Misty Copeland Shows Us What the 'Wrong' Body Can Do
byKaitlin StanfordAug 08, 2014
Under Armour's latest ad has been striking an emotional chord with women and girls all week, as its body-positive theme spreads a message we probably all need reminding of: Our bodies do not define us. And as the ad's very title states, we will what we want.
In the clip, a young girl can be heard reading off a rejection letter from a ballet academy she was so hopeful to be a part of. The directors are giving it to her straight: It's not about her lack of passion, and it's not about her talent. In the end, it all comes down to her body. (Just what a teen girl wants to hear.)
She doesn't have the right form; her torso length is off; and her bust is all wrong.
The hidden message here? She's never going to make it as a dancer, so she should just give it up.
As we listen to the harsh words of the school director, listing off the many ways in which this talented young girl isn't good enough, what we are seeing on screen is something entirely different.
Instead of a sad, young dancer reading her rejection letter in a puddle of tears, we see the beautiful, striking, powerful body of Misty Copeland, soloist in the famed American Ballet Theater. As she pirouettes across the stage, she doesn't merely glide from one end to the other — she storms the stage with a commanding force that's simply mesmerizing.
All at once, it hits you. Misty Copeland doesn't have the "perfect body" of a ballerina. In fact, if you had put her in front of Balanchine 50 years ago, he would have rejected her. She is too curvy, she is too muscular and let's not forget the obvious: She is black, in a profession that traditionally only wants to see a slender sea of white on stage.
But as she leaps across the stage, Copeland looks fierce, strong and capable. And she looks perfect.
If you're unfamiliar with Copeland's story, allow us to give you the Cliff's Notes version. She grew up in San Pedro, Calif., as one of six children born to a single mother who struggled to put food on the table. Her life changed forever when she wandered into the Boys and Girls Club one day, discovered ballet and fell in love. It didn't matter that she didn't have the right body or that she was already the ripe old age of 13, or even that she was black. Finally, in 2007, she became ABT's third-ever African-American soloist.
As the YouTube description for the ad reads, "Misty Copeland's destiny was not to become a dancer. But will trumps fate."