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Misty Copeland continues to inspire

The 33-year-old ballerina offers advice to those on their own paths to success

Misty Copeland is simply unstoppable.

After becoming the first African-American to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 76-year-history, Copeland is living the life she’d only dreamed about a short time ago. Now, she’s helping others find ways to chart their own paths to fulfill their dreams.

“Even when you think you’ve arrived, you have to keep working,” Copeland said in an interview with Cosmopolitan. “Not everyone is going to like you or think you’re the right fit. But hearing, ‘No,’ makes you stronger.”

Copeland, 33, was a late bloomer in the world of ballet. After beginning her career at age 13, Copeland was starting at least 10 years later than most of her peers. Yet, the slight disadvantage was nothing to Copeland, who began to frequent a Boys & Girls Club in California to take dance classes. Moving and dancing were always favorites for Copeland, but it was only after being encouraged to sign up for ballet that Copeland fell in love with the art. A competition solidified Copeland’s thoughts that being a professional ballerina could be her reality.

As Copeland climbed the ladder of success, the lack of diversity in ballet became more evident. Early in her career, she struggled as a member of the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), and wondered if it would be best to join a theater where she would be surrounded by people who looked like her. It wasn’t until Copeland met mentors, who helped her realize she was exactly where she belonged, that she decided to stay.

In August 2007, Copeland became a soloist for ABT. Though the step was a huge one in her career, she knew in her heart it wasn’t enough. She wanted to become the ballerina who captured everyone’s attention. Copeland continued to strive for excellence, working hard and training even harder to not only become the lead ballerina, but also break barriers for people of color.

“I was aware that I was black, but I wasn’t aware of the deep-rooted history of the lack of diversity, the lack of African-Americans in top companies,” Copeland told TODAY host Willie Geist. “It was like, it hasn’t happened for 75 years. Why would it happen to me? And then, at the same time, it gave me even more of this fire that was like, ‘I am carrying so many people with me and I can do this.’ ”

Today, Copeland’s at the top her game. After being promoted to ABT’s principal dancer last June, a Barbie doll was created in her honor.



Copeland is also debuting her new dancewear line, titled Égal, which is French for “equal.” According to its website, the dancewear is “engineered for professionals and designed for the fashion-minded.”

Copeland is able to share with others her journey while giving sound advice to those who may be seeking a similar path.

“There’s no wrong way to create your own path, but you have to find support,” Copeland said. “On those days when you want to give up, you have to have people in your life who are going to keep you striving.”

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.