Misty Copeland

by Kyley Brandt from San Diego, California in United States

“I knew that I just didn't have it in me to give up, even if I sometimes felt like a fool for continuing to believe.” -Misty Copeland

132832Misty CopelandPhoto by Gilda N. Squire via Creative CommonsImagine walking into a room knowing that you're the red flower in a field of yellow ones. Knowing that all judgments are being made of you right now. Even if we don’t mean to make judgments, it’s human instinct. You can’t fix it, but you do have control of what you do with it. Misty Copeland is a great example of making the right decision. She was a young girl who was yet to become a strong independent woman. “Misty Danielle Copeland was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on Sept. 10, 1982, and was raised in San Pedro, California” (Fuhrer). Copeland grew up in a financially unstable family which soon resulted in her moving in with her dance coach, Cynthia Bradley. Bradley deserves so much credit for not only supporting Misty financially, by paying for her classes, but by being the first to jump-start her career. She saw the strength and passion in Misty’s eyes and decided to take a leap of faith. Not only did it pay off in the end but it led to so many more opportunities for Misty. “In 2015, she became the first African American woman to be named a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT)” (Fuhrer). She went from being a poor little girl who didn’t fit that “dancer look” to being a sensation through fearlessness and dedication. Misty Copeland displays a great representation of hard work and courage through acts of heroism.

Copeland's true dedication and hard work is the reason why she has been such a true sensation. This was exemplified through her effort and diligence. She clearly shows that attention to detail really pays off in the end. “Indeed, beyond recalling a Krispy Kreme binge, “Ballerina Body” is about finding strength through positive relationships (mentoring), meditation, and healthy eating. In the book, Copeland shares more than 30 recipes for favorite foods (such as Raw Barres made with coconut, cashews, dried cherries, and sesame seeds). On stage, she gave the audience a window into her typical day: morning in the ballet studio, followed by seven hours of rehearsal. She rests on Sundays and uses Mondays for travel, to promote her books, or to film ads for her corporate clients” (Radsken). As she shares her routine and daily lifestyle, it is very clear that there's not much time to rest. This is the true evidence of hard work and constantly hustling. You can't expect to latch onto whatever your dream are if you don't put the work in. If Misty didn't have the impulse to get out of bed and work the way she has been working, who knows how far she would get. Achieving your goals is not easy, but clearly as she has shown through effort after effort, you really can obtain anything you put your mind to. While Copeland spent most of her time engaged in the dance studio and her classes, she had also stumbled upon many more and unique opportunities for her. She had been introduced to the art of singing and performing as well. “In 2015, Copeland made her Broadway debut, dancing and singing in a revival of On the Town, a musical composed by the American composer Leonard Bernstein. Copeland wrote the best-selling memoir Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (2014, with Charisse Jones). She also wrote the picture book Firebird (2014, illustrated by Christopher Myers)” (Fuhrer). Not only did work ethic get her so far in dance but, evidently provided so many more openings for her career. She started out going to dance classes and learning only the skill and art of dance to, singing in a musical and creating a rewarding book. Leading up to her prosperous life, it wasn't all necessarily the dancing but, all the other unique activities she was involved in. Even though Copeland wasn’t considered a early bloomer into the dance world, that didn't’ stop her from reaching her dreams and getting discovered. She was soon acknowledged and was involved primarily in the dance at her teacher's studio. “Copeland’s natural ability was quickly recognized by Bradley, and, though age 13 was a late start for a serious dance career, Copeland began taking classes with Bradley at the San Pedro Ballet School. When her training became more intensive, Copeland moved in with Bradley and her family in order to be closer to the studio. In 1998, at age 15, she won first prize in the ballet category of the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards. That summer she was accepted with a full scholarship into the intensive summer program at the San Francisco Ballet” (Blumberg). Surely Copeland was born with God-given talent. She definitely wasn't presented with all the tools and gadgets but true talent always wins in the end. It doesn’t matter if you're one step behind someone or they get a head start in life. Genuine motivation and drive always overweighs lackadaisical. She displayed that every opportunity she was given, she took and ran with it. She never took anything with a grain of salt and used everything in her power to become what she has today. Copeland accurately represents through hard work that success will always be present in the end.

