Misty Copeland is an American ballet dancer for the American Ballet Theater. In addition to dancing, Misty is a public speaker. However, this isn’t where Misty’s story starts. Misty was born on September 10, 1982, in Kansas City, Missouri. Two years later, Misty, her mother, older brothers Doug and Chris, and her older sister Erica hopped on a bus to a suburb in Los Angeles, Bellflower. Misty’s mother had moved her and her siblings away from their father. When they arrived in Bellflower, her mother introduced them to where they’d be living, with their mother’s new husband, Harold.
“I’m 5’2″, I started when I was 13, I’m black, but I’ve made it happen, I’m very lucky to be where I am…it’s possible” -Misty Copeland
After they’d lived with Harold for three years, Misty’s younger sister Lindsey was born. Everyone in the Copeland family loved Harold, though, when Misty turned seven, they packed up and left again. Her mother later explained that Harold was an alcoholic. They then moved to the town of San Pedro, California, where they would live with their new stepfather, Robert.
“I am proof that it’s possible and we can be part of this culture and I am pushing constantly to promote diversity in classical ballet” -Misty Copeland
When the Copelands moved in with Robert, there were obvious differences. Robert made Misty, Doug, Chris, Erica, and Lindsey do chores around the house and ate dinner at the dining room table. Robert grew fond of Misty and called her “little Hawaiian girl” because she reminded him of his family. Though he was fond of her, if she or her siblings didn’t follow his rules, they’d be punished. He would make them stand in the corner in silence, but Robert punished Misty’s brothers more often. He would make them stare at a wall for an hour, or balance a heavy book on their heads. Sometimes, it would get out of hand if Robert was in a bad mood. Like when he dragged Chris across the house by his ear, or even hit Doug with a frying pan! But it only got worse, if Doug and Chris were arguing, he would make them box in the backyard instead. Everyone, including Misty’s mother, became afraid of Robert. Everyone avoided him as much as possible. After four years of living with Robert, the Copelands had had it. One day, after Robert had left for work, Misty’s mother lead Misty and her siblings to car. And behind the wheel, was their mother’s new boyfriend, Ray.
“The greatest lesson I’ve learned is to be vulnerable and believe in myself” -Misty Copeland
Once Misty and her family had left Robert, they temporarily stayed in downtown Los Angeles with their Auntie Monique and Uncle Charles. Monique and Charles were extremely kind to the Copelands, but their neighborhood was home to gang activity. One night, a man had been shot, and was thrown up against their front door. A few weeks after that event, the Copelands moved yet again, and they moved in with Ray.
“You create your destiny. Hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and taking risks create amazing opportunities.” -Misty Copeland
Ray had a tiny apartment, and he tried too hard to get the kids to like him. But, Misty’s mom liked Ray, they even got matching tattoos, but she was happy. Misty and her siblings only had to put up with Ray for about a year, because then their mother had a new boyfriend, Alex.
“The path to success is not as fixed and inflexible as you think.” -Misty Copeland
Alex’s apartment was small like Ray’s, and all six kids had to sleep on the living room floor. Then, Misty’s mother lost her job, and the car. Alex was kicked out of his apartment, which meant they had to move again-to a motel. Alex went with them to the Sunset Inn, and living there was cramped like his apartment. Later, Misty’s youngest brother was sent to live with his father, Robert. When Cameron left, the Copeland family started to fall apart. Erica spent more time that ever at friends’ houses. Lindsey spent most of her time with her father, Harold. Money was extremely tight at the time, they would even find themselves searching the couch cushions for money.
“You can start late, look different, be uncertain, and still succeed.” -Misty Copeland
Through these tough times, Misty turned to where her love of dancing started. Before becoming a ballerina, Misty was on drill team. She loved the thought of being on stage, and she had her mind set on becoming captain. After practicing for weeks and weeks, Misty presented her routines (one for the team and one for captain) to the coaches at tryouts. All of her hard work had paid off. Later, Misty was informed that she’d become the captain of the drill team. Though the other girls on the team believed she didn’t deserve the spot, the “Coach Misty” on her jacket said otherwise. Her drill team coach was the one who first saw the talent in Misty. She eventually convinced Misty to start taking ballet classes at the San Pedro Boy’s and Girl’s Club.
