Misty Copeland recently made history after being named the first Black female principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, but the journey to the top hasn’t always been easy for the 32-year-old ballerina. During this weekend’s 2015 PowHERful Summit, Copeland opened up about facing negative comments about her body, skin color, and not being a right fit.
"I was the only Black woman in a company of 80-plus dancers for a decade. I felt like I didn't belong," Copeland said. "I heard I wasn't right for the company. I wasn't right for ballet. My skin was too dark. I was too muscular. My bust was too big."
Copeland credits her single mother for raising her to feel empowered and as if she could accomplish anything. But when she moved to New York City at the age of 17, she had to hold on to that tenacity when the obstacles and negativity were hurled her way. As an incredibly late bloomer, Copeland’s body didn’t hit puberty until she was 19 and that’s when the onslaught of body image issues rolled in.
"I heard a lot of 'You're fat. Pretty much you need to lose weight. You're not right for this,' " Copeland said.
Thankfully, Copeland only used this as ammunition to power her motivation.
"I had to reassess my diet and how I took care of my body. I think it was the first time I realized that my body is my instrument," Copeland admitted. "It's up to me. I have the control and the power to make it whatever I want it to be. That was a huge thing for me. It was powerful thing too."
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(Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Soledad O'Brien & Brad Raymond Starfish Foundation)