TheGrio's 100: Misty Copeland, ballet dancer making history

theGRIO's 100 - In 2007, Misty Copeland became the first African-American soloist at the American Ballet Theater theater in 20 years...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Misty Copeland, 29, did not start ballet until she was 13, beginning at a local Boys & Girls Club. To start learning what is usually a lifelong craft at a late age and still achieve national acclaim is a feat in itself. But the Californian’s most prized achievement to date happened in 2007, when she was appointed as a soloist at the famed American Ballet Theater. She is the first African-American soloist at the historic theater in 20 years.

Misty is also making waves in pop culture. Called a muse to music legend Prince, Misty performed onstage during his most recent tour.

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Misty Copeland is making history … as an African-American classical ballet dancer who is breaking barriers in the world of the arts. Misty is only the third African-American female soloist since the American Ballet Theater’s founding in 1940. She will be inducted into the Boys & Girls Club National Hall of Fame this spring.

What’s next for Misty?

Recognizing the differences in her own body compared to most ballet dancers, Misty, who is of African, German and Italian descent, told the Huffington Post she is working on dance wear clothing lines specifically for curvy and plus-sized women.

In her own words…

“I think it’s so important to have mentors,” Copeland told a room full of young black girls during a Black Girls Rock! event last year. “It’s just so important to see that it’s possible and to see that someone can make it. Now that I’m here, I can set an example and hopefully make things easier for the next black [ballet] dancer.”

A little-known fact about African-American ballerinas …

There are only a few black female ballerinas of Misty’s stature in the world.

For more information about Misty Copeland, click here

Q: What’s next for you in this chapter of your life?

A: Next for me in this chapter of my life is to really give all of myself to my art. I believe I am at a critical time in my career where I am making a very large jump to the next level as a ballerina. I want to continue to grow in all aspects of my work and life.

Q: What’s a fact about you that many people don’t know?

A: Many people don’t know that, as strict as my career calls for me to be and as disciplined as I am, I would consider myself to be a free spirit. I love to be spontaneous. I think it’s necessary to have that balance or else I would go crazy.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: I have many favorite quotes. One from a fabulous little book called Illuminations is: “Compassion for others comes naturally as you recognize your own limitations”. My all time favorite is one from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people may forget what you said, they may forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?

A: I find inspiration everywhere. I can find inspiration in myself some days. Days that I am feeling confident, open and free, I can allow myself to sit back and appreciate how hard I work and grow from my mistakes and accomplishments. Most frequently I draw inspiration from young people. Young dancers. Seeing their spirits and hearing their stories has always pushed me to really push myself even further for them.

Q: Who are/were your mentors?

A: My mentors are my mother, author Susan Fales-Hill, actress Victoria Rowell, writer Harriette Cole and Prince. All have been amazing people that I respect and have given me so much advice and love.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to achieve their dreams?

A: If you are truly in love with what you do and whatever it is you want to accomplish, that is enough to push you to do the impossible. Have confidence in yourself, because you are your biggest obstacle.