132287The cover of Copeland's book.Gilda N. Squire (Gildasquire) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]Misty Copeland expresses all forms of mental strength and courage when she shows girls that it’s okay to not fit in and you shouldn’t miss out on something just because you don’t fit the look. Just because someone has become successful in what they do, it doesn’t mean the road was easy. She definitely had her own personal forms of challenges. One of Misty’s biggest obstacles was dealing with her body shape and look. “Copeland became known for breaking barriers in the traditional world of classic ballet. Her African American heritage and fuller-figured, muscular body were considered by some as unsuited for classical ballet roles. Since the mid-1900's, the classically ideal ballerina's body has generally been considered to be slender and delicate” (Fuhrer). Copeland is a true light to people all over the world with self doubt. She shows that if something is in your way from getting to where you want to be, ignore it and strive to be the best you can be. Nothing should ever keep you from getting to your dreams. No matter what the circumstances are and how disruptive. She manifested success by proving everyone wrong. It’s hard to feel like you stand out or you don't belong. She didn’t let that drag her down. Instead she used it for fuel to validate to everyone that she can dance. Copeland experienced more than just feeling like she didn't fit in. She had gone through what some would consider an emotional rollercoaster. “There wasn't a day that I didn't feel some kind of anxiety, especially in school, and my panic would begin from the moment I woke up, fretting that I would be late to homeroom, until I came back home in the early evening. I was just nervous about life, period. I felt awkward, as if I didn't fit in anywhere, and I lived in constant fear of letting my mother down, or my teachers, or myself’’ (“Misty Copeland.” Newsmakers). The fact that she went through so many emotions constantly is surprising. People may look at someone and think they have all the confidence in the world. How they feel on the outside is the true rawness of someone. Being able to deal with negative emotions and still push through is courageous of her. She shows that you can’t let your emotions get in the way of your hard work and focus. Juggling anxiety along with not being able to fit in, took quite a toll on Copeland. “I was the only black woman in a company of 80 dancers, and that went on for a decade, and it really starts to wear on you, on your confidence. I questioned whether I belonged here,” she said. “I had no one to connect to on a deeper level who understood the journey I was on and the obstacles I was still trying to overcome from the challenges of growing up the way I did” (Radsken). It takes so much guts to be able to walk in a room where the color of your skin is separating you from everyone else. You not only stand out but you feel like all eyes are on you. As Copeland expressed, it affects you in so many ways. It made her question if she belonged there. Whether she fit in or was an outcast. She didn’t have anyone to connect to and explain her complications. She just had to go about life with her head held high and realize she was made this way for a reason. Without her courage, she would have never known what she was capable of and what a role model she would become.

Misty Danielle Copeland manifests heroism as she has not only shown courage throughout her life by ignoring the negativity but, has also taken hard work to a whole other level. Misty was presented into this world with disadvantages like money and body image. She took those negative factors and completely turned it into something positive. She proved that even though she didn’t have a beautiful delicate ballerina look she could still use talent and dedication to her advantage. Copeland was knocked down by rude words and hate but that wasn’t the end for her. “ I quit ballet when I was a teen because being a black ballerina was painful and degrading. It means something to see someone like you doing what you want to do — to have that representation,” Kearney said. “Constructions of the black ballerina body are problematic. There’s a mold they don’t see us fitting in. She’s the one showing the mold shouldn’t exist and that, despite the mold, you can excel” (Radsken). Being able to connect to so many people is such a powerful thing. She has inspired not just women but black women that color means nothing. You are strong and worthy of anything you want to do. She is the perfect representation of a leader who isn’t afraid to show her color and be proud of who she is. Even if you always fit in there still might be some self doubt. No matter what the situation is, we can all relate to her in some way. Even though Misty Copeland will always be known for her role in being one of the first African American dancers, she is a hero because of the courage and hard work she took with her along her journey.

Works Cited

Blumberg, Naomi. “Misty Copeland.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2 Nov. 2018,

Fuhrer, Margaret. “You Asked -- MISTY ANSWERED.” Dance Spirit, vol. 13, no. 8, Oct. 2009, p. 92. EBSCOhost,

"Misty Copeland." Newsmakers, vol. 4, Gale, 2015. Student Resources In Context, Accessed 25 Mar. 2019.

Radsken, Jill, and Jill Radsken. “Dancer Misty Copeland Shares Her Life Story with Students.”Harvard Gazette, Harvard Gazette, 11 May 2017, 

Page created on 4/10/2019 9:13:40 PM

Last edited 5/14/2020 7:19:44 AM

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