At 13 years old, Misty Copeland began to shatter the mold for elite ballerinas. Starting late in the game without the ideal body type, no one would have guessed she’d make ballet history. Now a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater, Misty is the third black female dancer to solo with the company and the first to dance as principal in famed productions Firebird and Coppélia.
Overcoming a tough childhood–facing homelessness and financial scarcity with her mother and siblings– to excel in dance with the help of mentors and coaches has led Misty to inspire the next generation of ballet dancers. She mentors through ABT’s Project Plié, a comprehensive initiative to increase diversity in elite American ballet companies. In a recent interview, Misty expressed to Elle Magazine, “I had some really incredible people who mentored me, and gave me things I never got from my parents. I think it’s so important for young dancers of color to have someone who looks like them as an example—someone they can touch.”
Now a face of Under Armour’s I WILL WHAT I WANT campaign, Misty Copeland is a beacon of inspiration for young athletes–particularly young, minority, female athletes–who face overwhelming life circumstances and opposition in their athletic careers. As she continues to break down barriers, I can only hope that young athletes heed her example and strive for greatness themselves.
Only by perseverance, tenacity and determination will ground be gained for the unlikely athletes– the underestimated, the late bloomers, the wrongly built, the ill-trained, the ones that were told they’re too much of the wrong and not enough of the right. You know what they say: where there’s a will, there’s a way. So keep your eye on the prize and give it all you’ve got. #IWILLWHATIWANT