Real-Life Superhero of the Week: Misty Copeland

Renowned ballet dancer and trailblazer Misty Danielle Copeland was born on September 10, 1982. She is of African-American, German-American and Italian-American descent, which would prove to be a challenge upon entering the classical ballet world. Copeland grew up in a poor unstable home, being one of six kids. She did not grow up with her father and witnessed her mother go in and out of turbulent relationships.

Ballet became an escape for Copeland at the ripe age of 13 in San Pedro, California. Copeland became captain of the drill team at Dana Middle School, and her natural presence and skill gained the attention of her classically trained coach, Elizabeth Cantine. So Copeland began taking ballet classes at the local Boys and Girls Club. Despite her late start in ballet, Copeland entered her first competition at the LA Music Center and won.

At 15, Copeland moved in with her dance teachers, Cindy and Patrick Bradley, to receive more intensive training. She began homeschooling and managed to keep a 3.8/4.0 GPA through her junior year of high school. But her stay with the Bradleys eventually led to a nasty public custody dispute between Copeland’s mother and the Bradleys when Copeland’s mother felt her drifting away. Copeland sought independence from her mother at 15 years old to continue training. This led to a scarred and torn young girl.

Copeland and the Bradleys eventually dropped the case, and Copeland returned to her mother under the condition that her mother allow her to keep training. At 18, she moved to bustling New York City to join the world-renowned American Ballet Theatre after winning a scholarship for a summer program for young gifted dancers. Soon after she became a member of the corps de ballet in 2001.

Copeland was the only black woman in a company of 80 dancers, making her feel isolated. She was criticized for her complexion, short height, and curvy, muscular body shape. However, her talent was undeniable. She had her big break in April 2012 after landing the lead role in Alexei Ratmansky’s Firebird. Despite six stress fractures in in her left tibia, Copeland earned rave reviews. Not long after, Copeland starred in Swan Lake with the American Ballet Theatre in Australia in 2014. This role marked a pinnacle in her career as a Ballerina considering the popularity of this Russian ballet. She has since attained a long list of notable ballet roles. Some of her many roles including a leading role in Birthday Offering, Princess Florine in Sleeping Beauty, and Bianca in Othello. Copeland has also performed on Broadway in On the Town, toured as a featured dancer for Prince and had roles on reality television shows A Day in the Life and So You Think You Can Dance.

As Copeland’s career flourished, she pursued other non-dance ventures like becoming the face of Under Armour’s #RuleYourself campaign and endorsing other companies like T-Mobile and Dr. Pepper. Copeland has graced the covers of Vogue and Time. In 2014 she also released two books: her autobiography Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina and a children’s picture book titled Firebird. In addition, Copeland is a public speaker, celebrity spokesperson, stage performer and television personality. Most recently she narrated a documentary, A Ballerina’s Tale, about her challenges.

In 2015 Copeland became the first-ever African-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre in their 75-year history. Despite countless years of discouragement about her body shape, Misty Copeland broke color and cultural barriers in the ballet and art worlds. Copeland crossed an avenue that was traditionally meant for a slim, tall, white female in classical ballet. She opened the doors for little black girls and all talented dancers alike to be great.

Although she just a little over 5 feet tall, Copeland’s grace, beauty and strength towers over 10 feet tall. And that’s why she’s our Real-Life Superhero of the Week.

Liked this? Check out 7 Uplifting News Stories from Last Week!

Written by Bianca Rosembert

Photo Credit: Naim Chidiac Abu Dhabi Festival

Renowned ballet dancer and trailblazer Misty Danielle Copeland was born on September 10, 1982. She is of African-American, German-American and Italian-American descent, which would prove to be a challenge upon entering the classical ballet world. Copeland grew up in a poor unstable home, being one of six kids. She did not grow up with her father and witnessed her mother go in and out of turbulent relationships.

Ballet became an escape for Copeland at the ripe age of 13 in San Pedro, California. Copeland became captain of the drill team at Dana Middle School, and her natural presence and skill gained the attention of her classically trained coach, Elizabeth Cantine. So Copeland began taking ballet classes at the local Boys and Girls Club. Despite her late start in ballet, Copeland entered her first competition at the LA Music Center and won.

At 15, Copeland moved in with her dance teachers, Cindy and Patrick Bradley, to receive more intensive training. She began homeschooling and managed to keep a 3.8/4.0 GPA through her junior year of high school. But her stay with the Bradleys eventually led to a nasty public custody dispute between Copeland’s mother and the Bradleys when Copeland’s mother felt her drifting away. Copeland sought independence from her mother at 15 years old to continue training. This led to a scarred and torn young girl.

Copeland and the Bradleys eventually dropped the case, and Copeland returned to her mother under the condition that her mother allow her to keep training. At 18, she moved to bustling New York City to join the world-renowned American Ballet Theatre after winning a scholarship for a summer program for young gifted dancers. Soon after she became a member of the corps de ballet in 2001.

Copeland was the only black woman in a company of 80 dancers, making her feel isolated. She was criticized for her complexion, short height, and curvy, muscular body shape. However, her talent was undeniable. She had her big break in April 2012 after landing the lead role in Alexei Ratmansky’s Firebird. Despite six stress fractures in in her left tibia, Copeland earned rave reviews. Not long after, Copeland starred in Swan Lake with the American Ballet Theatre in Australia in 2014. This role marked a pinnacle in her career as a Ballerina considering the popularity of this Russian ballet. She has since attained a long list of notable ballet roles. Some of her many roles including a leading role in Birthday Offering, Princess Florine in Sleeping Beauty, and Bianca in Othello. Copeland has also performed on Broadway in On the Town, toured as a featured dancer for Prince and had roles on reality television shows A Day in the Life and So You Think You Can Dance.

As Copeland’s career flourished, she pursued other non-dance ventures like becoming the face of Under Armour’s #RuleYourself campaign and endorsing other companies like T-Mobile and Dr. Pepper. Copeland has graced the covers of Vogue and Time. In 2014 she also released two books: her autobiography Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina and a children’s picture book titled Firebird. In addition, Copeland is a public speaker, celebrity spokesperson, stage performer and television personality. Most recently she narrated a documentary, A Ballerina’s Tale, about her challenges.

In 2015 Copeland became the first-ever African-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre in their 75-year history. Despite countless years of discouragement about her body shape, Misty Copeland broke color and cultural barriers in the ballet and art worlds. Copeland crossed an avenue that was traditionally meant for a slim, tall, white female in classical ballet. She opened the doors for little black girls and all talented dancers alike to be great.

Although she just a little over 5 feet tall, Copeland’s grace, beauty and strength towers over 10 feet tall. And that’s why she’s our Real-Life Superhero of the Week.

Liked this? Check out 7 Uplifting News Stories from Last Week!

Written by Bianca Rosembert

Photo Credit: Naim Chidiac Abu Dhabi Festival

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