This is an excerpt from Essence magazine's September 2015 cover story "Stepping Up" about American Ballet Theatre ballerina Misty Copeland. The article was written by Julee Wilson, senior fashion editor at The Huffington Post.
“…One of Copeland’s most endearing qualities, beyond dancing on her toes and making it look easy, is the fact that she’s so unapologetically Black. ‘It’s easy for someone who isn’t Black or other or who has never experienced racism to dismiss what I’m saying…it’s easier for them to say, ‘Why do you focus so much on that? You’re a beautiful dancer.’ But the reason I’m here and I have this voice is because I’m Black.’ Copeland tells me that she has never tried to pretend that ballet doesn’t have a race problem. She recounts times fellow dancers told her that some American Ballet Theatre (ABT) staff members were overheard saying, ‘Misty stands out too much because of her skin color.’ With that said, Copeland’s singular mission is changing the landscape of ballet by promoting Project Plié, an initiative launched in September 2013 by ABT with Copeland on the advisory board to increase racial and ethnic representation at ballet companies around the country. Copeland also mentors several dancers on the rise. At the moment she has more than a dozen mentees (including identical twin brothers Naazir and Shaakir Muhammad, who are currently standout students at the School of ABT). ‘I’m going to continue to be who I am and my experiences as a Black woman have made me who I am. All of a sudden now that I’m in this position, I’m not going to say, ‘I’m just a dancer.’ It’s a huge deal because I’m a Black woman. That’s why it’s a big deal…”
Read more at Essence.com or pick up the September issue on newsstands August 14.
Also on HuffPost: