FAB CHICK ALERT: Meet Misty Copeland, The Black Ballerina Takes Italian Vogue
We love a fresh face in a fresh sector of art/entertainment. And it's our job to shed some light on YBF folks doing big things.
Ballet dancer Misty Copeland is a fab chick and you should definitely take notice. As the muse of Prince and a soloist with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, her groundbreaking success in the cutthroat world of ballet is a story of resilience and determination. Meet Misty inside and check out he new feature for Italian Vogue...
Misty Copeland, who rose to national recognition when she became a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre in 2007, is a trailblazer in the world of professional ballet.
This YBF chick was discovered on a basketball court at the age 13 and first landed a coveted position with the ABT at the age of 17 (a massive accomplishment for a dancer who began training at such a late stage in life).
Though she does not fit the usual pedigree of a ballerina (where race, body structure and socioeconomic status a huge players), Misty has paved a road and knocked down many doors for Black professional dancers. And who doesn't love watching gorgeous (black) women in tutus, pointe shoes & dancer bodies?!
Misty now has a book coming out in March 2014 called LIFE IN MOTION: An Unlikely Ballerina; and FIREBIRD, a picture book in collaboration with award winning author/illustrator Christopher Myers hits the shelves in the fall of 2014. Also, she's currently working on a documentary called A BALLERINA’S TALE directed by Nelson George.
In the meantime, fab chick Misty talked to Italian VOGUE about becoming a muse to Prince, the challenges she's faced as a black woman in the world of ballet and how she's managed to carve out a place for herself in a world that was not very inviting. Here are the highlights:
I think growing up lacking financial resources can have two different outcomes. For some children, it forces them to dream of something more, and in some cases, poverty can suffocate a child’s freedom to dream. Were you a dreamer?
I think as a child there weren’t dreams. I can’t recall as a child having some ultimate dream and thinking that it was possible. And when I started taking ballet classes, I don’t think I really understood what I was committing to because I loved it, and I had never found anything that I loved doing, so I just said “yes.” I didn’t want to stop. It was an escape from my every day life, and struggling with my mother financially. And then once I started ballet and I saw my first performance with American Ballet Theatre (ABT), that was when I started to dream. I think those were the first times I really started to envision a different life.
During your training, did anyone ever explain to you how rare it was for a black ballerina to gain entrance into any of the major ballet companies?
I think that in a lot of ways, I’m happy that my race was not something that was discussed (during my training). It wasn’t an issue that was presented to me at that time. Of course, I was aware that I was black. My mother was very clear about telling all of my siblings who we were. Even though I was of mixed raced, my mother was clear about it…telling me I was black, and that I was going to be seen as black. So that is just how I knew of myself. But it wasn’t something that I thought about when I started dancing. I didn’t see myself any different than all the other girls. And I think that helped me in the beginning.
At what point did you realize how few black ballerinas there were in the world of classical ballet?
By the time I got to ABT, I was not at all prepared to deal with what I walked into. I just had no history of the ballet and black women in it. I had no idea that I was going to walk into ABT and be the only black woman there, and for the next eleven years still be the only black woman there. And so I just wasn’t prepared. I think over time, maturing and growing, and understanding how the ballet culture and the history of it works, it’s become easier on a daily basis. But it is hard.
You said in an interview that there were many people that helped you to reclaim your confidence, including Prince, who told you that “belonged in a tutu.”
I think that it was timing. There were so many people that had come into my life at a very critical time. It was right before my promotion to soloist. I was surrounded by people that I really looked up to. Powerful people that had a strong voice, and powerful words that I was hearing for the first time. Like really hearing and taking them in. And it was nice to feel like I had this support around me. They were people that looked like me…that were successful and powerful. And that was really comforting to experience. It comes around in so many aspects of my life…people’s words and how powerful they are. Susan Jaffe who was a principal at ABT she said a lot of powerful things to me and that was one of them…like learning to sift through what people say. She said, “be careful because people’s words will start to define you and they may not be the right words that you should be possessing.”
Read the full interview here.
And because we love everything pretty and frilly yet ridiciulously strong....here's a synopsis of "A Ballerina's Tale" from Misty's Kickstarter page"
"A BALLERINA'S TALE will look at the values of a European cultural expression that has tried to maintain its values in the face of an aging audience base and its increasing irrelevance to mainstream culture. Misty’s life embodies a number of themes that speak to the larger culture and her personal challenges. Race, body image and Euro-centric perspective are mixed in with her own physical challenges.
Misty will narrate the film, bringing us intimately into her world. Several of Misty’s favorite ballets will be filmed in multiple camera shoots that will bring us close to dance in ways less frantic and more realistic than the popularized Hollywood film, Black Swan."
Watch a trailer for the film below and contribute to Misty's Kickstarter campaign for "A Ballerina's Tale" here.
Photos via Gregg Delamn/VOGUE Italia