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  • Writer's pictureMatilda Butler

Do You Know Who Misty Copeland Is?

Updated: Apr 20, 2022



It’s Never Too Late. Always Work to Improve.

Have You Heard of Misty Copeland?

If you are a ballet dancer or if you follow dance, then you probably know all about Misty Copeland. In the interest of transparency, I’ll confess that I didn’t know about her until fairly recently (Matilda).

In the past year, I rapidly walked a long airport concourse to get from one plane to the next. I was on my way to my sister-in-law’s 90th birthday — an event that not even Covid would be allowed to postpone. I was hurrying since I didn’t want to miss the boarding time.

But then I saw an incredible photo on the wall. It was huge—at least 8 feet by 10 feet. I had to stop. The woman had been caught by a photographer in mid-flight. The execution seemed perfect. There was an inspirational quote [Picture yourself winning. PERSISTENCE. Pass It On] plus the name Misty Copeland. I stopped long enough to capture a photo. I hope you will find it as arresting as I did — especially if you can imagine it at actual size.

And, as always happens, once I knew her name I began to see it all over the Internet. This led me to learn more about her and to feature her in today’s blog post on RosieCentral.


"Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful." ~Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland's Story

To learn more, I looked her up on her website ( and this is what I found:

“When she discovered ballet, Misty was living in a shabby motel room, struggling with her five siblings for a place to sleep on the floor. A true prodigy, she was dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year: a feat unheard of for any classical dancer.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in San Pedro, California, Misty Copeland began her ballet studies at the late age of thirteen. At fifteen, she won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards.
She studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared ABT’s National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000.
Misty joined ABT’s Studio Company in September 2000, joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001, and in August 2007 became the company’s second African American female soloist and the first in two decades. In June 2015, Misty was then promoted to principal dancer, making her the first African American woman to ever be promoted to the position in the company’s 75-year history.”


"I grew up poor in San Pedro, California, sleeping on the floor of

shady motels with my five siblings and not always sure when or where

I'd get my next meal." ~Misty Copeland

Why is She Called a Prodigy?

As you read above, Misty knew nothing about ballet until she was 13 years old. However, from the time she was quite young, she loved to move and to dance. That was part of who she was. She made up her own dances and twirled gracefully around the house putting steps to music.

But ballet? No. That wasn’t part of her world. She had never seen a performance.

However, her natural talent found a home in the middle school drill team where she became captain. This brought Misty to the attention of the team coach, who was classically trained.

She urged Misty to take free weekly ballet classes at a Boys & Girls Club. And so, at 13, she starts on a path that led her to become the first African American woman to become the principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater, one of the three leading ballet companies in the US. The ballet company, at that time was 75 years old.

What About Her Childhood?

As someone who has interviewed a large number of women--focusing their lives, I have come to understand that childhood experiences—both good and bad—always shape a person throughout her life. It isn’t a matter of simply taking the advice to: “get over it.” That’s why I appreciate the following quote from Misty. It seems that she embraces all the complication and hardships of her childhood and uses it to become better at what she does.

Inspirational Quote from Misty Copeland

"My childhood is a part of my story, and it's why

I'm who I am today and why my career is what it is." ~Misty Copeland

The complication in her life centered mainly on her mother. She had several husbands and lived with various boyfriends. Eventually, she moved with her five children to two small rooms at the Sunset Inn in southern California. Misty’s mother told her she would have to give up ballet as the move took them away from the free classes.

Teacher Steps In

By this point, Misty’s ballet teacher who taught the free Boys and Girls Club classes saw the incredible talent. And so, with her mother’s consent, Misty moved into her teacher’s home. She was with the Bradleys during the week and with her mother on the weekends. It was the Bradleys who introduced Misty to ballet performances, books, and videos, and who guided her early career.

Inspirational Quote from Misty Copeland

"All you can do is be your best self.

I've always felt that I had to be that much more aware of how I present myself.

I'm representing more than just me. I think every person should think that way." ~Misty Copeland

More than Dancing...

Misty does not limit her horizons. She has moved to pop music, written children’s books, been in a movie, and now has a Mattel Misty Barbie.

But it has often been a lonely time—at least culturally. So often she has been the only Black American in what she does. The press has noted that she is the Jackie Robinson of classical ballet. But she is working to change the color of ballet.

Misty Copeland Quotes:

As with so many of the women we are featuring on RosieCentral, we find their words to be inspirational. Their words may help you more in your own life than our description of the person. Here are some special quotes we want to share with you.

Inspirational Quotes from Misty Copeland

"Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful. And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you." ~Misty Copeland

"You have to be the one promoting yourself. If you don't think that you're worthy, you're never going to make it." ~Misty Copeland

"I say over and over again that I am just standing on the shoulders of so many who have set this path for me, and they may not be seen or recognized or have been given an opportunity to have a voice, but I'm here representing all of those dancers." ~Misty Copeland

"I feel like going to class every morning is so humbling. You're always working to improve, and you're always being critiqued on your next performance.

It's not about what you've done.

There's always room to grow." ~Misty Copeland

"Every time I dance, I'm trying to prove myself to myself." ~Misty Copeland

"My favorite role of all? Whatever I'm working on in the moment."

~Misty Copeland


Some weeks we provide writing prompts designed to help you incorporate the week's inspirational message into your own life. Other weeks, we provide action prompts with suggestions for small steps you can take to bring about the change you want to have in your life.

This week is about action. Scroll back to the list of Misty's quotes. We suggest you choose one that speaks to you and who you want to be. Then write it on a card and keep it with you for at least a week and extend that to two, if possible. Look at that card often. Write it on several cards placing one by your bed, another on your mirror, a third in the top drawer of your desk, maybe a fourth on the refrigerator.

Well, you get the point. Read the message upon waking. Remind yourself of the message several more times during the day. Let the message help inspire you in your everyday life.

Do more than read. Each day do one thing--no matter how small--that you would not have done without the inspiration. That seems like a tall order, but you can. It is a series of small steps that takes you to a new place.

Combine Misty Copeland’s Words and Her Life Story

Now that you know more about Misty Copeland’s life and have read some of her quotes, you can understand why we think the following is our inspiration from her:


It’s Never Too Late. Always Work to Improve.

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Wendy the Welder (Rosie's Co-Worker)

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19 апр. 2022 г.

"A Ballerina's Tale" (available on Amazon Prime Video and PBS) is a deeply moving documentary about the courageous and uplifting journey that Misty Copeland bravely embarked on to fulfill her dream and to challenge the conventional definition of beauty. She inspires us all. --Diana Paul


14 апр. 2022 г.

I've never seen Misty Copeland, but I love the lesson from her life. It reminds me that it is never to late to achieve your goals. I was raised to be modest about my achievements. WOW. I really like the Misty quota: "You have to be the one promoting yourself." I'm going to take that serious at work. It's time I get more credit for all that I do!


12 апр. 2022 г.

Such an amazing story...yes she is definitely inspirational

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