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Black History Month Spotlight: Misty Copeland

By: Harley Semon and Grace Katz

Misty Copeland is living proof that hard work and perseverance through adversity pays off. Raised by her single mother with her five other siblings, her upbringing is definitely not that of a traditional ballet dancer. She was living in a shabby motel room, struggling with all her siblings to even find a place to sleep on the floor. With a late start, Copeland finally laced up her ballet slippers at 13 years old when she attended her first ballet lesson at the local boys and girls club. This is extremely rare, being that most ballerinas begin their training upon learning to walk. 

Only 4 years later, Copeland headed to the American Ballet Theatre, one of the most prestigious dance companies in the world. “My first three of four years in the company, it was the first time it hit me that I was alone, that I’m the only black woman. It was the first time a race was brought to my attention. It was shocking.” Despite her doubts, Copeland proved that she was more than qualified dancer when she earned the spot of principal dancer, making her the first African American ever to receive this position. Later that year, Copeland was featured in Time Magazine under a list of the ‘World’s 100 Most Influential People”.  In ABT’s 2015 season, Copeland made history during her performance as the Swan Queen in the world-famous production of Swan Lake. This is a crowning achievement for any dancer, but especially for Misty Copeland in breaking the barrier of becoming the first black ballerina to fill this role.