She’s a world-renowned ballerina, having received rave reviews from audiences and critics alike. What’s most astounding about twenty-eight year old Misty Copeland isn’t the sudden rush of media fanfare, or the fact that she’s Black performing in an art mostly filled with White dancers. No, it’s her small and curvy figure, an extreme rarity in the world of ballet. From The Root:
"Twenty-eight-year-old Misty Copeland — the American Ballet Theatre’s first American soloist and the featured dancer on Prince’s Welcome 2 America tour — is petite at only 5-feet-2 and 103 pounds, with proportions that a lot of women would kill for. You can picture her working as a personal trainer, dancing in a music video or just getting a whole lot of attention walking down the street. Which means she’s not built like the typical ballerina.
She says that while she’s avoided the eating disorders that plague many of her peers, accepting her body’s small but curvy shape has been a struggle in a field where not many women look like her.
This trailblazer has also been bold enough to call out what she sees as possible colorism in the dance world, explaining in an interview with AOL Black Voices:
I’ve seen so many talented black women who come in with the perfect physique and still not get into this company or another one. I think it’s probably about timing as well, but it definitely may have been because they were too dark. I think I was lucky to get in when I did and maybe they felt that position was filled.
A young black girl came into the company, and she’s fair-skinned like me. We have yet to see a dark-skinned woman come into the company. It’s a very touchy subject, in general. Some black women give up and don’t do classical ballet dance. I want them to know that times are changing. The more people we have auditioning, they can’t deny talent.
People are understandably abuzz over Copeland. African-American mothers will undoubtedly be snatching up posters for the bedroom walls of their dance-loving daughters to inspire them with her beauty and talent. But her perseverance in an unwelcoming field and her graceful advocacy of inclusiveness — even if just by telling the truth about her experience — are what really make her a role model, and not just for little girls in tutus.
Read the entire interview at AOL Black Voices.”