You may not be familiar with her or ballet. But if you have checked out any recent Under Armour advertisements lately, you’ve seen her.
Ballerina Misty Copeland has been promoted to principal ballerina with American Ballet Theater.
That makes her the first African-American dancer to achieve the top-ranking position in the company.
Copeland, 32, has danced for 14 of the company’s 75 years. She was the first black ballerina to star in ABT’s Swan Lake at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera house last week.
Her incredible talent has caught the attention of a wide audience that has moved a dwindling art into “events, drawing large, diverse, enthusiastic crowds to cheer her on,” according to The New York Times.
Misty’s fame has stretched through the dance world and beyond. Her Instagram has a half-million followers, and her Under Amour advertisement has been viewed more than 8 million times.
Additionally, she has gained a following from readers of her children’s book, Firebird.
Her groundbreaking performance as Odette and Odile in Swan Lake drew such a large audience that her fans had to be cleared from the stage door.
In her memoir, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, Copeland stated: 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 continued, “That if I don't rise to principal, people will feel I have failed them."
But she certainly hasn’t let anyone. Not only was she on the cover of Time Magazine, she made the magazine’s influential Time 100.
She told the Time, “Something that my mother instilled in me, as a biracial woman herself, and me being biracial, was that the world was going to view me as a black woman, no matter what I decided to do."
"I had no idea that that was going to be my truth at some point in my life, when I moved to New York City at 17 years old and joined American Ballet Theater and realized I was the only African American woman in a company of 80 dancers."
"I'm here to be a vessel for all these brown ballerinas who have come before me," she continued.
Ballet has a history of catering to a white audience and casting only white dancers. But Misty has brought major changes to ballet in recent years. She has been a breath of fresh air to the world of dance.
And she just might save the dying art of ballet.