By EVANGELINE COMEAU-KIRSCHNER, age 10

Misty Copeland is the American Ballet Theatre’s first female African-American principal dancer in 75 years. PHOTO: Kent G Becker
Misty Copeland is the American Ballet Theatre’s first female African-American principal dancer in 75 years. PHOTO: Kent G Becker

In June 2015, Misty Copeland was promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre in New York, but she wasn’t like the average ballerina. For one thing, she had a much more visibly muscular body type. She’s 5 feet 2 inches tall, very short for a ballerina. She was also the company’s first female African-American principal dancer in its 75-year history.

Copeland started practicing ballet at the Boys and Girls Club in San Pedro, CA, when she was 13 years old, which is older than most ballerinas start. Her talent and passion eventually led to her roles in American Ballet Theatre productions such as The Nutcracker. She was always very hard-working, and at times even performed with injuries. For example, she overcame a vertebral fracture and a stress fracture in her left shin.

In the beginning of her career, Copeland was told she didn’t “fit in,” and that she was only right for certain parts.

“It’s a visual art form, so they’re judging me on my physical appearance, and some of them just don’t want to see brown skin on the stage,” she told New York magazine.

“My backup plan was to out-dance everyone,” wrote Copeland in her memoir, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, “to be so technically perfect and unbelievably lyrical in my movements that all anyone would be able to see was my talent.”

Most importantly, Copeland has inspired many young girls of all races to follow their dreams.

Copeland said she would tell her younger self this: “You can do anything you want, even if you are being told negative things. Stay strong and find motivation.”