- How Much Does ‘Nutcracker’ Star and Prima Ballerina Misty Copeland Make Each Year?
- Copeland earns six figures as a principal dancer
- Copeland earns far more than most dancers
- Her other sources of income
- Misty Copeland’s net worth
- Misty Copeland Net Worth 2019: How Much does Misty Copeland Make a Year?
- Misty Copeland Net Worth 2019:
- Misty Copeland continues to inspire
- The History of African-American Casting in Ballet
- ‘A Lot Is Still So Much the Same’: Misty Copeland on Decades of Racism and Ballet
- Thank you!
- How Ballet Dancer Misty Copeland Shattered Barriers
- Meet Charlotte Nebres: the first black lead in NYC Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’
How Much Does ‘Nutcracker’ Star and Prima Ballerina Misty Copeland Make Each Year?
Misty Copeland made history in 2015 when she became the first African-American woman to be named a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Now, she’s dancing her way onto the big screen with a major role in Disney’s new movie The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.
Copeland is without a doubt the most famous ballerina in America (she’s even been turned into a Barbie doll). Here’s how much she earns for her fancy footwork.
Copeland earns six figures as a principal dancer
Misty Copeland at the premiere of Disney’s Nutcracker And The Four Realms. | Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
Copeland’s path to ballet success wasn’t exactly traditional. She didn’t start dancing until she was 13 – much later than when most dancers begin their training. Money was tight (at one point, her family had to move into a motel) and keeping up with lessons was a struggle. But she stuck with dance, and six years later, she joined the American Ballet Theatre – widely regarded as the most prestigious ballet company in America — as a corps member. Copeland was a minority in the ballet world, which is mostly white, and her curvy body didn’t fit the mold of the typical dancer. Still, she rose through the ranks, becoming a soloist in 2007 and a principal in 2015.
Soloist at the ABT earn between $50,000 and $100,000, Copeland told ESPN in 2014, adding that she was at the top of that range. Once she was promoted to principal, her salary would have increased as well. The ABT’s two top-paid dancers earned $158,772 and $188,157 in 2016, according to the Form 990 the company filed with the IRS, but Copeland wasn’t one of them. A rough guess would put her salary somewhere between $100,000 and $158,000. (There are 15 principal dancers at the ABT.)
Copeland earns far more than most dancers
Those number might make it seem like being a ballerina is pretty lucrative, but they’re on the high end of dancer salaries. In a 2017 Dance magazine poll, many dancers and choreographers said they earned less than $30,000 a year, even though they were working full-time. Dancers at prestigious companies like the Joffrey Ballet and the Washington Ballet reported earning between $670 and $1,015 a week when the company was in season, according to a 2013 report in Pointe magazine.
Her other sources of income
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As Copeland’s star has risen, so have her money-making opportunities. In 2014, she landed a deal with Under Armour that she said paid a little more than her ballet salary.
Copeland has also appeared in ads for Dr. Pepper, Blackberry, Oikos, Coach, and Estée Lauder. She was a judge on So You Think You Can Dance?, has written several books (including a memoir, Life in Motion), and performed with Prince and on Broadway. In 2018, she made the leap to cinema with a role in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. She has the only dancing part in the movie, which is inspired by the Tchaikovsky ballet.
Misty Copeland’s net worth
Celebrity Net Worth estimates that Copeland has a net worth of $500,000. But that’s sure to grow if she picks up more endorsements – and more film roles.
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Misty Copeland Net Worth 2019: How Much does Misty Copeland Make a Year?
Misty Copeland is one of the most desirable dancers from American Ballet Theatre. She is young and multitalented to, so what about Misty Copeland net worth and salary earning details that how much does she get paid and make in the year 2019? Do one is in search of this info? If yes, then just right away peek into this pool of information where we will about this Earning Detail: Her yearly salary has been estimated to be 60,500 Dollar. From her endorsements and also from sponsorship, she has managed to make earnings of $13,000. This is a good improvement in his total income; five years ago this amount is only $31,000. While, after a gap of one year he adds almost 10 Thousand Dollars in this amount.
