Misty Copeland’s prowess in ballet has attracted the press since the dancer was in her teens. At 32, however, Copeland’s name appeared in the headlines not only because of her gifts as a dancer but also because she’d made history. On June 30, 2015, the American Ballet Theatre announced that it had promoted Copeland to principal from soloist, marking the first time the then 75-year-old organization chose a black woman for the role.
Given that Copeland grew up working class with little exposure to the classical arts as a child, few predicted that she would emerge as one of the most famous ballerinas of the 21st century. So, how did Copeland end up making history? Get to know the dancer better with this list of interesting facts about her life and career.
Born Sept. 10, 1982, to Sylvia DelaCerna and Douglas Copeland in Kansas City, Mo., Misty Copeland identifies as black and the press largely describes her as such. However, the ballerina’s ethnic background also includes German and Italian ancestry, according to the Los Angeles Times Magazine.
Copeland has spoken at length about racism in ballet. Discussing American ballet’s roots, she told the Telegraph, “George Balanchine created this image of what a ballerina should be: skin the color of a peeled apple, with a prepubescent body… So when people think of ballet, that’s what they expect to see, and when they see something different, it’s wrong.’”
She argued that even hair texture results in ballerinas of color being overlooked for roles.
Estrangement From Father
While Copeland describes life with her mother as chaotic, moving from place to place with too little money to make ends meet, she grew up without her father. From the ages of 2 to 22, she did not see Douglas Copeland.
When they finally reconnected, thanks to her older brother tracking him down, Misty Copeland said that she viewed him as a stranger who happened to look like her. Since their reunion, they routinely speak on the phone, according to reports.
Foray into Dancing