Her Will, Her Way: Misty Copeland’s Incredulous Setbacks before Incredible Success

“You lack the right feet, Achilles tendons, torso length and bust.  You have the wrong body for ballet.”

Who on earth believes it is acceptable to say these things to an impressionable young girl? If you want to crush a girl’s dreams, telling her that her body is not up to par will certainly do the trick.  These are words from one of many ballet academy rejection letters Misty Copeland received growing up.  Yes, Misty Copeland, the same woman who was declared a prodigy after just three months of study.

It’s hard to believe that one of America’s most renowned ballerinas and Under Armour’s newest spokeswoman ever had a naysayer.  With this new commercial endorsement, Under Armour stands up for the non-conventional idea that any body type can be made to dance, and that dancers are indeed athletes.

Just ask Copeland’s toned-up calves, which according to traditional ballet academies are not fit for a ballerina.  But behind every successful woman is a line of doubters she proved wrong, and Misty Copeland is no exception.

As a short African-American woman with a curvier build, Copeland already didn’t have the “look” of a classical dancer.  But on top of this, her training was at the Boy & Girls Club—not your traditional studio.  While most premier ballerinas have to begin at an early age to ensure the most success, Copeland started at the daunting age of 13, which put off many ballet academies and intensives from considering her for furthering her education.

These ballet companies were not afraid to express to all things wrong with her physically, but Copeland did not allow herself to be deterred.  And after grueling years of tearful training, closed doors and false friends, she became the second African-American soloist of the American Ballet Theatre.

And it’s only been up from there.  With a guest appearance with Prince, a bestselling book titled “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” and joining the multi-million dollar women’s campaign with Under Armour (the first sports company to recognize dancers as athletes), Misty Copeland has done more in her career than anyone ever believed.  Wonder what they have to say now?

By Jessica Wise

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