Almost an addition of $10 Thousand in the annual income makes it possible that she will achieve such a reasonable fortune.
Misty Copeland Net Worth 2019:
- Around 600 Thousand Dollar is the Misty Copeland net worth 2019.
She has done movies too and from her film, she earned approximately 88,613 Dollars. From her role in another film, she made earnings of $57,100.
If we talk about her albums as well as income from songs then she made an amount of $355,500. So this shows that this is a major source of her overall net worth. No doubt this is a good improvement in her revenue that probably it will go up in upcoming years.
How Much does Misty Copeland Make a Year?
- Her expected earnings for this year will for sure come out to be $185,000.
Her love life is very simple as she and Olu Evans are married now. For a long time, they bonded with each other.
More Income Source:
She has done some of the endorsement contracts with the companies like that of COACH and also with American Express. She has made an appearance on the dance show; it is because of this endorsements and appearances that she is making extra money. She has done movies and films, she has been featured for famous brands, and she has endorsed brands. It is because of this multi-tasking, it is just for the reason of these multiple skills that she is making such massive money and cash.
This is all that how much Misty Copeland get paid from different sources in 2019, her net worth shows that she makes the handsome amount in a year. She is committed to her work that why she earns all with a lot of effort in life. Till she works hard and expects more in his earnings.
Misty Copeland continues to inspire
Misty Copeland is simply unstoppable.
After becoming the first African-American to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 76-year-history, Copeland is living the life she’d only dreamed about a short time ago. Now, she’s helping others find ways to chart their own paths to fulfill their dreams.
“Even when you think you’ve arrived, you have to keep working,” Copeland said in an interview with Cosmopolitan. “Not everyone is going to like you or think you’re the right fit. But hearing, ‘No,’ makes you stronger.”
Copeland, 33, was a late bloomer in the world of ballet. After beginning her career at age 13, Copeland was starting at least 10 years later than most of her peers. Yet, the slight disadvantage was nothing to Copeland, who began to frequent a Boys & Girls Club in California to take dance classes. Moving and dancing were always favorites for Copeland, but it was only after being encouraged to sign up for ballet that Copeland fell in love with the art. A competition solidified Copeland’s thoughts that being a professional ballerina could be her reality.
As Copeland climbed the ladder of success, the lack of diversity in ballet became more evident. Early in her career, she struggled as a member of the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), and wondered if it would be best to join a theater where she would be surrounded by people who looked like her. It wasn’t until Copeland met mentors, who helped her realize she was exactly where she belonged, that she decided to stay.
In August 2007, Copeland became a soloist for ABT. Though the step was a huge one in her career, she knew in her heart it wasn’t enough. She wanted to become the ballerina who captured everyone’s attention. Copeland continued to strive for excellence, working hard and training even harder to not only become the lead ballerina, but also break barriers for people of color.
“I was aware that I was black, but I wasn’t aware of the deep-rooted history of the lack of diversity, the lack of African-Americans in top companies,” Copeland told TODAY host Willie Geist. “It was like, it hasn’t happened for 75 years. Why would it happen to me? And then, at the same time, it gave me even more of this fire that was like, ‘I am carrying so many people with me and I can do this.’ ”
Today, Copeland’s at the top her game. After being promoted to ABT’s principal dancer last June, a Barbie doll was created in her honor.
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Copeland is also debuting her new dancewear line, titled Égal, which is French for “equal.” According to its website, the dancewear is “engineered for professionals and designed for the fashion-minded.”
Copeland is able to share with others her journey while giving sound advice to those who may be seeking a similar path.
“There’s no wrong way to create your own path, but you have to find support,” Copeland said. “On those days when you want to give up, you have to have people in your life who are going to keep you striving.”
Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.
A number of leading dance companies and schools, including Ballet Theater, have begun new efforts to increase diversity in classical ballet, but there is a long way to go. Jennifer Homans, the author of “Apollo’s Angels,” a history of ballet, said that ballet had fallen far behind other art forms, like theater, in that regard — making what she called the “phenomenon” of Ms. Copeland all the more important.
