Today is ballerina Misty Copeland's 33rd birthday, so let's pause for a second to thank the universe for bringing her into the world.
There's something about her that glows — and it's more than just the spotlight. How do we love Misty Copeland? Let us count the ways…
1. She just made major history
In June 2015, the American Ballet Theater promoted Copeland to principal dancer, aka the top of the career ladder for a ballerina. Copeland is the first black woman to be named a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater (which has been around for 75 years, so, yeah, it’s time). This news is especially celebration-worthy considering that Copeland’s faced more than her fair share of naysayers throughout her dance journey.
2. Determination got her where she is today
When you watch Copeland’s chill-inducing Under Armour ad, you realize a couple of facts. First, she can make her body do insane things. (It really puts your life into perspective when you watch it after being incapable of completing the calf portion of your barre class, but anyway.) Second, Copeland's had a few doors slammed in her face, but managed to find her way to the top of the ballet world anyway. In the ad, she dances while a voiceover reads out a letter filled with the kind of critique 13-year-old Copeland got when trying to break into ballet. As the letter lists everything that’s wrong with her, Copeland continues to move, proving exactly what is right.
3. She's vocal about ballet's race issues
For a dance so beautiful, the ballet world is plagued with unfortunate racial stereotypes, including that black women don't have the right body type to pirouette with the best of them. "When people meet me in person, they’re usually surprised at how petite I am because there’s just [an] idea that because I'm black I just look a certain way," says Copeland in an interview with NPR. That’s why instead of focusing on changing the minds of misguided people, she's committed to helping young dancers of color realize there's a spot at the barre for them too. "I think it's more important to think of the people I am influencing and helping to see a broader picture of what beauty is," she says.
4. Her Instagram game is strong
From super-glammed up photo shoots to snaps of her mid-leap on stage, her Instagram @mistyonpointe is a good one to follow. Take a peek:
5. She's open about her struggle with body image
In a March 2014 interview with SELF, Copeland explained how pressure to be perfect led her to binge eat. After fracturing a back bone during rehearsal, she was put on the Pill to strengthen her bones. When she quickly gained 10 pounds and bigger breasts, the American Ballet Theater’s artistic staff called her in for a meeting and told her to “lengthen,” which was code for dropping some pounds. “When I reached my apartment, I started crying uncontrollably. I knew that since I was 5'2' and 108 pounds, most people would consider me super thin," says Copeland. "But in my own little world, I was devastated to learn I was 'self-conscious."
Falling in love, confiding in mentors, and making friends beyond the ballet world helped Copeland break free. "I noticed that most people didn’t have the same rigid expectations I had about how their bodies should look. Gradually, I started to feel more relaxed and comfortable in my frame — and even happy with it," she says. She began looking to food as physical fuel rather than emotional comfort and was eventually able to get on board with her new body. "My curves became an integral part of who I am as a dancer, not something I needed to lose to become one," she says. "And I think I changed everyone’s mind about what a perfect dancer is supposed to look like." We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
More From Levo:
• 3 Life Lessons From Under Armour's Newest Campaign Star, Misty Copeland
• Misty Copeland Continues to Rule the World
• Misty Copeland Named American Ballet Theater’s First African-American Principal Dancer
Photo Credit: Mike Pont/FilmMagic