On February 8th, BBC will air a documentary about the life of Misty Copeland, the first Black principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theater.
While growing up, most children are told that they can be anything that they want. As a child, I went from wanting to be president to a lawyer in the span of an hour. However, as I got older, I realized that as a Black girl, society believes that you don’t belong in certain roles. As a young woman of color this can be disheartening and isolating. When there are no role models, who are you able to look up to?
These past few years Copeland has become the role model that young Black ballerinas have deserved. Diversity in ballet has been an unspoken issue for years, and Copeland refuses to let us forget this. Her memoir Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina details the life that led her to become today’s most well known ballerina. opeland did not have the life of privilege like her peer ballerinas. Also unlike many other ballerinas, Copeland started learning ballet when she was 13—most ballerinas start at 3.
When she began learning ballet, Copeland was ostracized for her body type. She is Black and curvy. Her race and body is not characteristics of “typical” ballerinas. Initially, ballet companies tried to deny her talent because they were unable to see beyond the color of her skin. However, Copeland was a prodigy. Over the years even though her hardships continued, Copeland still had her talent, her dedication, and her passion for ballet.
For generations, Black girls could not see themselves as ballerinas. Now, with ballerinas like Misty Copeland, young Black girls can see themselves in roles that once felt off limits. Like #browngirlsdoballet, Copeland’s documentary shows that ballerinas don’t just look like the white figurines in pink tutus you collected as child, they can be Black, beautiful, and magical.