“Finding your power doesn’t need to be scary. Instead it makes you feel free, in control, strong, and proud.” -Misty Copeland
In the beginning at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, Misty didn’t actually take the classes, she only watched. After a few weeks of watching, the ballet teacher, Cindy Bradley, had talked to Misty about taking ballet classes. She told her that she would pay for the classes all she had to was show up. After talking with her mom, Misty decided that this was an offer she couldn’t deny.
“You can do anything you want, even if you’re being told negative things. Stay strong and find motivation.” -Misty Copeland
When Misty took the ballet classes, she felt different. The other dancers wore leotards and fancy ballet shoes. Misty wore her gym clothes. The other dancers parent’s paid for their classes. The teacher paid for Misty’s classes. The other dancers were okay. Misty was exceptional.
“I will forever fight, performing like it’s my last show, and I’ll love every minute of it.” -Misty Copeland
After taking classes for a few weeks, it was finally time to go on pointe. On pointe is the part of ballet where you dance literally on your toes. It only took Misty a few tries to find her balance and look like a professional ballerina. That just shows how talented Misty is. You can also tell how proud Cindy and Misty must have been. Though on pointe is a difficult task, that didn’t stop Misty.
“It’s time to write your story.” -Misty Copeland
Flash forward from Misty first mastering on pointe. Now Misty is being invited to summer ballet programs all around the globe. After lots of thinking, Misty goes with San Francisco Ballet, turning down places like ABT. After a few weeks of the summer program, her mother demanded her back home in San Pedro. That ended Misty’s ballet for that summer.
“Belonging shouldn’t mean that you’re like everyone else.” -Misty Copeland
Though Misty returned home from San Francisco, that wasn’t her last chance for another program. Later, many more summer programs requested Misty’s presence at their programs. This time, Misty chose to work with ABT. While working with ABT over the summer, they could truly see her talent and requested her to work with them full-time. That was an offer she just couldn’t turn down.
“Dance is a conversation between body and soul.” -Misty Copeland
Summer extension programs were not the only amazing chances Misty was given. She was even given the chance to dance with Prince! One day, one for Misty’s friend from camp asked is Prince could have her number. A few weeks later, Misty was in a hotel meeting Prince. And a few weeks after that, she was touring with Prince, opening for him and dancing on stage with him!
“Success is not easy, and I think everyone should know that hard work and perseverance and being open to giving back are so much more powerful than stepping all over people to get to the top.” -Misty Copeland
While working with ABT, Misty had many once in a lifetime experiences. Though Misty had many amazing experiences, Firebird is one of the biggest honor. With ABT, the ballet Firebird is a huge deal. In Firebird the lead wears a large headpiece and costume that represents the firebird. Though this sounds pretty great, and it seems all conflict is all behind, the adversity slowly starts to build.
“All you can do is be your best self. I’m representing more than just me. I think every person should think that way.” -Misty Copeland
While beginning to dance Firebird, Misty’s ankle started to hurt. So much that she wouldn’t be able to practice jumps and leaps. Eventually, while touring with Firebird, she was forced to go to the doctor’s. It was later revealed that Misty had a stress fracture. She was out for weeks, but that didn’t stop Misty. Right after she was healed, Misty got right back up and pretended that nothing had happened.
“Knowing that it’s never been done before makes me fight even harder.” -Misty Copeland
As you can see, Misty Copeland is an amazing person and has done many amazing things in her life. She is such an inspiring person and is proof that we can do anything if we believe in ourselves.
Central Middle School sixth grader Sara Blades has recently become interested in the life and career of Misty Copeland.