Misty Copeland is adding one more history-making move to her already illustrious career.
The beloved ballerina was promoted to principal dancer by American Ballet Theatre today, making her the first African-American female principal dancer in the company’s 75-year history, reports the New York Times.
Copeland, 32, has been a soloist in the company since 2007.
Last week she made her debut as the first African-American lead in the company’s production of “Swan Lake.”
The Kansas City native began her dance career at 13; late according to ballet standards. A junior high school drill team coach encouraged her to take ballet classes since she was a natural dancer. “I went to my first class and hated it,” she told ESSENCE. Four years after she began taking ballet lessons, she accepted a scholarship to American Ballet Theatre. She has been with the company ever since, occasionally performing with the Dance Theatre of Harlem as well.
Copeland is credited with bringing a new, and diverse, audience to ballet. It was all part of her plan. She also teaches young Black girls ballet. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have any Black role models in ballet, and it would have made a difference in my life,” she told ESSENCE in 2011.
“Nothing would make me happier than for there to be more Black ballerinas in the future.”