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.

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland

Profession: Dancer
Nationality: American

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Being the only African American at this level in American Ballet Theater, I feel like people are looking at me, and it's my responsibility for me to do whatever I can to provide these opportunities in communities to be able to educate them.

A young girl reached out to me to be her mentor one day, which I didn't really know anything about. What I did remember was what it was to be alone as an African-American dancer in the ballet world and wanting to connect with someone who looks like me.

It's weird for minorities even just to buy tickets to the ballet. We feel like it's not a part of our lives and we're not a part of that world.

Depending on the level you're at in your company, the higher you go up in rank, usually the longer you can dance.

I think most people think of ballerinas as kind of either as a fairytale, far-away thing that's really not attainable, something they can't grasp, or they think of them as European or Russian and kind of their nose up in the air. So, it's cool for me to, like, sit with them and for them to really see themselves as me.

My favorite role of all? Whatever I'm working on in the moment.

There are hundreds of stories I've heard from black women from my generation, generations before me, and the next, that have never been given an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.

Ballet was so structured. I'd been craving something that could guide me.

Dance kind of was always just a part of my natural state as a child. It's something that, whenever music was playing, I was dancing.

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 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.

It's hard to be the one that stands out when, you know, in a ballet company, you're trying to create unison and uniform when you're in a corps de ballet.

At least in my performances, the audience has become so diverse in a way that I don't think ballet has ever experienced.

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