Misty Copeland Dances Onto the September Cover of ESSENCE
Dennis Leupold

Misty Copeland is having one amazing year, and the joy and focus of it all shows clearly on her face as she gracefully poses on the September cover of ESSENCE, her perfect arabesque accentuated by the beautiful Zimmermann dress flowing around her.

After years of training and overcoming a seemingly career-ending injury, Copeland has earned her spot in the pantheon of great dancers by becoming the first Black woman to perform the lead in Swan Lake for the American Ballet Theatre and then days later becoming the first Black woman to be promoted to principal ballerina in the ABT’s 75-year history. Add in a Broadway show run (in On the Town), a groundbreaking contract with Under Armour, and a new engagement to her longtime boyfriend and it’s a great time to be Misty Copeland.

“I can’t believe my life right now,” she told cover story writer (and friend) Julee Wilson Wareham.

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All that hard-earned success comes with a mantle of responsibility for the 32-year-old dancer, which in large part means acknowledging the significance of her place in the world of ballet, the work of those who came before her, and the importance of extending a hand to the next generations by being a mentor. 

“I’m going to continue to be who I am and my experiences as a Black woman have made me who I am,” says Copeland. “All of a sudden now that I am in this position, I’m not going to say ‘I’m just a dancer.’ It’s a huge deal because I’m a Black woman. That’s why it’s a big deal.”

To find out more about Misty Copeland’s road to history, her relationship with her parents, the race issues in ballet, and what she aspires to next, pick up the September issue of ESSENCE on stands 8/14.