“What she has come to represent is so important in the dance world, and in the ballet world in particular,” said Ms. Homans, who is the director of the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University. “I think it’s about time. But I don’t think it’s enough.”
This history made Ms. Copeland’s chances for promotion a much-discussed topic in the dance world, and put a rare public spotlight on Ballet Theater as it weighed the kind of personnel decision that, in the rarefied world of ballet, is seldom talked about openly. That race could still be such an issue in 2015 — and that African-Americans could remain so rarely seen in elite ballet companies — has been depressing to many dancegoers, and has led to impassioned discussions in the dance world and beyond about race, stereotypes and image.
The dearth of black women in top ballet companies has been attributed to a variety of factors, from the legacy of discrimination and lingering stereotypical concepts of what ballerinas should look like to the lack of exposure to ballet and training opportunities in many communities.
Image Ms. Copeland was featured on one of the five different covers for Time magazine’s “100 most influential people” issue.
More than a half-century has passed since the pioneering black dancer Arthur Mitchell broke through the color barrier and became a principal dancer at New York City Ballet in 1962, and a generation has elapsed since Lauren Anderson became the first African-American principal at Houston Ballet, in 1990. But City Ballet has had only two black principal dancers, both men: Mr. Mitchell and Albert Evans, who died last week. Ballet Theater officials said that the company’s only African-American principal dancer before now was Desmond Richardson, who joined as a principal in 1997.
The History of African-American Casting in Ballet
In the early twentieth century, classical ballet was a relatively new form of art in the United States. Many companies were experimenting with the dance form, and slowly ballet worked its way into the mainstream. In the 1930s, one aspiring dancer, an African-American woman named Janet Collins, watched companies perform at the Los Angeles Philharmonic auditorium. Collins wanted to dance, but ballet classes would not take her, saying she would be taking up space in the class. Collins hired a private ballet tutor instead.
In a review of Collins’s biography, Night’s Dancer, Debra Cash writes, “Some barrier breakers are battering rams. Others are butterflies.” Collins, she suggests, was the latter. According to Cash, Leonide Massine, director of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, told Collins in an audition when she was fifteen that she would have to perform in whiteface if she joined the company. Collins declined and then “went outside and cried her heart out.” After her experience auditioning for the company, she found many directors were hesitant to allow a black ballerina on stage.
Scholars Peter J. Blodgett and Sara S. Hodson write that decades later in 1951, Collins finally earned her big break and became the first black premier ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. New York celebrated her and she enjoyed the spotlight in her leading roles. Other companies began to integrate.
The story of Raven Wilkinson is not so different. More than twenty years after Collins’s unsuccessful audition, Wilkinson became the first black ballerina in the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. It was quickly after major lead roles in Giselle and The Nutcracker that she also realized the limits of dancing as a black woman. The company told Wilkinson to make her skin appear whiter with powder. Blodgett and Hodson write, “With her light skin, she was assumed by audiences to be white when she performed and traveled with the company.”
Once a Week
After a critical school segregation court decision in 1954, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo cancelled tours in the South. There were boycotts and bomb threats after word spread of Wilkinson’s role in the company. She later left the company when members of the Ku Klux Klan attempted to identify her in the company during a performance in Montgomery, Alabama. The company would regularly tour throughout the South and it was a common occurrence to receive threats especially as Wilkinson refused to hide her race.
Dance scholar Nyama McCarthy-Brown explores the slow progress of African-American dancers in American ballet and how issues of casting persist today. She writes, “Dancers being cast in roles because of their skin complexion rather than their technical ability,” as many companies preferred light-skinned ballerinas. Wilkinson would later become a mentor to Misty Copeland, the first African-American ballerina to become principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater. Despite her presence, limited opportunities and passive racism remain unresolved topics in the world of ballet.
