Misty Copeland Opens Up About Discrimination Black Dancers Face

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Misty Copeland is opening up about overcoming racial barriers and discrimination in the dance.

In an interview with CNN's Chris Wallace, Copeland reflected on becoming the American Ballet Theatre's first African American woman principal dancer in 2015.

“I spent the first decade of my professional career with American Ballet Theatre, the only Black woman in the company – a company of almost 100 dancers,” Copeland told Wallace during a recent episode of Max’s “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?”

Copeland got candid about the difficulties she's faced as a Black dancer.

“I’ve experienced, you know, difficulties being a Black woman when you stand out, especially in the corps de ballet when it’s supposed to look uniform, and everyone kind of in the same tones wearing pink tights, which represent the color of your skin. And that wasn’t always the case,” the history maker said.

Copeland went on to explain instances of racial discrimination during her career.

“There were times that I was not cast in certain roles because I would stand out too much and kind of ruin the aesthetic, especially if it was a performance that was being filmed,” she told Wallace.

The dancer also recalled being cast to perform the lead role of “Odette/Odile” in American Ballet Theatre’s “Swan Lake" in 2014. As the first Black ballerina to hold the role, Copeland's casting garnered mixed emotions.

“I think about this kind of generational trauma for Black dancers that comes with that role,” Copeland said. “We’ve been told, for so many decades and generations that the swans should be white, that that’s not a role that can be played by a Black or brown woman.”

Copeland said she aims to use her platform to foster diversity in dance.

“You shouldn’t have to have a certain body type. You shouldn’t have to have a certain color skin or be a specific age. If you have the right dedication and commitment and support – I think anyone should be able to do this.”

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