Misty Copeland, First African-American Principal in American Ballet Theatre's History, Continues to Inspire

Pam WrightLife

Share this Post

Misty Copeland, the first African-American woman to be named a principal in the 75-year history of the American Ballet Theater, continues to inspire young girls who dream of following in the ballerina's footsteps.

On Saturday, Copeland visited the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore to share her story of battling racial inequality to attaining the highly-coveted position of principal, which are typically paid more and take on more prestigious roles.

Little girls wanting nothing more than to be just like their heroine lined up for hours to get a seat inside the museum and see the prima ballerina.

Copeland, 32, shared her struggles as well as her accomplishments with the crown, including her early recognition for her natural dancing ability and the heartbreak of being told her body was too big and muscular to really succeed. She also shared how her brown skin kept her from roles traditionally held by white dancers.

She began to bond with other black dancers and wasn't shy to speak on the racial inequality in ballet, although she said she never saw herself as an activist.

"I am just speaking my truth and my experiences," Copeland said.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Copeland says she want to use her position to reach other little girls with the same struggles by mentoring young dancers. She began a program with her dance company to improve diversity, but realized real change takes time.

"That is not something you can just see transform over night," she said.

After speaking at the museum, Copeland signed copies of her memoir Life in Motion and her children's book Firebird.

Copeland treated each excited girl as if she were special.

"It's important for me to be a real person," she said. "I am not somebody up on a pedestal. It is not about me as an individual. It is about what I represent.

Pam Wright