Her fame has soared outside traditional dance circles in recent years, but this unconventional ballerina is etching her name onto the history books in the ballet world. Named today as the American Ballet Theater's first African-American female principal dancer, who is Misty Copeland and how did she get to be the leading ballerina of one of America's biggest dance companies?
Announced Tuesday, Copeland's promotion — after 14 years with the company, almost eight of that as a soloist — was met with widespread praise. While regular folks might not usually be familiar with who the American Ballet Theater names as its new principal dancer, Copeland's fame has spread beyond the dance bubble.
You might have seen her in that stunning Under Armour ad with more than 8 million views on Youtube. Or maybe you saw the powerful 32-year-old dancer on the cover of TIME magazine or at the Tony Awards, where she was a presenter. The busy ballerina has also somehow found time to write a memoir and a children's book, according to The New York Times, as well as maintain an active presence on Instagram. And to top it all off, there is a documentary on Copeland that was screened this year at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Shortly after the news broke that she was promoted to principal dancer, Copeland reposted a video and photo on Instagram of the announcement.
Throughout her stellar career, Copeland has been known as an "unlikely ballerina" due to her curves and ethnicity, neither of which are common in ballet. Her outspokenness about her desire to become the company's first Black female principal dancer has spurred the debate on the lack of racial diversity in the field.
"My fears are that it could be another two decades before another black woman is in the position that I hold with an elite ballet company," she wrote in her memoir. "That if I don't rise to principal, people will feel I have failed them."
Coupled with her rising star, Copeland's promotion is a heralded moment in the arts world. We're looking forward to seeing her a lot more.
[Cover image via Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions]