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Misty Copeland, First Principal Dancer In ABT History, Turns 39

Sep 10, 2021 09:00AM ● By Kassidy Garland

Misty Danielle Copeland was born on September 10, 1982, in Kansas City, MO. The fourth of sixth children, Misty grew up constantly moving with her family when her mother would remarry or find a new boyfriend. In addition to traveling, Misty and her siblings suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of their mother’s fourth husband. However, they eventually settled in San Pedro, California.

Suffering from anxiety as a result of her difficult childhood, Mistry found solace in performance. She loved to dance and would create routines at home. Eventually, she became captain of her drill team. After her teacher suggested that she take professional ballet classes, her instructor, Cynthia "Cindy" Bradley recognized that Copeland was a prodigy.


After a short time taking lessons, she was able to dance en pointe, which is rare. While she found solace in dance, her home life was becoming increasingly difficult. When she was 13 years old, her mother and dance instructor decided it would be in Misty’s best interest to move in with Bradley. After her move, Copeland was able to focus on dance, and started performing at charity events with celebrities. Copeland starred in Debbie Allen’s production of The Chocolate Nutcracker and was featured in Los Angeles Times Magazine.

When Misty was 15 years old, her mother demanded that Misty return home after a summer intensive. A battle for Misty between her instructor and her mother ensued, and Misty began looking into legal emancipation from her biological mother. Eventually, Copeland was escorted by police to her mother’s home.


Misty Copeland never gave up on her dreams and in September of 2000, she joined American Ballet Theatre’s studio company and became part of its corps de ballet the following year. In 2007, Copeland became an ABT soloist and was praised for a number of her performances.

During her career, she suffered many injuries due to delayed puberty and the immense stress she put her body through. No matter what, Misty pushed through in order to pursue her dreams. In the spring of 2015, she was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People for all of her accomplishments for African American women in the world of dance. In August of 2015, Misty Copeland became the first African American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history.

In addition to ballet, Misty Copeland has made a name for herself by performing on Broadway, on tour with legendary artist Prince, scoring endorsement deals with major brands like COACH and Under Armour, and publishing two works. In 2016, Copeland also inspired a Barbie doll in their Sheroe’s line.



Misty Copeland

American Ballet Theatre

 Kassidy Garland has had a great appreciation for reading and writing since she was young. She graduated from West Chester University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English & Women and Gender Studies. With a concentration in creative writing, Kassidy has 5 years of experience writing blogs, articles, and for social media. Kassidy is also pursuing a Master’s degree in IT with a concentration in Web Development. Based out of Philadelphia, Kassidy loves to write about a number of topics and looks forward to sharing her passion with those at FunTimes Magazine. 

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