‘A Lot Is Still So Much the Same’: Misty Copeland on Decades of Racism and Ballet
In the years since she became the first black ballerina to be a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has become a well-known symbol of breaking down barriers in her art. The strides she has made build on the work of one particular dancer — a mentor of Copeland’s, Raven Wilkinson, who broke new ground in similar ways during the 1950s. And, though much has changed since that era in both civil rights and on the stage, Copeland tells TIME that there is still a long way to go.
Wilkinson’s passion for ballet began at an early age and would take her around the nation with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. As the first African American ballerina to dance with a major touring troupe, she performed the coveted solo waltz in Les Sylphides.
But her story — which is told in the new picture book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, written by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, and released Tuesday in time for Black History Month in February — didn’t always feel like a fairy tale.
Wilkinson, now 82, risked death and arrest by touring with the company in the South during a period when it was illegal for black and white dancers to share a stage. Though circumstances have changed in the years since then, the saga of what she went through is still relevant to today’s dancers, says Copeland.
As a native New Yorker, Wilkinson grew up only seeing the Ku Klux Klan in newsreels at the movie theater. It was through dance that she had her first real-life encounter with the group, in 1957 in Montgomery, Ala, while her company passed through the city on tour.
“It looked like it was snowing out, but actually, the KKK were everywhere. There was a convention,” Wilkinson recently recalled to TIME. “The manager said, ‘You can’t dance tonight. Go to your room, stay in your room, lock the door, and don’t come out and don’t let anybody in.’” There, she saw a cross burning outside her window. She says wouldn’t have been able to get through those tense moments without her fellow dancers in the company. “If they thought danger was approaching, they’d say something to me in French or Spanish, so I’d be aware,” she says.
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After a brief stint in a convent to reflect on the path she had chosen, she moved to Europe, where it was easier for her to dance professionally. She danced with the Dutch National Ballet in Holland before returning to the States in 1974, where she danced with the New York City Opera until her retirement at age 50.
These days, Wilkinson lives steps from Manhattan ballet mecca Lincoln Center — and, though she doesn’t dance anymore, she has been mentoring others, most famously Copeland.
When TIME asked Copeland what has changed since Wilkinson was dancing professionally, she said “a lot is still so much the same” as it was when her mentor went through it.
“A lot of dancers in my generation have been told the same things she has been told,” Copeland told TIME. “The one difference is that the world outside ballet has changed. We won’t be told to leave the company because our safety is at risk, but I had a similar experience being told to pancake my skin a lighter color to fit in with the rest of the company. I’ve talked to so many dancers who have had it even worse than I’ve experienced. Raven and I both have a light complexion, but darker dancers have experienced much worse.”
Times like those are when the younger ballerina remembers her mentor’s resilience.
“She’s been through so much more than I could ever imagine, in the 1950s and experiencing racism in that time. It just felt like, I can do this,” Copeland says. “It made me feel really empowered not to let the negativity of racism even to this day affect me and my career. I can be strong and persevere and allow my talent to shine beyond the color of my skin.”
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Photo by: Julieta Cervantes for The New York Times
On Tuesday, June 30th, Misty Copeland received a historic promotion at American Ballet Theater. She became the first African-American female to be promoted to principal in the company’s entire 75 year existence.
At a press conference held the same day is her promotion, Misty described, “I had moments of doubting myself, and wanting to quit, because I didn’t know that there would be a future for an African-American woman to make it to this level. At the same time, it made me so hungry to push through, to carry the next generation. So it’s not me up here — and I’m constantly saying that — it’s everyone that came before me that got me to this position.”
Misty joined ABT in April of 2001 and was appointed a soloist in August of 2007. She never been shy about her desire to become the first black woman to be named a principal dancer at the company.
Under Armour congratulated Misty by calling her “a woman who is driven not by her detractors, but by her desire to be great.” The company also organized a social media congratulations campaign for Misty, through which they delivered her an SUV full of flowers! Thanks, Under Armour!
“I never saw a ballerina who looked like me before,” Misty has said. “And I’m here to be a vessel for all these brown ballerinas who have come before me.”
