Ballet Star Misty Copeland Speaks on Overcoming Racism & Body Shaming in Teen Vogue
As the only African-American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Misty shares an excerpt from her book where she reveals the challenges she’s faced since beginning her ballet journey at 13 years old — 10 years later than most girls.
“Most of my dance peers had grown up immersed in the arts, putting on their first tutus not long after they learned to talk. They had summered in Europe, while I didn’t get my first passport until I was 17. Their families had weekend homes. I had spent part of my adolescence living on the floor of a shabby motel with my single mom.”
Despite being poor, undersized, and “a little brown-skinned girl in a sea of whiteness,” Misty would be dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year.
“I had breasts and muscles, but, yes, I was still a ballerina. And ABT, seeing how hard I had worked and how well I was performing, eventually stopped asking me to lengthen. They came to see things my way, that my curves are part of who I am as a dancer, not something I need to lose in order to become one.”
Even with all she’s accomplished, the former child prodigy still has to remind herself of what she represents.
“I still worry, far more than I should, about what the ballet world thinks of me—whether I will ever be accepted and seen as a well-rounded artist deserving of respect. Or will I forever be ‘the black ballerina,’ an oddity who doesn’t quite compare? But in my moments of clarity I envision all the people whose lives have been touched by my story, who upon seeing my journey know that you can start late, look different, be uncertain, and still succeed.”
Misty spends most of her time teaching dance classes at the Boys & Girls Club, and mentoring girls, such as those pictured above from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre.
Life in Motion is available now for order.