Misty Copeland Sends A Strong Message To Dancers Of Color Who Came Before Her

Self Magazine

Starting Dec. 1, Misty Copeland will reprise her role as Clara in the fan-favorite ballet “The Nutcracker.” For three shows in Costa Mesa, California, she will return as American Ballet Theater’s first African-American dancer to play the role.

Copeland talked about the many successes of her career ― and the pressure that comes with breaking boundaries ― in a recent cover story for Self Magazine’s December issue. 

“I want to show the ballet world it’s possible to do all these things and not be rail-thin or have blond hair,” Copeland explained. Adding: “I feel like I’m representing not just the little brown girls but all African-American dancers who have come before me who were never promoted because of the color of their skin.”

Self Magazine

Copeland, who is set to release her book Ballerina Body this spring, also talked about the ways in which issues related to body image and identity have impacted her experience in the dance world.

“I didn’t go through puberty until I was 19, and I was already a professional,” she said. “So everyone’s expecting your body, as your instrument, to look a certain way. […] Being told to lose weight, and being African American, not having anyone else around who looked like me, caused me so much doubt.”

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In a previous interview with The Huffington Post, Copeland noted that the ballet world’s perspective on diverse bodies is changing, but not quickly enough.

“I think it’s slow to progress, but at the same time, having the platform that I have to reach a broader audience ― it’s definitely waking up the ballet world,” she said. “It’s forcing them to have to address the lack of diversity, and not just with skin color and ethnicity, but body types as well.”

Self Magazine

The issue of Self Magazine will be on newsstands on Nov. 22. You can also read the article online. All photos By Raf Stahelin; style by Akari Endo-Gaut.