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The Powerful Message Misty Copeland Sends Girls of Color

Who would have thought that an impromptu dance session at a local Boys and Girls Club would ultimately lead to Misty Copeland becoming the first black principal ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre?

In a 2014 interview with beauty site Into the Gloss, Copeland said she never thought about entering the world of ballet. "We were practicing in a basketball court in gym clothes with some old socks on. Even though it terrified me at first, I found that I really liked it. The local ballet teacher that taught the class told me that she'd never seen someone so capable who hadn't any knowledge of dance, and then told me that I could be a professional."

It was obvious then that Copeland is a natural born dancer. After just a few years of training, she joined American Ballet Theatre in New York.

There's no doubt that Misty Copeland is a great inspiration to all girls. But it's important to note that she's a role model for young girls of color in particular. She stated that joining ABT made her aware of her body and skin color. At one point, she was one of 80 black women dancers.

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"I had never thought about that growing up, but I suddenly felt very rare and started worrying, 'Am I going to make it?' There had never been a black woman who was also a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre."

She also talked about her curvaceous figure not fitting the typical mold of a ballet dancer. However, she said embracing those differences is what led to her accomplishments.

Seeing someone like (my daughter) go out and accomplish those same goals just might make more of a lasting impact.

I signed my daughter up for dance lessons at 3. Like Copeland, she doesn't fit the typical dancer's body. Now 4 years old, she still towers over all the other ballerinas her age. I'm sure that her body will continue to change as she gets older. But there's a good chance that she might always be one of the tallest, considering my husband and I are both tall.

Right now, our main concern is that she has fun learning new dance moves. But let's face it; the dance world is tough. I've heard of some pretty awful things that happen in the industry. Would there be sabotage? Will the instructors be too demanding? These were just couple of questions that just kept popping up in my head. So far, everything is OK and she's made a few friends.

But the other thing we noticed is the lack of diversity. Like Copeland, my daughter has a mixed background. I am black and my husband is white. My daughter is at the age where she notices similarities and differences among people. So, it didn't take her long to notice that almost all of the dancers were white.

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The reality is that insecurities often begin at a very early age. As a parent, I do my very best to teach my daughter about being self confident. However, teaching is one thing and seeing is another. I can tell my daughter to believe in herself until I'm blue in the face. It may not do much for her self-esteem. But seeing someone like her go out and accomplish those same goals just might make more of a lasting impact.

"I wanted to set an example for what the future of dance holds. I think ABT is setting that standard now for classical ballet—that you can dream big and it doesn't have to matter what you look like, where you come from, what your background is. That's the example that I want to set and what I want to leave behind," Copeland told CBS.

Copeland's accomplishment won't necessarily mean that getting to this level will be easy for women of color moving forward. But it is a step in the right direction.

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