I was seventeen when I moved to New York. I was nineteen when I joined the main company. I was going through a lot. Just becoming an adult and just wanting to fit in, be accepted, and be in common with the other dancers.

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland

Profession: Dancer
Nationality: American

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I love heels. I'm 5-foot-2, and I like feeling tall.

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 wanted to open the dialogue about race in ballet and bring more people in. It's just beautiful to see the interest that has exploded for such an incredible art form that I will forever be grateful to!

That something that I fought so hard for throughout the beginning of my career is I didn't want to pancake my skin a lighter color to fit into the... ballet. I wanted to be myself. I didn't want to have to wear makeup that made my nose look thinner.

I think that the ideal physique and look of a ballerina is always changing with different eras. And it's continuing to change.

I feel like going to class every morning is so humbling. You're always working to improve, and you're always being critiqued on your next performance. It's not about what you've done. There's always room to grow.

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.

I am a black woman, and my experiences would not be what they are if I wasn't. I'm so happy to share those experiences for other people to be able to learn from them.

It's going to take a while before we see a real shift in the students and the dancers that are going into professional companies because it takes so many years of training, but I do think that there's a new crop of dancers, of minority dancers that are entering into the ballet world.

If I'm put in a situation where I am not really sure what's going to happen, it can be overwhelming. I get a bit anxious.

I've always approached my career and my life, you know, one day at a time, as if this was the last day that I'm going, because you never know as an athlete and as a dancer. You never know what can happen today, tomorrow.

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

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

I didn't care how much work it would take, and I didn't see the time invested as a waste or like I was missing out on anything. Ballet became my ultimate passion.