‘Ballet was definitely my escape,” says Misty Copeland. “It was the first thing I’d ever experienced in my life that was mine – only mine, not my five other siblings’. It gave me a voice, made me feel powerful.”
When Copeland discovered ballet she was 13, living with her mother and siblings in a motel in California. She was a shy, slight child who rarely spoke and tried not to be noticed. Twenty-three years later, hers is the kind of transformation story even ballet might think far-fetched. In 2015, she became the first black female principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre – and with that a spokesperson, poster girl, and bona fide star. Barack Obama sought her out as an adviser, Prince invited her on tour, Spike Lee wants her in his films, and people queue up to meet her at the stage door of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
And now the latest chapter in her real-life fairytale has begun to unfold. Copeland is dancing in Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a cinema revamp of the Christmas favourite starring Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman.
‘Some people didn’t want me to get opportunities because of my skin colour’ … Copeland in a New York studio. Photograph: Danielle Levitt/The Observer
Like all ballet dancers, Copeland is petite and perfectly put together, beaming with unerring positivity and a ready giggle as she sits in this London hotel room with a camel mac draped over her knees to keep warm.
This is a woman who’s had a tough life but seems to have come out of it with no hard edges. In ballet, where many things on stage look much as they did a century ago, there are few women of colour in major companies, and Copeland remembers the moment when she knew she had to take on the mantle of role model. She was watching a documentary about the Ballets Russes that featured pioneering black ballerina Raven Wilkinson. “I had this awakening,” she says. “I didn’t even know she existed. I saw her and it was this unexpected reaction. I was crying. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have this bigger purpose that I never even realised.’”
Copeland has actively sought out opportunities to bring ballet to new audiences and to change its image, from speaking engagements to endorsements and book deals. When millions of viewers see her in an Under Armour commercial, she says, “they will see a brown ballerina and think, ‘Oh, that’s what a ballerina looks like.’ When you can imagine yourself on the stage, especially as a young person, it allows you to dream of doing anything.”
When she was a child, Copeland had no dreams of ballet. The family moved a lot as her mother married and divorced several times, there was little money and Copeland kept her head down. But, in fact, she was always a ballerina – she just didn’t know it. She loved grossing out her brothers with what her hyper flexible joints could do, but she had no idea she might have the perfect physique for a particular type of dance. She hated her skinny, long legs, big hands and “pinhead”.
Luckily, one of her teachers noticed. Copeland took her first ballet class on a basketball court at the local Boys and Girls Club, but it wasn’t until she stepped inside a studio, donned tights and leotard and looked at herself in the mirror that this homeless teen realised she had finally found home.
Top-level talks … Copeland in discussion with President Barack Obama in 2016. Photograph: Lawrence Jackson/Planet Pix via Zuma Wire/Rex/
Copeland was 13, a very late age to start dancing for a professional, but she progressed fast with teacher Cindy Bradley. When her mother could no longer take her across town to classes, Copeland moved in with Bradley (which led to a difficult, highly publicised custody battle, a low point in Copeland’s life). At 18, she joined American Ballet Theatre’s studio company, then its corps de ballet. But a serious stress fracture, followed by sudden weight gain after the delayed onset of puberty, led to her confidence crashing.
Copeland credits her survival to a series of mentors, mainly successful black women outside dance, and to ABT’s director, Kevin McKenzie. “He was sensitive enough to see that I was a young girl on my own, had never really had a stable home. He did what he could to help me grow when other people within the artistic staff didn’t want to see me get those opportunities.” Because you hadn’t paid your dues? “No, because of my skin colour. Because of my body. I know those things for a fact.”
As well as the overt racism, there were subtle signals that this wasn’t her world.Until recently, pointe shoes only came in a “nude” colour that was pale pink. “What does it mean that we’re wearing pink tights?” she asks. “It’s because that’s the colour you’re expected to be.” Ballet shoe maker Freed has just launched the UK’s first pointe shoes for darker skin tones (Gaynor Minden does a similar range in the US), although Copeland still colours hers with pancake makeup. “It’s the little things that make you feel like you don’t belong.”
