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

misty-copeland ballerina

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.

Ginnis Tonik

Ginnis Tonik

Smashing the patriarchy with glitter, pink lipstick, and cowboy boots. You can follow her on Instagram @ginnistonik