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Misty Copeland Makes History as First Black Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theatre

Misty Copeland
Misty Copeland was named the first black principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre.

Misty Copeland‘s moving on up! As expected on Tuesday, June 30, New York City’s American Ballet Theatre promoted the 32-year-old ballet dancer to its highest honor — principal dancer. Making Tuesday’s announcement extra special for Copeland, her fans, and aspiring ballerinas worldwide is the fact that Copeland is the first African American dancer to be named principal in the company’s 75-year history.

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Misty Copeland headshot
Misty Copeland attends the 2015 Tony Awards.

“Misty proves that success is not about how you grow up or the color of your skin. Her story — of overcoming personal and physical challenges to become a soloist at the American Ballet Theatre — is the story of someone who followed her dreams and refused to give up. In that way, she is a model for all young girls,” Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci raved of Copeland, lauded as a “pioneer,” when she profiled the dancer for Time‘s 100 Most Influential People feature in April.

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The first black female dancer in ABT’s Swan Lake, Copeland has written a memoir and a children’s book, and has more than 500,000 Instagram followers, and an impressive endorsement deal with Under Armour, but the stunning ballerina worried that she’d never make it to principal.

“My fears are that it could be another two decades before another black woman is in the position that I hold with an elite ballet company,” Copeland wrote in her 2014 memoir Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina. “That if I don’t rise to principal, people will feel I have failed them.”

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On Tuesday, Copeland did just the opposite, and her achievement was celebrated by the dance world and Hollywood alike. “All hail the Queen. My sister’ Misty Copeland was just promoted to Principal dancer with ABT!! An amazing day for dancers and chocolates,” Taye Diggs tweeted.

Tweeted Copeland’s close pal Star Jones: “Crying tears of joy for Misty and all the little girls she will inspire!”

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