By// Starrene Rhett Rocque
What makes Misty Copeland most unique is that she’s extremely humble despite how phenomenal she actually is. The American Ballet Theater star has traveled the world and even échappé’d around Prince but she still manages to mentor aspiring dancers, and most recently she was tapped to appear as one of the stars of Dr Pepper’s “One of a Kind Campaign.” The campaign celebrates individuality by using stellar people who are rare individuals but also down-to-Earth.
We caught up with Copeland to chat about how fans can participate in the campaign and celebrate their own uniqueness with her, as well as preparation for the forthcoming coming season of the America Ballet
How does it feel to be a superhero?
[Laughs] It’s amazing to be in the position I’m in, and I say it over and over again. I don’t feel like this is something that just kind of happened over night. It’s been such a gradual process and extreme hard work and also really believing in everything that I stand for and represent, so if a young girl or dancer looks up to me as a superhero I think that’s so awesome.
Talk about the Dr Pepper campaign you’re a part of in terms of the concept and how you got involved.
When they reached out to me and I saw it what the campaign was celebrating – individuality and being unique, all these things, and it was like “Oh my gosh, this is so cool!” and I feel like I fit in perfectly. And with all of the different people involved and Such a variety of stories, I just thought it was so cool. And again, it’s so much of who I am. I am a ballerina and I’m all these things that so many young girls and even young boys dreamed of being is possible. And I feel like my body and what I look like, being African-American, coming from an underprivileged family – all these things were so relatable, at the same time, I knew it was a weak spot for the company – the only Black woman, so it’s very one-of-a-kind, one in a billion. So what the campaign is for, I thought was so wonderful.
You being the only or one of few Black girls in a major position in ballet got me thinking about the documentary First Position, and there was a young Black ballerina named Michaela–
She’s one of my mentees! I’ve mentored her for the past two years. She’s an amazing woman and her story is so incredible. And she’s so courageous and it’s important for people to see people like her and like me who exist in this world, and for them to feel like they can enter into this world as well and not feel like it’s so exclusive.
With that being said, what advice do you have to little brown girls who want to get into ballet?
I feel like it’s important even as an adult to have that same kind of mindset that you do when you’re a child. You don’t see those things. Not unless you’re being told, you don’t believe you can’t do something. And I think that was sort of a blessing for me from a young age. I’m sure – it’s hard for me to remember because I love ballet so much – but I’m sure I was the only Black girl in my classes growing up in my ballet classes but that was not something that was ever brought up around me. I was never told, “You, might be the only one if you go to ABT,” or “You can’t do this. It might not be comfortable.” So I kind of had this career vision and way to just be and enjoy and learn. So, I think it’s important to try and think of having endless possibilities. If they are being told, “You can’t, you can’t,” turn on your television and see the documentary, First Position. There’s a brown ballerina doing it. I think it’s important for them to see someone like me or other people that they can relate to that are positive role models.
How are you preparing for the upcoming season of American Ballet Theater and what can people expect?
That’s sort of a never-ending process. But getting ready for these seasons, you know we’re a touring company, so we spent several years pretty much traveling and performing but this is like our big season in New York where people come in and will buy tickets and fly to see us perform for the sixth season at the Metropolitan Opera House, which is always a little bit more exciting when the season comes along. But I’ve been dealing with an injury so I’m working twice as hard to get ready for this season just to be fully prepared and strong enough so it’s nonstop. Even at this point, we usually have two days off for the weekend but I don’t take a day off since I’m recovering so it’s mental preparing, it’s learning the ballets, it’s researching characters, artistically delivering these roles it’s enjoyable but a lot of work.
Ballerinas are hardcore, so how are you taking care of yourself physically with that injury?
I think a lot of people forget because that’s what we’re paid to do. People buy tickets to see us dance but they don’t need to know the backstory. We’re physically doing just as much or more than what you see with NBA players or NFL players. We get the same exact injuries as a lot of them. The impact of landing from jumps or the thought of being dropped from a lift and all of these things – we make it look effortless and we’re supposed to become these ethereal characters and all of this. So, on top of just strenuous training and taking ballet classes or pilates classes and also we’re very aware of our diet and health-wise what we’re eating. Just being smart about what you’re putting in your body without – we can still indulge in some things here and there. I don’t believe in neglecting yourself from anything you may enjoy. It’s just about how much of it you have. But a diet is probably more than half the battle.
So you can still have your Dr Peppers every now and then, right?
[Laughs] Exactly. You can have a soda. You can have a cookie. It’s okay not to completely shut these things out. When you do have it don’t go crazy and eat a whole cake.
What else are you working on?
First, the Dr Pepper commercial. It started airing on March 22nd. You can pretty much see it nation-wide. I also just wanted to let readers know that they too can possibly be a part of the campaign the next time around where fans can share their own one-of-a-kind stories at drpepper.com/oneofakind and be up there with one of us and see how relatable they really can be and unique at the same time and of course, the Met season is coming up. Hopefully be I’ll be premiering as a principle in the ballet Symphony in C, it’s a George Balanchine work and that’s a huge premiere for me. And then eight weeks of the Met season, so you can check that out on abt.org and get casting and dates for that.