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Misty Copeland Becomes First Black Principal Ballerina

With her widely followed journey to become one of the most famous ballerinas, 32-year-old Misty Copeland has been promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater. This makes her the first black female to do so in the 75-year history of the prestigious New York-based company.

While most dance prodigies start at six or seven years old, Copeland first discovered ballet on accident at the advanced age of 13 at a local Boys & Girls club in San Pedro, California. From there she quickly rose to success. After training at the San Pedro Dance Center and adopting pointe only after three months, she won the Los Angeles Spotlight Award and accepted a full scholarship to American Ballet Theater's Summer Intensive Program in 2000. Following its conclusion she was offered to join ABT's Studio Company and has gone to become the first black female soloist in 20 years.

In addition to her humble beginnings, Copeland's mixed ethnicity of African-American, German and Italian descent made her an unlikely choice for a professional ballerina.

"But joining ABT also made me much more aware of my body and of my skin color. In 2001, I was the only black woman in a company of 80 dancers. I had never thought about that growing up, but I suddenly felt very rare and started worrying, 'Am I going to make it?,'" said Copeland in a 2014 interview with beauty site Into The Gloss.

Despite these challenges, she was able to defy the norm and become one of the most influential people today. With her incredible story and openness about race in the ballet world, Copeland is a role model and positive representative for girls of all races and backgrounds who want to pursue dance. She proves that young women who don't necessarily fit into the mold of a stereotypical image of a dancer can transcend and become pioneers in the industry and beyond—an inspiration for daughters everywhere whether they want to be ballerinas or not.

Image via Queensland Performing Arts Centre

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