the drill team before discovering ballet.

Copeland also goes on to talk about the first ballet class she attended, that she did not participate in because she described ballet as looking “scary” and “foreign” when she had seen it for the first time. She sat and watched the class, from the bleachers for weeks before she participated. Once she did let go of her fears, she quickly became elite and was offered a contract from the American Ballet Theater after only 3 years of training and a summer intensive at the ABT.

Just some more background information about the dance world, people typically begin training around the ages of 8-10 and continue that training for about 10 years or so, before they’re offered a contract from a dance company. Copeland began at 13 and was offered the contract after only 3 years of training. That alone is a huge accomplishment, but little did she know there were way more opportunities coming her way.

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So in 2001, Copeland became part of the ABT’s corps de ballet, where she would continue to dance for 10 years before being offered the chance to learn a principal role. The corps de ballet are the members of a ballet company who dance as a group, typically serving as a backdrop for the principal dancers. In her interview with Carol Jenkins, Copeland speaks about how typically unlikely it was to be promoted to a principal dancer after being in the corps de ballet for as long as she had. But once she was offered the opportunity to learn the principal role of Firebird she knew that would have been her one and only chance to prove herself. In an interview with Variety, when asked about any challenges she faced Misty responded, “Having the confidence and belief in myself that even though I don’t fit into this mold of what a ballerina is perceived to be that I’m still capable…”

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Copeland’s confidence was unwavering so when she was offered the role, she says in her interview with Jenkins, “… went into it head first and worked so incredibly hard, didn’t take any days off…” As a result of all her hard work, she developed 6 stress fractures in her tibia, but this did not stop our determined black queen because she continued to dance on her fractures. She knew that if she didn’t push through she wouldn’t have been able to prove herself by getting a couple of shows, performing Firebird under her belt, as she described. Eventually Copeland had to pull out of the season because of her injuries, but in her interview with Jenkins she mentioned that at that point she had felt that she proved herself enough.

Copeland had almost all the odds against her; she was African American, didn’t have the typical body type for a ballerina, and she developed a serious injury late in her career. A lot of people thought she wouldn’t prevail and like Carol Jenkins stated in her interview, “The dance world is known for being extremely unforgiving.” especially when it comes to injuries.

But despite all the odds, Misty Copeland was promoted to principal dancer in 2015. In fact, she is now the first African American principal dancer at the ABT, ever. When asked about what kept her going during her challenges, Copeland gets emotional while talking about being an inspiration to the little brown girls that she would see in the audience at her shows, was what kept her going.

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At the closing of the interview, when asked about the amount of hard work and dedication it took to accomplish her dream career, Copeland states, “You kind of have to just dive into everyday like this is the last time I’m going to do this, I think that’s how you become the best.”

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Copeland is the perfect example that with hard work and dedication, the possibilities are endless no matter what odds are against you.

Let me know if you liked this type of post, if it was motivational, if you’ve ever heard of Misty Copeland and also if you made it all the way to end please leave me a comment!

Sources:

cunytv75. “Black America- Little Brown Girls with Misty Copeland”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 11 May 2016. Web. 23 January 2019.

Variety. “7 Secrets: Misty Copeland on Her Biggest Obstacles in the Ballet World & Her Worst Injury”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 5 April 2016. Web. 23 January 2019.

Biography.com editors. “Misty Copeland Biography”. Biography.com, A&E Television Networks, July 2, 2015, https://www.biography.com/people/misty-copeland.

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