It’s an understatement to say Misty Copeland is having a moment. After making history in 2015 becoming the American Ballet Theatre’s first African-American principal dancer in its 75-year history, the 34-year-old prima ballerina is taking over the world, one campaign at a time. Copeland is making waves in not just the ballet world though, but across the globe, and honestly, we can’t be more inspired.
In her second campaign with Under Armour, Copeland is one of the six strong female athletes (professional stunt woman Jessie Graff, long distance runner and Harlem founder Alison Désir, world champion sprinter and self-professed 400m diva Natasha Hastings, Chinese taekwondo champion and actress Zoe Zhang and world champion alpine skier Lindsey Vonn) taking part of the sports brand’s latest “Unlike Any” campaign. Capturing the ambassadors in their natural habitat and showing off their mental and physical strength, each video also features poets paying tributes to each athlete with spoken poetry that relays their unique abilities. In Copeland’s case, American rapper and poet Saul Williams speaks about inspiring pointe technique and how it’s–wait for it–unlike any.
Here are five things we can learn from Misty Copeland.
A work-life balance is very important.
“I think [achieving balance] is innate in a lot of performers and athletes in elite positions. To be able to accomplish all that we do, we have to have balance our life. For me, being a ballerina is the prime–that’s what I do. But all of the stuff that I do outside of it (like being an Under Armour ambassador and an author of three books), I definitely have to find balance. So tonight my down time is going to be having a picnic in the park with my husband (it’s Olu Evans, btw). So I ordered my groceries online, I’m going to run home and cook and then go to the park. That’s an easy way of having downtime.”
Ballet is the ultimate workout and everyone should experience it.
“It’s not about how many ab exercises you do. It’s an entire full body experience–emotional, mental, spirit–and it’s something that’s fun so you’re not like ‘oh, I have to work on my glutes.’ You’re dancing and you’re moving and you’re just automatically working all these things. You’re not using any other outside apparatus to create the strength. When you’re using your natural body weight and resistance, you usually don’t bulk up. It’s not like picking up a weight. And the beautiful thing about ballet is that stretching is incorporated into every exercise. So you’re going to be working muscles and then right after you’re stretching. It’s a beautiful way that it’s been structured.”
“For me I feel like I need to get things done as soon as I wake up in the morning. It’s like my prime time when I’m feeling most rested and my most powerful. The moment I procrastinate and I’m like ‘I’ll take that ballet class at 4PM,’ it’s not going to happen. So for me it’s like get up, get it done and you will feel so much better about yourself. And hey, you can then enjoy the rest of your day.”
Push beyond the impossible.
When asked if she ever felt like it was an unfair burden to represent minorities on the stage because there are so few women of colour in ballet, she simply responded with a “no.” “This is not a position that was pushed on me. Before I was promoted to principal dancer, I was speaking about this and the lack of representation and the lack of diversity in classical ballet. It gave me this fire to push beyond what I thought was possible. So I understand the importance of what I represent and so it’s not at all a burden or anything. I believe in the power of inner strength and how it can push you to accomplish the seemingly impossible.”
Handle criticism like a boss.
“As dancers, I feel like we have such thick skin because that’s just what happens in ballet class every day. Your teacher (or your ballet master/mistress) is there to help you get better. They’ll be like ‘that’s wrong’ but they’re trying to make you better. So when it comes to that, I’m very strong and I understand that criticism. It’s harder for me when I read things on blogs and social media and that’s why I encourage people not to look at comments and things like that – that’s not real life. And I have to remind myself that I’m surrounded by people that love and care about me and that know me as a person. These people that criticize who I am as a person, they don’t know me. I think that’s important for our youth to remember especially.”
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