What I Learned From Misty Copeland


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This past Thursday, I was fortunate enough to meet the talented and trail-blazing Misty Copeland. For those of you who may not know, Misty is not only a soloist for the prestigious American Ballet Theatre (ABT), she is only the third African-American and the first in two decades for ABT. Some of you may recognize Misty Copeland from her  Under Armour Commercial, yet another accomplishment. She stopped by Spelman College to discuss her bestselling book, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina and to impart some of the wisdom that helped her ascend to new heights in her career.

Follow your passions and where they lead you.

Misty discovered ballet at  her local  Boys &  Girls Club and, “Fell in love with it.” Fast forward , and she’s the star of the American Ballet Theatre. At a time when veterans like Paloma Herrera are retiring, Misty’s star is shining bright and isn’t showing any signs of dimming. And to think, all because to she found something she loved and kept at it, despite the odds.

Don’t let other people write your destiny for you. 

When trying to take the next step in her goal to becoming a professional dancer, Misty Copeland was initially rejected for A: not having the right body, and B: being too old. Most dancers began their training when they were barely toddlers, Misty started at the age of 13. She didn’t let that stop her. I’m sure her critics are slapping themselves.

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Don’t be afraid to use your voice and break  barriers. 

When Misty began performing with ABT, she felt the pressure to cover her beautiful brown skin with white powder to fit in with the other dancers with whom she shared the stage. Roles like Puss in Boots from Sleeping Beauty, the cat which is normally white, caused her to put on make-up to look more pale for the role. At one point, she decided to use her voice. She turned to the make-up artists and said, “Why can’t I be a brown cat?”. The make-up artists response, “OK”. It was that simple. The moral to this story, “Dare to challenge the status quo. You never know how easy it may be to brake the mold.”

Always Do Your Best for you never know who may be watching

When Misty explained part of what keeps her motivated from day to day, she alluded to all of the young, aspiring dancers of color. Girls who, like me, dreamed of being ballerina’s and who looked up to women like Misty. “This is for the little brown girls.” she said.

 

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