For many young people of color or those interested in the arts, Misty Copeland is an inspiration. At just 32-years-old, she has made a name for herself in the world of dance, specifically ballet. She was named one of Time‘s “100 Most Influential People” last year, landing her on the cover of the magazine. And, she has released a memoir called “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina” where she discusses having a difficult childhood and how she found ballet (or better, how ballet found her). Adding another accomplishmment to her belt, Tuesday, Copeland made history becoming the first Black Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. But, her achievement shines light on the exclusion some people of color face in the dance industry.

Copeland has been vocal about the limited numbers of people of color at top ballet companies. Her promotion this week spotlights that deficiency. According to the New York Times, “Even as her promotion was celebrated by her many fans, it raised all-too-familiar questions about why African-American dancers, particularly women, remain so underrepresented at top ballet companies in the 21st century, despite the work of pioneering black dancers who broke racial barriers in the past. ” These concerns make sense given that the American Ballet Theatre has been in existence for 75 years and is only just now promoting a Black woman to Principal Dancer.

While Copeland’s accomplishment deserves admiration and recognition, it also highlights an ongoing issue with underrepresentation of people of color in predominantly and historically White institutions in this country. So, while it is heart-warming that Copeland has received this much deserved position, it seems there is still much more to be done to ensure that other people of color have the same opportunity.

Photo Credit: Misty Copeland/Facebook


Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at