This story was originally published on July 2, 2015.
The world of elite, professional ballet is tiny, brutal and exacting. It operates within a long history of well-established traditions to define excellence in the industry. In that world, ballet dancers are long, lean, have delicate waists, small busts, lithe legs and are white.
And then there’s Misty Copeland: 5’2”, curvy, muscular and black.
This week, Copeland, 32, was promoted to the highest rank in one of the premier ballet companies in the world: principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater. Her promotion goes into effect on Aug. 1, according to an announcement from the theater.
Copeland is changing the face of the world of ballet and fueling the dreams of so many young dancers out there. But more than that, she’s an inspiration to anyone trying to overcome barriers or achieve what sometimes feels impossible.
Here are five lessons from her story.