Powerful women give us a peek into their agendas. Each woman embodies the no one ever slows her agenda motto in her industry.

Misty Copeland

Be vulnerable…Just enough to accept and be able to weed out qualities and words from others that you want to adapt for yourself.




A Peek Inside Her Agenda: Misty Copeland

In the professional dance world a success story like Misty Copeland’s is almost unheard of. While most ballerinas develop their skills at age 7 or younger, Misty began her career at 13 at the local San Pedro Boys and Girls club. Her determination, passion and immense skill lead her to become the second African-American female soloist for the American Ballet Theater.

Today, Misty has performed for an array of audiences, sending powerful messages through dance and her presence as a passionate African-American ballerina. We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Misty about her agenda. Read below to learn about what she had to share about her journey and for a chance to win a copy of her just released memoir.

Misty Copeland | Dancing with Prince. Photo credit- Getty Images

Her Agenda: As a ballerina you’re probably very familiar with the term adagio. An adagio is an exercise series of slow graceful movements often performed to help develop a sustained power and poise in a dancer. Would it be fair to compare the beginning of your ballet career to an adagio? I’m sure to some it may look beautiful, graceful and even easy but what was the process really like as you started your career at 13?

Misty Copeland: The process in the studio was really incredible actually! Everyday I was learning so much. I was in heaven in that setting. Far from my outside life. I was taking three classes a day, so eager to attempt perfection with every step.

Her Agenda:You’ve mentioned in several interviews that you took your first ballet class at your local Boys and Girls club. This was truly the stepping stone of your career, how important is it for opportunities to study dance and the arts to be available for young children in different neighborhoods?

Misty Copeland: My experience of having art in my life really is what developed me as a person. My limited access to any singular nurturing in my life left me completely underdeveloped. Ballet taught me to think and use parts of myself that I could not connect with simply by attending a public school with basic academics. My verbal skills were enriched, my understanding of my body through music and movement gave me confidence and articulation. I don’t think I could have become the woman I am today without it. It’s vital.

 Back where I started—with a group of talented young dancers from the Boys and Girls Club.

Back where I started—with a group of talented young dancers from the Boys and Girls Club.

Her Agenda: In your speech at the 2013 Black Girls Rock awards you mentioned that you found your voice through dance. However through your story we know that there are so many layers to your experience especially as an African-American curvy dancer. What are some of the  messages that you use your voice to share?

Misty Copeland: I’m using my voice to open a dialogue in the ballet world about diversity. Through my own experiences, I have learned so much. I want to share the ups and downs and how to make changes in this world for those who will come after me.

Her Agenda: Even though your fellow dancers may not look like you, as you began to understand yourself and your position as an African-American woman in the workplace how important was it for you to maintain a level of respect and even admiration for some of your competitors?

Misty Copeland: I want to always stand proud and own the fact that I’m a black woman. It’s what gives my experience as a ballerina so many dimensions. With that said, I want respect from my competitors and peers that I’m a gifted ballerina, not just a black ballerina, unique simply for standing alone. But beyond color, I simply respect this art form and the dancers who are on a level of artistic freedom and abandonment that I admire! Even my competitors. It’s very important to me.

Misty Copeland | Onstage as an odalisque in Le Corsaire. Photo Credit- Rosalie O’Connor

Her Agenda: Do you have a personal mantra (or motto), if so what is it?

Misty Copeland: Be vulnerable…just enough to accept and be able to weed out qualities and words from others that you want to adapt for yourself.

Her Agenda Misty Copeland Interview

Her Agenda: In your career you have not only had the opportunity to perform to the musical sound of some phenomenal orchestras and composers but also alongside some incredible music artist like Prince and Patti Labelle, what is that experience like?

Misty Copeland: Those experiences are incredibly fun!! It allows me to grow as an artist by exploring ways of pushing my imagination and range. I am given a platform to reach so many beyond the ballet world, but at the same time staying true to my technique and not getting caught up in the excitement of these powerful performers.

Her Agenda: When talking about some of your inspirations you always mention that you found a lot of them while doing research. Some of the ones you found include Nora Kimball and Anne Benna Sims who were actually two of the first African-American female soloist for ABT. In this case you are actually the 3rd African-American female soloist for the company but the 1st to be highlighted in mainstream media. How important is it to do your research to further understand the importance of your role in your field?

Misty Copeland: There have been a lot of discrepancies with the facts when it comes to African American women in ballet. The records for some reason are not really available. Nora Kimball was the first AA soloist with ABT. Anne Benna Sims was in the corps de ballet. Courtney Lavine is currently in the corps de ballet. This makes me the second ever African American soloist with ABT. Raven Wilkinson and Janet Collins should be household names! Research is very important to me. We deserve to have our history in the ballet tradition shared and recorded!

