It's been one year since Misty Copeland leaped over barriers to become American Ballet Theatre's first black female principal dancer in the company's 75-year history.
"I was aware that I was black, but I wasn't aware of the deep rooted history of the lack of diversity, the lack of African Americans in top companies," Copeland said. "It was like, it hasn't happened for 75 years. Why would it happen to me? And then, at the same time, it gave me even more of this fire that was like, 'I am carrying so many people with me and I can do this.'"
Copeland has been able to forge a career outside the dance world with her trailblazing accomplishments, a rare feat for someone from the dance world. In addition to various endorsement deals and TV appearances, the 33-year-old has published two New York Times best-selling books, was the subject of a documentary, appeared on Broadway, named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people and was recently honored with her own Barbie doll.
"I didn't expect it to be like that. It was really wild. I don't think anyone in the company or in the dance world — we were all kind of shocked," Copeland said. "But I am giving people hope that you don't have to fit into this mold of what society has cut out for you to be in order to succeed."
Having broken the ballet mold herself, Copeland is hoping to motivate dancers of all sizes with a new line of dancewear called Égal — French for equal.
"I was going through this time where I had gained a lot of weight," she said. "I went through puberty really late in life and my bust had grown and I was like, 'I'm going to create dancewear that people who aren't stick thin can wear, but also people who are thin can wear."
Copeland says she hopes to eventually expand Égal to include a plus-size collection.
"It's finally coming to fruition," she said.