Misty Copeland: The First African-American Principal Dancer at the American Ballet Theatre

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On June 30, 2015, something historic happened: The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) named their first African-American principal ballerina. It may not be comic-related news, but it is big news for diversity and representation which we are all about here at WWAC. Also, I am a total geek for ballet so #justified.

The ballerina is Misty Copeland. She may be the first African-American ballet dancer in the ABT’s 75 year history, but she is certainly not the first African-American ballet dancer (nor the first African-American ABT soloist despite some misreportings). Not only is Copeland an outstanding classical ballerina (obviously, it’s the ABT), but she is also a ballerina prodigy. She didn’t start ballet until the age of thirteen and was on pointe in three months. Three months! Now for you non-ballet geeks, pointe isn’t just a matter of strapping on some satin slippers and gripping a bar for dear life. Pointe work requires amazing flexibility, strength, excellent shoes (with a box and shank to help support you), and more often than not YEARS of training. Just take a gander at her commercial for Under Armour:

Yeah, it looks effortless because she’s so damn good.

Further, Copeland has been brave enough to be open about the realities of being black in the very white ballet world:

“I think it’s so important for young dancers of color to have someone who looks like them as an example — someone they can touch.”

You can also add author to Copeland’s amazing list of accomplishments: she has also written two books, one of which, Firebird, is a children’s novel about a little girl of color who dreams of becoming a ballerina, illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Christopher Myers. Here’s to more little girls of color seeing their own faces reflected in the sugarplum fairies that dance in all our heads.

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Special Events Editor. Smashing the patriarchy with pink glitter, lipstick, and cowboy boots. You can tweet her @GinnisTonik.

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