Misty Copeland will never forget her first ballet class. She was 13 years old when it happened. At that age, she was used to sitting in the bleachers overlooking a basketball court at her Boys & Girls Club in San Pedro, California, watching her brothers play. But on this particular day, she was invited to watch a ballet class on the court instead.
Today, Copeland is a boundary-breaking ballerina: the first female African-American principal at the American Ballet Theater. She’s quick to credit her entire career to that Boys & Girls Club in San Pedro. “I wouldn’t be Misty Copeland, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater, if it wasn’t for them.”
On the obstacles facing young women today:
“It’s really difficult to exist in this time and not be persuaded and influenced by the imagery we see on social media. And I think that’s such a big part of what’s kind of seeping into our youth’s lives and affecting them. I think it’s important to be surrounded by people who are supporting you, to be unique, to own who you are, have a voice and not have to be like the person next to you.
“I think that it’s important for this generation to really accept all of themselves and what makes them unique and different. That’s something that I feel like is not celebrated when you turn on your phone and go to Twitter or Instagram or Facebook. We’re kind of being fed these images of these kinds of altered people and we’re supposed to think that that’s what beauty is. So I think what’s most important is that we accept who we are. That’s what makes us so beautiful as individuals.”
On the advice she’d give to young boys and girls attempting to overcome shyness:
“I think it’s so important to have mentors and have people in your life that are going to support you and are going to be there for you when you feel like, you know, you’re not capable or you’re not in the right place or mind space to be able to get where you want to go. To me, mentors have been such an important part of my success. I think you have to be vulnerable and open to asking for advice and accepting guidance.”
On the importance of the Boys & Girls Clubs:
“It’s inspiring. I mean, I feel like it’s this cycle of ― I was once in their position of being a young person wanting to succeed and wanting to have opportunities presented to me. So to be able to look back and be inspired by them and what they’re doing and the obstacles they come from; me being in that position at one point. It’s so empowering. Especially this year, to see six women that are really supporting each other and given an opportunity to stand on the stage and speak their truth and share their stories with us. I know all of them are going to successful in their lives.”
On the most influential aspect of the Clubs:
“I mean, it’s just amazing to have a second home. The Boys & Girls Club was really a second home for me, when my mother was working several jobs. So besides just having a place to go, a place to be tutored, a place to really make connections and learn how to communicate and social skills and all of those things, I found ballet at my club. Which is so unique for that time. Now so many clubs have incorporated dance and have official dance studios. It’s just so amazing because I wouldn’t be here without having the support of my club and being introduced into an art form in this way.”
Article courtesy of Huffington Post