Watch Misty Copeland perform
Things are changing, slowly. When Copeland arrived at ABT, which is based in New York, she was the only black woman there. Now there are three. Audiences are changing too. “Especially in the States – that’s something I’ve seen open up so much in the past five years. To see, outside the Met, a line stretching from the door to the street of brown young people.”
But it’s not just about who’s on stage, it’s what they’re doing up there. “We’re getting them in the door,” says Copeland. “But now we have to keep them there. So I think we’re going to have to evolve again with the stories we’re telling, so people can connect with them.”
How much responsibility does an art form have to reflect the world and send positive messages about race or gender? “I think it’s extremely important,” says Copeland. “Especially with ballet, if we don’t open ourselves up and evolve with the times, we’re not going to be relevant and people aren’t going to be interested in coming. I understand becoming a character, and that not every time you step on stage has to be some amazing political statement, but I also think we have so much room in classical dance to grow.”
Copeland with Sergei Polunin in new Disney fantasy The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Photograph: Laurie Sparham/Allstar/Walt Disney Pictures
In the film, Copeland plays a ballerina in the land of toys come to life, dancing a ballet that tells the story of the Four Realms – as the Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley) and our heroine Clara (Mackenzie Foy) look on. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms has taken the well-worn favourite, with its notoriously weak plot, and given it some Hollywood drama-doctoring. It’s something film does all the time – could ballet not do the same? “Right!” says Copeland. “Absolutely!” The film, she says, gives more depth to a story “that can seem very light and cheesy”.
It also has a feminist slant. In the original tale, Herr Drosselmeyer is the maker of magical toys, but in the film Clara’s mother is a more talented inventor. What’s more, Clara, something of a bystander in many Nutcracker ballets, is here heir to the Four Realms her mother created, and “a new kind of princess”.
If a company like Disney, synonymous with the pretty princess myth, can drag itself into the 21st century on matters of gender and race, can’t ballet follow suit? “It’s scary for us to make change,” says Copeland. “It’s like, ‘Don’t fix what isn’t broken.’ But in my opinion, it is broken. The times are changing and we have to catch up. I think the more we bring in newer people with fresh ideas behind the scenes – artistic directors, choreographers – those things will change.”
Copeland performs with Prince on his 2011 Welcome 2 America at Madison Square Garden, New York. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/WireImage
There are plenty of people in ballet who are doing exactly this (Tamara Rojo at English National Ballet comes to mind, having commissioned Akram Khan to reimagine Giselle). But elsewhere, tradition reigns supreme and a 19th-century worldview permeates many classic ballets. Copeland mentions the exotic eastern fantasies La Bayadère and pirate tale Le Corsaire. “You think of Corsaire as this light thing, but it’s not really. It’s slaves, these women chained up. I think we could have stories that really reflect different cultures in a fresh way, you know? Ballet is worldly, so let’s represent what we all are.”
To this end, Copeland has set up a production company that has lots of ideas in the works. She has also been swapping ideas with Spike Lee, who keeps pushing her to act in his films. “I’m like, ‘No, I want you to help me create something.’”
Nonetheless, she’s enjoying her on-camera moment in The Nutcracker, a role that cements what feels like a sudden rise to stardom but has actually been long in the making. Despite her innate talents, Copeland has always been playing catch-up for her late start. She wasn’t promoted to principal dancer until the age of 33 (“very late”). But in the last few years, everything has come together. She has even married her long-term boyfriend, lawyer Olu Evans.
“I was such a late bloomer,” she says, “in terms of my emotional growth and the environments I grew up in. I feel like I progressed as a woman so late – but then when I did, it was all at once.” And now, it seems, there’s no stopping her.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is out now
How Ballet Dancer Misty Copeland Shattered Barriers
When Misty Copeland first joined the American Ballet Theater, one of the most prestigious dance companies in the world, at age 17, she couldn’t help but feel like an outsider. “We don’t know in history that black women, from the beginning of time in ballet, have been told to lighten their skin, and to shade their nose in a certain way to look white,” Copeland told an audience at WeWork 500 7th Avenue in New York City on Sept. 17. “A big part of my youth at American Ballet Theater was hearing those words.”
