Changing a Sport: Meet Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland was born in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S. on September 10, 1982. She is a world-renowned Ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in New York City. In 2015, she made history as the first African American female key ballet dancer with ABT. Her natural ability for ballet dancing was recognized when she joined her middle school’s ballet team in San Pedro, California. She started her journey in ballet at the age of 13, but she learnt all the skills quickly and became a phenomenal dancer. Through progressively intensive training, she enhanced her skills to win the first prize of the Los Angeles Music Centre Spotlight Awards in ballet dancing in 1998 at the age of 15. In the year 2001, she became the only African American member of the corps de ballet in ABT among 80 dancers (Feeley, 2015). She was also ABT’s first African American female to become a soloist in two decades (Turist, 2012).

Significance of Copeland to Society

Copeland’s story is highly inspiring and impactful to society. She is a pop icon and a role model. She advocates for diversity in the ballet field, aiming at enhancing access for individuals from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. As an African American, Copeland defied all odds presented by discrimination against her due to her skin color to become the best in a field that is dominated by white people. Moreover, she did not have the dominant body type for ballet dancers, since she had a fuller body, but this did not stop her from pursuing her passion (Glasser, 2014). The age of 13 was a late start for her since most ballet dancers start dancing as children. Yet, she persisted and strived to display her exceptional skills. 

She is also an actress, having performed in the film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, as well as the musical On the Town. Additionally, she is a writer, having authored books such as Bunheads (2020), Firebird (2014), Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You (2017), and Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (2014). Through her books and films, she hopes to inspire and empower individuals from diverse backgrounds to reach out for their dreams. 

Lessons for Early-Careers Sales Folks and Sales Leaders

The best lesson for early-careers sales professionals and sales leaders from Copeland is the need to be committed and remain persistent. It is essential to disregard obstacles and pursue possibilities for greater outcomes. Obstacles are stepping stones to greater heights rather than hindrances. Great achievements can be achieved when one takes the step of faith and embraces risks, as was the case in Copeland’s story. Leaders can also learn the value of diversity from Copeland, engaging people from all races and backgrounds without discrimination. Diversity is a great resource since different people contribute their unique and exceptional skills and perspectives to meet the objectives of an organization in a holistic manner. Copeland also inspires sales leaders to embrace opportunities to expand and grow by diversifying into various fields related to their careers. 

References

Feeley, S. A. (2015). “Historic 1st for Ballet company”. A.M. New York. p. 3.

Glasser, H. (2014). “If Misty Copeland’s Body Is ‘Wrong’, I Don’t Want to Be Right”, Slate.

Turits, M. (2012). “Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre’s First African-American Soloist in 20 Years, Talks Breaking Barriers with Aplomb”. Glamour.