EXCLUSIVE: Misty Copeland Says We Have ‘No Idea What It Takes’ To Be A Ballet Dancer, Doles Out Sage Life Advice
Until I turned 18, I spent a majority of my waking hours in a very particular dress code: a Capezio leotard, black footless tights and a pair of knit short shorts. While there were days (often after a particularly difficult class) that I hated—and I do mean, truly hated—dance in all its many forms, I largely spent my ballet “career” in complete appreciation of the art form.
The first time I saw Misty Copeland, a soloist for the American Ballet Theatre, dance was in 2008 via a grainy, since-removed YouTube video of her performance in Sleeping Beauty. In the six years that followed, I watched Copeland’s career with the enthusiasm of a rabid, wide-eyed mega-fan. Over the course of those same six years, she began receiving more and more attention and accolades, and for good reason: after overcoming a myriad of adversities, Copeland became ABT’s first African American female soloist in more than 20 years in 2007.
Now acting as one of the spokeswomen for Under Armour’s impressive I Will What I Want movement, the 31-year-old is bringing the beauty, skill and athleticism of ballet to TV screens, magazine pages and billboards everywhere. So, when I was offered the chance to meet Copeland and discuss her campaign, I all but started tearing up from excitement. Read on to hear Copeland wax poetic about ballet finally getting athletic recognition, how she defines off-duty dancer style and the surprising bag she uses to tote her pointe shoes.
Lucky: As one of the faces of Under Armour’s new women’s campaign, you’re alongside some amazing athletes—like Lindsey Vonn and Kelly O'Hara. How does it feel to have ballet recognized as a formal sport by such a prominent sportswear company?
It’s like this huge weight, I feel. It’s time to start educating the entire world on what it is that we do and how incredibly difficult it is. I mean, you know what it is to be a ballet dancer and to have people that just have no idea what it takes. It’s still happening to me today even with the recognition and the platforms I have. I had someone say to me yesterday, “Oh, so you’re still doing that ballerina thing?” It’s time that we’re given the respect because we dedicate our lives to this, just like any other athlete. And on top of being incredible athletes, you have to be these refined, elegant actresses on-stage. There’s so many layers to it beyond being an athlete. It’s our due time.
You’ve done such a good job of being a go-to ambassador for ballet, so that’s absolutely amazing.
Thank you so much!
You must know better than anyone that dancer off-duty style is having a bit of a moment. What are some of the things we might see you wearing when you’re headed to the studio?
Oh my gosh. Well, I love fashion, so you’ll never see me schlepping around outside, no matter where I’m going, even to the airport. I’ve got, like, my Sergio Rossi or my Givenchy booties or something. For the summer, I’ll wear an Under Armour sports bra underneath a Helmut Lang maxi dress.
I love that.
And maybe sandals.
What about bags? I’m assuming you’re not one for one of those bulky athletic totes, right?
I have my typical Louis [Vuitton] bag—the big, kind of beachy one. I wear that way too much. I actually have this beautiful Givenchy gray, super-structured, oversized bag.
I’m sure I know which bag you’re talking about.
I just love the oversized bags because I’ll throw my pointe shoes in there. People are like, "You’re using that as a dance bag? How dare you!"
It’s just a very high-end dance bag.
But it’s my everything bag!
Okay, it’s So You Think You Can Dance time. It’s my favorite TV show on the planet, and you’ve done an amazing job at guest judging this season. That being said, do you have a favorite routine from this season?
I’m sure it was something with Ricky in it. Maybe, you know, it’s from last week—Travis [Wall]’s big group piece where Ricky just shined. Travis’ choreography and Ricky’s dancing makes me happy.
We’re running out of time, so one last question: if you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring soloist, technique-wise or drive-wise, what would it be?
You have to believe that [being] given the opportunity to do a role is what’s going to fulfill you. There’s no other way. There are so many girls who say, “But I’m just not ready for that role, I’m not ready!” But you never will be, until you do it. It’s just to believe in yourself and just do it.
Watch Copeland’s simply breathtaking I Will What I Want campaign video below: