The prestigious American Ballet Theatre’s first black soloist in twenty years took the stage last week, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg in the unlikely, groundbreaking life of ballerina Misty Copeland. The 30-year-old beauty starred in ‘Le Corsaire’ at the Metropolitan Opera House from June 4-8, but her star turn is just one of a string of firsts and a fascinating life story she brings along with her.
For starters, Copeland, a native of San Pedro, California, grew up in extreme poverty. She didn’t even know what ballet was when she was spotted by an instructor at her local Boys and Girls Club at 13. Which brings up another unlikely fact in Copeland’s life—she didn’t even begin training in ballet until her early teen years.
‘I had no introduction to the arts in any way definitely not the fine arts,’ Copeland told the New York Post of her childhood, part of which was spent living out of a motel room with her mother. ‘Survival was our Number 1 priority, not extracurriculars, or a career,’ she said. ‘These were not things we thought about.’ She was destined, however, to think a lot about those things. In fact, she would soon be thinking of nothing but.
A ballet instructor named Cynthia Bradley spotted Copeland’s potential and told her she was ‘You are the most gifted dancer I’ve ever seen, and this could be a path to have a career.’ And that’s what it became. But at 13, Copeland was at a major disadvantage. Whereas most ballerinas start at the age of 5, with money and eager parents backing them. Copeland was not so lucky.