Misty Copeland Dances Her Way to the Top, Inspires in New Ad Campaign
“You have the wrong body for ballet, and at thirteen you are too old to be considered.”
By now, if you haven’t seen the latest Under Armour ad featuring acclaimed ballerina Misty Copeland, you're missing out. She twirled, jumped, and performed eloquently on stage as a voice-over of a young girl stated the chilling words of discouragement that Copeland faced growing up. In the end, you find yourself wishing the minute-long clip was extended so you can marvel at the greatness she now displays. But, as was made obvious by that voice-over, life for Copeland hasn’t always been easy. She's had to overcome obstacles and beat stereotypes on the way to becoming a great role model for women all over.
“When I heard for the first time the voice-over of that young girl over the Under Armour footage, I cried,” she began. “With Under Armour’s new women’s campaign, I Will What I Want, everything that it represents is me. Being fierce and having the will to wheel yourself to a place maybe you thought wasn’t possible or [you] don’t belong.”
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Copeland was a prodigy from the start. Being introduced to ballet at her local Boys and Girls Club in her pre-teen years, she studied the art through many mentors who came in stages. Once Misty became a professional, she says she also had many strong African-American females to inspire her along the way, one being notable ballerina Raven Wilkinson, who is one of the first major African-American ballerinas to dance in the 1950s.
“She was such a strong image of a black woman who pushed through all of these boundaries that black women can’t be ballerinas. And she did that in a really hard time within the world, and dealing with racism.” Copeland also adds award-winning musician, Prince, to her list of personal heroes. “I think he was the first man who really gave me that confidence to show me that I could take all of these things that were negative and turn them into art.”
When Copeland isn’t busy dancing, she's appearing as a guest judge on Season 11 of FOX's "So You Think You Can Dance." “Having television shows like 'So You Think You Can Dance' and 'Dancing With the Stars' have really allowed America to start to slowly learn about all that it takes to be a dancer,” she says, smiling. “I think that’s why they reached out to me because they wanted someone who was young, still dancing, but who can really use the vocabulary and educate America on what ballet is.”
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From staying in a motel with her five siblings and single mother at a young age, Copeland has definitely come a long way. She wrote her first book, "Life in Motion," and is promoting her latest children’s book, "Firebird" — both detailing her ups and downs as a ballerina and how she overcame them. Copeland says she strives to send a powerful message through her books that will inspire the reader to chase after their dreams, no matter what the obstacles. “You can’t let other people’s words define you. I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be setting that example. Stand tall and be confident in yourself and allow people to come into your life and guide you.”
Copeland is also gearing up for a huge premiere in Australia as Odette/Odile, the lead role in "Swan Lake" — which has never been played before by an African-American with the American Ballet Theatre.
“I never saw myself as Odette/Odile, which is awful. I’ve never had visions of myself because I’ve never seen a black women portray that role. And by having this opportunity, it’s going to show so many young dancers out there that it’s possible. And they’re going to see themselves up there through me and it’s such a huge step for ballet.”