You can start late, look different, be uncertain, and still succeed.”
Today Misty Copeland was named the first African-American female principal ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre. Earlier this year, she and her dance partner Brooklyn Mack were the first African-American pairing to play the lead roles in a major US production of the ballet Swan Lake (with the Washington Ballet).
Reading about Misty, she’s an Other in several ways that are really interesting. Firstly, she grew up black and poor, two strikes against making it as a ballet dancer. (She is German-Italian-African-American. In other words, like Barack Obama, she is as white as she is black.) Secondly, she didn’t fit the body type for a ballerina because she rather inconveniently developed curves when she was 19.
For years, she was politely asked to ‘lengthen’, i.e. lose weight. She, with her inconvenient curves, eventually prevailed and last year she published a memoir, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina. Here’s an excerpt:
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.”
To read more from her memoir, visit: http://www.teenvogue.com/my-life/profiles/2014-02/misty-copeland-ballerina/?slide=1
See also: Krista.