Born in Missouri and raised in California, Misty Copeland began her ballet studies at the late age of thirteen at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) Summer Intensive on full scholarship. She went on to become a member of its corps de ballet. In 2007 she became the company’s second African American female soloist, the first in two decades.
In 2008, Copeland received the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts, a two-year fellowship awarded to young artists who exhibit extraordinary talent providing them additional resources in order to attain their full potential. She proceeded to perform a variety of classical and contemporary roles. In 2012 she danced the title in Firebird choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. In 2014 she made history as the first black woman to perform the lead role of “Odette/ Odile” in ABT’s Swan Lake during the company’s Australian tour.
In 2015, Copeland was promoted to principal dancer, making her the first African American woman to ever be promoted to this position in the American Ballet Theater company’s 75-year history. That same year she reprised her role as “Odette/Odile” during ABT’s Metropolitan Opera House spring season and also debuted as “Juliet” in Romeo and Juliet.
Copeland has been featured in numerous publications and television programs, including CBS Sunday Morning, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Vogue, Ebony, and People Magazine. She was inducted into the Boys & Girls Club National Hall of Fame in 2012 and received the Breakthrough Award from the Council of Urban Professionals in 2012. She also received the Young, Gifted & Black honor at the 2013 Black Girls Rock! Awards and has been immortalized as a Ballerina Barbie. She is the author of The New York Times bestselling memoire, Life in Motion and the children’s book Firebird.
In 2014, President Obama appointed Copeland to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. The following year she was included as one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine.
Devoted, cheerful and passionate, she allocates much of her free time to giving back, working with many charitable organizations mentoring youth.
“When she’s on, the audience is totally diverse,”
said Judith Jamison, artistic director emerita of
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. “This is what
happens when you give people opportunity to do
things they are capable of doing.”
-The Wall Street Journal