ESSENCE Festival Speaker Misty Copeland's Odds-Defying Moves

We already know how fierce ballerina Misty Copeland is; after all, she graced our September 2015 cover. But we will get to be inspired by this force of nature on a whole different kind of stage when she serves as a speaker at the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience during this year's ESSENCE Festival. But before the big weekend, June 30-July 3 in New Orleans, let's marvel at Copeland's amazing mind- and body-bending abilities. And buy your tickets to 2016 ESSENCE Festival here.

Gia Peppers Apr, 18, 2016

1 of 9 Image Via of Misty Copeland's Instagram

Although her mother could not afford dance classes while she supported all six of her children, Misty was spotted at 13 by a teacher who knew her talent was undeniable. And the rest is history.

2 of 9 Misty at 16/Image Via Instagram & NYLA Portraits

Along Misty's journey, many of her directors and classmates told her she was too muscular or too dark to become principal dancer. Instead of letting that stop her, she trained harder. 

3 of 9 Getty Images

Misty Copeland twirled into ballet history last year when she became the first Black principal dancer in the history of the American Ballet Theater.

4 of 9 DENNIS LEUPOLD

In September, she told ESSENCE about why she is unapologetic about using her platform as an African-American ballerina: "The reason I’m here and I have this voice is because I’m Black."

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Though Misty has achieved much success, she still approaches each performance as a gift.  As she readies to take on the spotlight at ABT, her thoughts are set on dancing in the moment.

6 of 9 Image Via of Misty Copeland's Instagram

For Misty Copeland, practice makes perfect. "You're always working to improve, and you're always being critiqued on your next performance. It's not about what you've done. There's always room to grow," she says.

7 of 9 Image Via of Misty Copeland's Instagram

From her tiptoes to her fingertips, Misty Copeland is the picture of grace and strength. Check out those muscles!

8 of 9 Dennis Leupold

Misty takes her career as a responsibility: "I wanted it to be an opportunity for me to educate people and get them to become ballet fans and to educate them on what it means to be a Black dancer—a Black ballet dancer," she said in her ESSENCE cover story.

9 of 9 Instagram

Though she is only 33, Misty is on her way to becoming a legend. ESSENCE is proud to support and share her journey. We have a feeling we'll be sharing it for a long time to come.