Misty Copeland: A Modern Day Muse

4 years ago by

Misty Copeland has been on the top of my list of people I’ve dreamt of interviewing for a long time. Her talent, her story and her talent for telling her story are completely inspiring – yes she’s a ballerina, but she’s not ethereal – she’s real, and she’s here to change our perception of ballet and of what it means to be one of the top ballet dancers of her generation.

She’s also warm, approachable, and truly beautiful. And, she is the ambassador of Estée Lauder’s Modern Muse. I was so happy to meet her. I can’t wait for you to meet her too.

pardon my french misty copeland garance dore atelier dore photo

pardon my french misty copeland garance dore atelier dore photo

On being a quiet child…
I’m one of six children. I just kind of blended in with the background. All of my siblings have really big personalities and are funny or played sports. I just didn’t really do anything. I was the quiet one they called mouse. Quiet as a mouse!

On how she found ballet…
At the age of thirteen, we were living in a motel. That was probably the toughest time of my life up to that point. Dance I think was really my escape and what kind of saved me. I was attending the Boys and Girls Club, which is a community center in San Pedro where I grew up. They happened to be offering free ballet classes over the period of a month. The local ballet teacher who owned a school was looking for more diverse students and giving them an opportunity that they might not otherwise have. So I happened to be one of those students that stumbled into a basketball court to take a free ballet class.

On having no direction early on…
Before I started dancing, I wasn’t connecting with anything. I had no idea what I wanted to be. That wasn’t something that was often talked about in my home. It wasn’t like, “What college are going to go to or what are your plans for the future.” That wasn’t something that was ever discussed with me—it was just surviving from day to day. So that’s just how my personality started to form with no real desire or dream. When I discovered movement, I fell in love with this. It was the first thing I ever connected with, but I had no idea I could make a career out of it. When Cynthia Bradley, my first ballet teacher, brought me into her school and said, “If you want this, you’ll commit every day to me and this could be your life. It could be your career.” That was the first time I ever thought about the future.

pardon my french misty copeland garance dore atelier dore photo

On the control ballet brought her…
I was creating this lyrical movement, innately, which is so strange. I remember needing to see what this movement looked like. I would force my little sister to learn these steps so that I could see it on someone else’s body. There was just something that brought me so much joy, and again this was the first time that I felt like I had a voice and I felt in control and strong and powerful.

On being sheltered as a young ballerina…
I was very fortunate that the school that I went to was very small. I was kind of shut off from what the real ballet world was really like. I had no idea that there weren’t many black dancers—I had absolutely no idea—I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to really make it. I was just told, “You’re a prodigy and your goal is to get to American Ballet Theater and that’s what we’re going to do.” I was like, “Okay, that’s what my goal is now.” I had no idea what every dancer experiences, the hardships, and being told “no” so many times. I didn’t experience that until I was an adult.

On knowing how lucky she is…
I’m so completely aware of how fortunate I am that I’m able to do something that I connect with and that I’m passionate about and that I love. I know how rare it is to be able to find something like that.

pardon my french misty copeland garance dore atelier dore photo

pardon my french misty copeland garance dore atelier dore photo

On beauty…
My eyebrows and the shape they’re in is number one. I feel like it just really frames and I mean I’ve worked a long time for these eyebrows and for the right shape!

On what she feels her career means…
It wasn’t just about me being a dancer. It wasn’t just about me becoming a principal dancer. But what I represented being in this space at American Ballet Theater as a black woman and how I could change the future of dance for a whole generation of brown people to be able to see themselves through me and see a future in the ballet world.

On her relationship with Esteé Lauder…
When Esteé Lauder came about, it was just like, “Wow!” I often think that it’s not me—that I’m going to be able to be the face and represent so many people who maybe don’t feel they’re represented in those spaces. To be a ballerina and to have a partnership like this with a beauty brand and to be a black woman, to not be an actress or a supermodel, it’s incredible to show what’s possible and to be this representation for these women.

pardon my french misty copeland garance dore atelier dore photo

Other things discussed…

Misty’s book, Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You
Paloma Herrera
Raven Wilkinson

Special thanks to Misty Copeland and Esteé Lauder for making this episode possible. You can learn more about their work together here!


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