Misty Copeland Her Agenda interviewHer Agenda: Lastly, your new book is entitled,“Life in Motion” where you speak very candidly about your dance career and your aim of daring to dream of a different life. As career driven millennials what advice would you give us to find the confidence to dare to dream a different life?

Misty Copeland: I think as a child most don’t realize that they can become an individual separate from what their environment or family may have created for them. It’s never too late to make changes and become the person you want to be. You create your destiny. Hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and taking risks create amazing opportunities.

Win a copy of Misty Copeland’s memoir: “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina.”


Share a moment you had to overcome adversity to achieve an important goal. Leave your story in our comments section, or share on social media with the #MistyHerAgenda tag. 

Deadline: March 31st!

UPDATE: The contest is now closed. Thank you to everyone who submitted! Congratulations to our winner Ingrid Silva!

[Editor’s note: this post was published on May 17th, 2014.]

Asha Boston

About Asha Boston

Asha Boston is a freelance TV producer and content creator from Brooklyn, New York . Her work resume includes companies like AMC, BET, Media Information Services and most recently Lifetime and Bravo. In addition to freelance journalism and production work Asha runs a Brooklyn based 501c3 non-profit organization entitled, The Dinner Table Doc.
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9 Responses to A Peek Inside Her Agenda: Misty Copeland

  1. Morgan says:

    As a freshman in high school and JV cheerleader, I tore my ACL while landing a toe touch. I had dreams of one day becoming a varsity cheerleader, so I knew that I would have to get reconstructive surgery on my knee in order to accomplish that. Several week of physical rehab, six months of recovery, and two crutches later, I reached my goal of making the varsity team!

  2. Gina Martinez says:

    I’m a combat veteran who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in May despite having moved five times in almost four years, caring for my five children, all while my supportive and amazing husband deployed (and will deploy again soon). Adversity can inspire us to overcome challenges that many would not be able to accomplish. I wish Misty and the rest of you amazing people the best of luck in your endeavors!

  3. Whitney Johnson says:

    She’s an incredible dancer. I wish I had half the determination she has. Her story is beautiful too, and I’m so glad she has a voice along with it. Very inspiring.

  4. Claudia says:

    I’m a ballerina and she gives me hope an inspiration every single day in my life not only as a dancer, even as a human to and I’m proud of having this strong, pretty, intelligent and sensitive woman in this world. I admire her, she makes me think positive about being strong and look forward onto my dreams of becoming a ballerina too and rise for change. Love this woman, she is my idol, she made a great difference in my life and I’m proud of it.

    • Claudia says:

      I am a Mexican girl and here in Mexico, a ballet career is considered as a not-important career just as other careers that treat with art. The salary of a ballerina(or a lot of artists) is bad, it’s hard to maintain yourself with that amount of money, and another struggle is that socially, ballet is socially accepted as a hobby but not as a work, also there are few dance schools and companies that can offer a good level of education talking about an academic and an artistic way, the situation is hard if you want to be an artist. Even about this and more problems, I believe that the money is not always the most important thing. What about enjoying life? What about loving what you do? I think that when the say you start working at something you love to make, since that day, you are not working anymore. I would like to rise for change, to do what I love, to study this and live for this (art). Now I don’t care a lot for the economic topic but I would love to be supported to reach and fulfill my dreams, even if this situation says that I can’t do it, because I know I can, I know I will because I will fight for it because its my dream.

  5. Ingrid Silva says:

    “I’ve been dancing for 17 years. I came to Dance Theatre of Harlem when I was 19 years old from Brazil. I came for a summer program at Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2007 and then joined the school’s Professional Training Program. I became a member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble in 2008 and the new DTH company in 2012 (…) I started dance when I was eight years old in a project in the favelas of Brazil called Dancando para nao Dancar. My family always supported me in dance, and my mom used to take my brother and me to ballet classes after school everyday. I studied dance at the Deborah Colker School and Escola de Dança Maria Olenewa. I also apprenticed with Company Grupo Corpo in Brazil (…) We hope to experience a continued growth of the organization as well as inspire young dancers of color and underprivileged youth by showing them that they, too, can pursue their dreams. With hard work and dedication, they can become whatever they aspire to be. We hope to also continue the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King: to achieve and do what was once thought to be impossible (…) Social justice refers to the ability people have to realize their own potential (…) It doesn’t matter where you are from; what matters is where you see yourself going (…) I would like to see more black dancers in classical ballet, especially black girls studying and performing ballet (…) My example is this: I come from a favela in Brazil, am black, have a poor family and yet, despite all those odds, I became a ballerina.” #mistyheragenda

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