Hues of racism
She may be one of the most famous dancers in the world, but Misty Copeland, sadly, is still fighting for equality and for more diversity in the world of ballet. In 2015, she made history by becoming the first African-American woman to be promoted to the role of principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, one of the world's top ballet companies. Her rise to stardom has been inspirational; also, it is a feat that perhaps no one, not even the ballerina herself, had ever expected to accomplish. It is a far cry from her childhood in San Pedro, California, where she grew up with five siblings and lived in a motel room, supported by a single mother who worked multiple jobs just to put food on the table. She was introduced to ballet when she was 13, albeit begrudgingly ("I was literally forced into taking it!"), at a free class run by her local Boys and Girls Club of America—a group that runs after-school programmes. "Everything about my journey has just not been what is typical of a classical dancer and the way they are nurtured in the ballet world," Copeland said. She experienced and lived more than a typical 13-year-old would have, seeing a lot of things she should not have seen when it came to physical, mental, and emotional abuse. That is not really the typical background of someone who enters into a world that is very expensive and very white. Copeland went on to study at the San Francisco Ballet School, before joining the American Ballet Theatre. But those struggles continued into her professional ballet career. For a decade, she was the only black woman among dozens of dancers in her company. When it comes to the world of ballet, it has always been extremely challenging for minorities to exist and to thrive. "There are still people that don't think I belong. That don't think I'm right. That don't think I fit in." The issue of race has always been something she has spoken openly about and she says that even today, despite her success, she still deals with racism. "Just because President Obama became the first black President, does not mean that racism goes away and he is never going to experience it again. It's something that's going to take a long time to heal from in America." In a situation such as this, education can not only help the children taking part, but also the adults involved in the process. Through her success and fame, she has changed perceptions of ballet and become a role model for many. It is but natural that her number one focus is to continue to dance and become the best ballerina and artist, in spite of everything.