Black History Month Spotlight: Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland was the first African-American performer to become a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre. Copeland was born in Missouri and was the fourth of six siblings. Her family life was very unstable; her mother, Sylvia Delacerna, had several marriages and relationships, causing the family to move frequently. Unfortunately, Sylvia’s fourth marriage led to emotional and physical abuse.

Misty suffered from anxiety from a young age, something many of us can relate to. In many instances, dance was her escape, this led to her love and desire for movement and connections with different stories. Her career started in middle school as the captain of the drill team. The instructor of the team recommended she advance her skills in lessons, and she eventually became recognized as a prodigy by her teacher Cynthia Bradley. Following a difficult family situation, Misty moved in with Bradley. She then started appearing in many shows and becoming recognized as a star.

Copeland eventually desired legal emancipation from her parents, but the request was dropped. Copeland was determined to continue her career while living under that of a toxic household. Misty began participating in summer intensive ballet programs with the American Ballet Theatre, slowly working her way up the ladder.

Copeland’s journey to becoming a famous dancer was not smooth sailing. She faced injuries not to be taken lightly. Early in her career, she dealt with a vertebral fracture that required her to wear a brace daily, in order to heal. Later, she also suffered stress fractures that made her take some time off her feet. Strill, throughout all of this, she remained focused on her career and was determination to succeed in the performing world.

Misty Copeland has been recognized for her many achievements throughout the years as well as, for being the role model she has become. She was even named one of “Time Magazine’s” “100 Most Influential People in 2015.” African-American women were rarely seen in classical dance before Copeland, and this makes her an important icon in, not only the world of dance, but in every other aspect as well. In 2015, when Copeland was named the first African-American to be promoted to principal dancer for  American Ballet Theatre, she knew she had fulfilled her goal from her childhood.

Since her early fame, Copeland has used her title for good measures; she has appeared on dance reality shows and influential social media campaigns for companies such as Under Armor. Taking all the lessons she has learned in her life, Misty became an author of two award-winning books. Black History Month is a time to remember and recognize influential African-Americans who have made a difference in our world. Misty Copeland battled anxiety, family issues, and physical injuries to achieve her goal of making it in the dance world. Her determination led her to become known as the first African-American to star in American Ballet Theatre performances. Copeland is a role model to all, and her story deserves to be recognized.