Misty Copeland and her rise atop the ranks of the competitive world of ballet has been one barrier-shattering moment after another.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Copeland became the first African-American Principal Ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre.
Copeland was joined by Stella Abrera, Alban Lendorf, and Maria Kochetkova as principal dancers for the ABT, which is one of the top three ballet companies in the world.
Copeland recently made headlines after the New York debut of “Swan Lake” last week at the Metropolitan Opera House, the ABT’s main performance venue. It was rumored then that Copeland would be promoted to principal dancer status, especially given the rave reviews of her portrayal of Odette/Odile.
Naturally, the entire world is curious about the 32-year-old ballet standout and NewsOne has compiled 15 facts you should know about the dazzling Misty Copeland.
1. Copeland was born on September 10, 1982 in Kansas City, Mo. She was raised in Gardena, Calif. and San Pedro, Calif.
2. Copeland took up ballet at the age of 13, which is considered a late start for ballerinas in training.
3. At 15, Copeland won a first place Music Center Spotlight Award, which recognizes talented high school students across a variety of fields.
4. Copeland trained under teachers Cynthia and Patrick Bradley, who later became embroiled in a bitter custody battle over the ballerina with her mother, Sylvia DelaCerna. Copeland eventually ended up staying with her mother.
5. Copeland grew up poor with six siblings in Los Angeles, leading the young dancer to live in San Pedro to chase her dreams.
6. Copeland studied dance at the lauded Lauridsen Ballet Center in Torrance, Calif.
7. Instead of forgoing her final year of high school in 2000 to join the American Ballet Theatre, Copeland returned to California to complete her studies.
8. Copeland joined the ABT Studio Company in 2000 and the ABT’s Corps de Ballet in 2001.
9. Copeland faced racism after making it to the prestigious ranks of the ABT, constantly being told she didn’t have the body or talent for ballet. In her own words, Copeland was told by other ballerinas that Black women didn’t look right in tutus, according to a 2014 Baltimore Sun interview.
10. Copeland, once powerfully shy and unable to speak in front of groups, said that ballet gave her the confidence to speak up loudly.
11. Copeland is a strong advocate for diversity in ballet. She continually champions young ballerinas of color and has become a hero to many young aspiring dancers.
12. Despite appearances in music videos and rumors suggesting otherwise, Copeland has never dated Prince.
13. Copeland was awarded the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts in 2008. The fellowship funds dancer studies with teachers outside of the American Ballet Theatre.
14. Copeland released two books in 2014. The first was the memoir Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina. The second was a picture book aimed at young children titled Firebird.
15. A documentary on Copeland’s career, A Ballerina’s Tale, from director Nelson George debuted at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.