Over the past few years, the rise of Misty Copeland has helped transform the idea of the word athlete.  As a well-known ballet dancer, Copeland has used her platform to not only raise the profile of the ballet industry but, as a black woman also helped to open opportunities for black girls who may not have considered ballet an option for them.  Currently, the “35-year-old professional ballet dancer is making history as the first black woman to be named a principal dancer for the iconic American Ballet Theatre.”

“There have been so many black women, black dancers that have come before me, that slowly carved out this path for me,” Copeland said. “And I think that it’s the right time, I think I’ve had the right support system to be able to have a voice and speak about the lack of diversity on a broader platform than just the ballet world. It was just kind of like the perfect storm.

In addition to her successes within ballet, Copeland has done well for herself outside of it.  Her achievements include being an author alongside receiving endorsement “deals from beauty brand Estee Lauder and athletic wear maker, Under Armour.”  Changing the perception of herself and her craft has been difficult but worth the work as her current status proves.  Copeland also looks to give back connecting with dancers of color with projects like “Hiplet, the Chicago-based ballet group blending classical ballet with hip-hop and jazz dance.”

Copeland’s latest book, “Ballerina Body,” was in response to the many questions she’s received about how she fuels herself for long days in the studio. But also, she says the book is for young girls as they grow and learn to care for their own bodies.

While I’m not too familiar with the ballet industry, I am familiar enough to understand the sacrifice involved with achieving success.  Gaining fame around the time as such films like Black Swan has put the industry on a unique pedestal and, as the next generation of ballet athletes enter the fold, will be interesting to see who those new faces are thanks to the likes of Misty Copeland.

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