Born as Misty Danielle Copeland on September 10, 1982 in Kansas City, Missouri, she is an American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre (ABT), which is one of the three leading classical ballet companies in US. On June 30, 2015, Copeland became the first woman of African-American heritage to get promoted to principal dancer in the 75-years-history of ABT. Despite being born in Kansas City, she was raised in the San Pedro community of Los Angeles, California. Her father has German and African-American origins while her mother is of Italian and African-American descent and was adopted by African-American parents. Copeland didn’t meet her father between the ages of two and twenty-two. Between age three to seven, Copeland lived in Bellflower, California with her mother and her third husband, Harold Brown.
The family then moved to San Pedro, California where her mother Sylvia married her fourth husband, radiologist Robert DelaCerna and where Misty attended Point Fermin Elementary School. By 1994, her mother had separated from Robert. After she lived with a number of friends and boyfriends, her mother moved with all her children into two tiny rooms at the Sunset Inn in Gardena, California.
Copeland was deemed a prodigy who became a star despite not having started ballet until she was 13. After two years, in 1998, the ballet teachers who also served as her custodial guardians and her mother, were involved in a custody battle over her. In the meanwhile, Copeland had already become an award-winning dancer and was receiving professional offers. The legal issues required fillings for emancipation by Copeland and restraining orders by her mother. The legal proceedings were eventually dropped and Copeland moved home to start studying under a new teacher who was an ex-ABT member.
In the year 1997, Copeland received the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award as the best dancer in Southern California. After a couple of summer workshops with ABT, she became a member of the ABT Studio Company in 2000 and its corps de ballet in 2001. She became an ABT soloist in 2007. As a soloist from 2007 to mid-2015, she was described as someone who had matured into a more contemporary and sophisticated dancer.
Apart from her dance career, Copeland has also become a public speaker, celebrity spokesperson and stage performer. She has written two autobiographical books and narrated a documentary about the challenges faced by her in her career, A Ballerina’s Tale. In the year 2015, she was named among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine, featured on its cover. She performed on Broadway in On the Town, and toured as a featured dancer for Prince and appeared on a reality TV shows A Day In the Life and So You Think You Can Dance. She has been the celebrity endorser for products and companies like T-Mobile, Coach, Inc., Dr. Pepper, Seiko, The Dannon Company and Under Armour.
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