Copeland, however, more than proved that she belonged. In 2015, she became the first African-American woman to be named principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater. That same year, she was named to the TIME 100, TIME’s annual list of the world’s most influential people. Since then, Copeland has inked endorsement deals with Under Armour, Estee Lauder, Dannon and other companies.
Her road to the top of ballet was an unusual one. “I had a very chaotic upbringing,” she said. One of six children raised by a single mother, Copeland says she was living in a motel when she took her first ballet lesson, at 13, at a Boys & Girls Club in San Pedro, Calif.
Many ballerinas begin training soon after they start walking. But a late start didn’t stop Copeland. By the time she joined the American Ballet Theater, Copeland stood out both because of her graceful performances, and inescapably, her race. “My first three of four years in the company, it was the first time it hit me that I was alone,” Copeland said. “That I’m the only black woman. It was the first time race was brought to my attention. It was shocking.” For example, Copeland says at one point she was told she couldn’t perform in the second act of Swan Lake, the popular ballet first performed in late 19th-century Russia, because of her skin color. Some people were whispering that she shouldn’t be in Swan Lake at all, Copeland says.
As principal dancer, Copeland has taken a special interest in mentoring dancers of color and diversifying ballet. She has responded to letters from aspiring dancers and remained connected to the Boys & Girls Club. In 2016, Mattel released a Barbie doll in Copeland’s likeness. Copeland made sure no skin tone was lightened. No one shaded her nose. “That was extremely important to me,” she said. “It’s so empowering for young girls to grow up with a brown Barbie that’s a ballerina.”
Copeland’s talk, which was moderated by TIME correspondent Haley Sweetland Edwards, was the third event in the TIME 100 x WeWork Speaker Series.
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Meet Charlotte Nebres: the first black lead in NYC Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’
This tiny dancer is twirling her way into the history books.
When Misty Copeland became the American Ballet Theater’s first black principal dancer four years ago, she shattered racial barriers that existed for three-quarters of a century.
Now, budding ballerina Charlotte Nebres has achieved another milestone: becoming the first black dancer to star in “The Nutcracker” at Lincoln Center.
That’s right, the 11-year-old ballerina has been cast as Marie in the New York City Ballet’s holiday production of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker,” the New York Times reported. This marks the first time the production has featured an African-American lead since it first hit theaters in 1954.
When Nebres’ mom asked about her landmark role, the American School of Ballet student replied, “Wow, that seems a little late” — a reference to the ballet world’s glaring lack of African-American performers.
In fact, the dancer was reportedly inspired by Copeland’s boundary-busting turn as the first female African-American principal in the American Ballet Theater’s 75-year history.
“I saw her perform, and she was just so inspiring and so beautiful,” said Nebres, who was 6 at the time, told the Times. “She was representing me and all the people like me.”
Nebres, who is of Filipino-Trinidadian descent, will lead a production featuring a host of other mixed-race performers, including Tanner Quirk (her paramour), who is half-Chinese, and her double Sophia Thomopoulos (Marie), who is half-Korean, half-Greek, according to the Associated Press.
The demographic shift has manifested in the School of American Ballet, the primary feeder program for the City Ballet. Since the 1970s, the production company has only had one African-American member at any given time. Now, of the 62 School of American Ballet students who have become City Ballet members, 21 identify as nonwhite or mixed — over half of whom call themselves black.
On a more personal note, Nebres’ record-breaking role meant the world to her mother, Danielle, who was a former dancer herself. “You don’t know what people are seeing in your child, and they are definitely seeing something in her,” the proud mom told the Times.
Social-media ballet buffs echoed her sentiment on Instagram, saying “She will be a beautiful Marie!” and “Bravo, Charlotte. You’ve got the passion and joy of the dance.”
NYC theatergoers can witness Nebres’ history-breaking performance in “The Nutcracker” through Jan. 5.