I traced the marley floor with my pointe shoes, and imagine myself on the stage, not as a member of the corps, but as a principal dancer. It felt right. It felt like a promise. Some day, somehow, it was going to happen for me.

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland

Profession: Dancer
Nationality: American

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I say over and over again that I am just standing on the shoulders of so many who have set this path for me, and they may not be seen or recognized or have been given an opportunity to have a voice, but I'm here representing all of those dancers. Dance Theatre of Harlem Virginia Johnson, Tai Jimenez, Lauren Anderson.

When people meet me in person, they're usually surprised at how petite I am because there's this idea that because I'm black, I just look a certain way.

I was on a path. I was going to become a principal dancer. I never let my mind rest.

Though I have tremendous support from lots of people, there are so many others waiting to tear me down.

I never thought of myself as special or particularly good at anything. But once I started ballet, suddenly I had a new identity: prodigy.

I think I get almost every piece of clothing that I buy altered and taken in just to fit me exactly the way it should.

It's all so surreal, and I'm living my dream. And you know, principal or not, I'm getting to dance all the roles that I've dreamed of doing.

When I was 16, I moved to Torrance, California to train at a more advanced studio, and by 19, I joined the American Ballet Theatre in New York. It all happened so fast - it was pretty unheard of that someone could train for so few years and become a professional at one of the most elite dance companies in the United States.

The ballet world I don't think is an art form that is quick to change or to adjust or evolve.

I want the ballet world to be given the respect that it deserves and to be seen by more people - for so many to experience the beauty that I've received from the ballet world.

I think body-image issues are not just a dancer thing. I think we're much more in tune and aware because the body is our instrument and art, and we stare at ourselves in a mirror all day, but I feel like it's something that every woman experiences and every girl experiences.

Perseverance has always just been something that was in me. And it was a tool that came in very handy as a ballerina.

Finding great training, I think, is number one. I did a lot of research and found really great teachers, and it just takes - I took a year off from school and did independent studies so that I could devote all of my time to it. But I think that training is the key, definitely, and it's not a sport.

I was the first person in my family who was ever interested in dance, or fine art of any kind for that matter - I came from a very humble beginning in San Pedro, California.