Welcome back to the second installment of our Inspired By: Women & Girls in History or Those Creating it Now. This week we’re celebrating Misty Copeland, a ballerina who made history by becoming the first African American Female Principal Dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre in 2015.
Misty Copeland (1982)
Born in Missouri and raised in California, Misty began her ballet studies at the late age of thirteen. Her home situation was difficult, she lived with her family in a shabby motel room and slept on the floor. Considered a prodigy, she was dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year, unheard of for classical dancers. Without the money to fund her studies, her mother told her she would have to give up dancing. However, her teacher wanted the extraordinarily talented student to continue, so Misty moved in with her mentor but was only had time to see her family during weekends after a 2-hour bus ride.
When she was fifteen she won 1st place at the Music Center Spotlight Awards and went on to study at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared ABT’s National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000. Misty joined ABT’s Studio Company in 2000 and then she joined the American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in 2001. In 2007 became the company’s second African American female soloist and the first in two decades.
In 2008, Misty was awarded a two-year fellowship for young artists who exhibit extraordinary talent, providing additional resources in order to attain their full potential. Performing a variety of classical and contemporary roles, some of Misty’s most important ones include performing the title role in Firebird in 2012, as ‘Clara’ in The Nutcracker in 2014. That year she also made history as the first black woman to perform the lead role of ‘Odette/Odile’ in American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake during the company’s tour to Australia. By June 2015, Misty was promoted to principal dancer, making her the first African American woman to ever be promoted to the position in the company’s 75-year history. Misty then reprised her Swan Lake role during ABT’s Metropolitan Opera House as well as debuted as ‘Juliet’ in Romeo & Juliet.
Besides dance, Misty has an array of awards and endorsements and is active in charity work. She is a best-selling New York Times author of her memoir ‘Life in Motion’ and in 2014, President Obama appointed Misty to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. She also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford for her contributions to classical ballet and helping to diversify the art form.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this inspirational mini-biography of a woman who has smashed through glass ceilings and is a shining example for all those children out there who dare to dream big, no matter their background. Tune in next time to discover the next inspiring woman in our series.