5 Things You Need To Know About Ballerina Misty Copeland

misty copeland abtIt's a thrilling day for one ambitious ballerina: Misty Copeland just became principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater. It's not just a personal triumph for her -- Copeland is the first black principal dancer at ABT. She made history! 

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In honor of Copeland's landmark achievement, here are five things you should know about her.

1. She's a late bloomer. Most professional dancers start as small children. Copeland started dancing at the advanced age of 13. Not only that, her first class was at the Boys & Girls Club, and she wore boys' gym socks, not pink ballet slippers.

2. She was told she'd never make it. Despite her talent and hard work, Copeland received a rejection letter early on telling her, "You have the wrong body for ballet, and at 13, you are too old to be considered."

Copeland's build is more athletic than the traditional ideal, and she admits even she had to learn to accept it. "It's okay to be healthy and athletic," she told Elle.com. "ABT supports that image, that you don't have to be anorexic and real thin, but you do have to take that responsibility to take care of it."

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3. She was nearly homeless as a child. Copeland was raised with five siblings by a struggling single mom. She grew up not knowing her father. When she started ballet, the family was living in a motel. "When it came to my childhood—growing up in a single-parent home, often struggling financially—my mother definitely instilled in me and my siblings this strength, this will, to just continue to survive and succeed," Copeland told the Washington Post.

4. She had to take a year off because of a broken back. Just when Copeland had joined the ABT and was preparing to play Clara in The Nutcracker, doctors found she had a lower vertebral fracture. She couldn't dance for a year and had to wear a brace 23 hours a day. Not only that, when doctors found out the then-18-year-old wasn't menstruating, they recommended she go on birth control pills (delayed puberty may have weakened her bones). Her body suddenly became much curvier as a result.

5. She's a children's book author. You've probably heard about Copeland's memoir, Life in Motion. (It's been optioned for a film!) But Copeland has also written and illustrated a children's book called Firebird, inspired by her first role with the ABT.

No wonder Copeland made the cover of Time as one of the magazine's 100 most influential people this year! She's an inspiration to everyone struggling to persevere against all expectations, against the odds.

How much did you know about Misty Copeland's background?

 

Image via Christopher Peterson/Splash News

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