Extraordinarily talented professional ballerina Misty Copeland is continuing carrying on the torch as one of the only black women in her profession today and she’s doing it with effortless class, style and grace.
Vogue Italia recently caught up with Misty and got her to open up about how she got her start, discrimination against young black girls aspiring to be ballerinas and more. Check out a few interview excerpts below:
via Vogue Italia
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. Just hearing things every so often, like the fact that I don’t exactly look like a “white swan.” It was very difficult.
Historically, the argument has been made that black women don’t have the right body type for ballet. Is this a valid assessment, or an excuse to justify the exclusion?
It’s a hard thing to separate and try to figure out. Is it about them being black? Or is it really about the body type only? Because I’ve see dancers that are not black that get accepted into major companies, that do not have ideal bodies. I think it is something that is kind of used as an excuse.There are so many excuses that are used. Too muscular. Too athletic. Just not the right proportion. But I think that the ideal physique and look of a ballerina is always changing with different eras. And it’s continuing to change. And I think more dancers are just more healthy and athletic in general, because of the way that choreography and the different kind of dancing is making its way into ballet. So your muscles are going to change and develop. I don’t think they can, or will be able to use that excuse for much longer.
We’re definitely team Misty over this way! In case you’re not too familiar with the bangin’ Ms. Copeland, hit the flip to check out a few flawless flicks of magnificence that is Misty.