Star of the barre

Dance leg­end Misty Copeland gets real with WH

Women's Health Australia - - DECEMBER 2017 -

What it’s like to be dance leg­end Misty Copeland (plus her wind-down se­cret)

She’s a global bal­let star. An Un­der Ar­mour ath­lete. And join­ing The Aus­tralian Bal­let as a guest artist in Novem­ber to dance The Sleep­ing

Beauty. Here, she talks ded­i­ca­tion, drive and the fine art of down­time.


One les­son I’ve learnt over the years is that you can’t change your­self. In the clas­si­cal bal­let world, there have tra­di­tion­ally been rules about what dancers should look like and where they should come from. And as a work­ing-class black girl with curves, I never did fit that mould. But bal­let isn’t about look­ing a cer­tain way; it’s about what you bring to the stage, and how you make peo­ple feel. Like ev­ery­one else, I have bad days. But in­stead of run­ning away, I go to bed and prom­ise that I’ll try again to­mor­row. I tell my­self what I tell the dancers I men­tor: no boundary is im­pos­si­ble to break, and no chal­lenge is too tough to over­come.


From the mo­ment I first danced, I fell in love. I was an anx­ious child, but bal­let made me feel safe and free. It’s been a ground­ing con­stant that’s al­lowed me to ex­press my­self. I wouldn’t have the life I have if I didn’t ex­cel, so I train daily – in classes or re­hearsals. The ex­cep­tion is in spring, our busiest per­for­mance sea­son, when I’m ex­hausted and spend Sun­days in my py­ja­mas. Even on my hon­ey­moon, I did bal­let in the ho­tel room and the gym. Luck­ily, my hus­band, Olu [Evans, a lawyer], ac­cepts my love af­fair with dance. We’ve been to­gether 12 years and he un­der­stands the re­spon­si­bil­ity I have as a bal­le­rina and as an African Amer­i­can fe­male role model.


The phys­i­cal in­ten­sity of bal­let train­ing requires fuel; if you don’t get enough, you can’t per­form prop­erly. Con­sis­tency is just as im­por­tant to my diet as it is to my train­ing. For break­fast, I have gra­nola and yo­ghurt with a cof­fee to fuel my morn­ing class. I’ll then snack on fruit to keep my en­ergy lev­els up, and re­hy­drate with plenty of wa­ter. At 2pm, I’ll have veg­etable soup or a sand­wich and then graze on a bag of nuts. My big­gest meal of the day is din­ner – I’m a pesc­etar­ian, so it’s nor­mally fish (I love roasted sal­mon) with greens. Tak­ing time over food, catch­ing up with my hus­band and en­joy­ing a glass of prosecco is the per­fect end to a day.


Sit­ting in the make-up artist’s chair be­fore a show, I watch as they trans­form me. It must be the way pro­fes­sional ath­letes feel when they put on their kit. Stage make-up is heav­ier than stan­dard cos­met­ics and, along with all the late nights, it can take its toll on my skin. So I make sure every bit is taken off with Proac­tiv+ lo­tion be­fore I go to bed at night – I’ve used it for 15 years and it’s kept my skin clear. Off stage, I’m pretty low main­te­nance: I’m not in­ter­ested in ex­per­i­ment­ing with prod­ucts, and I only wear make-up if I’m go­ing to an event. I sweat so much dur­ing the day that it would be a to­tal waste of time.

VI­TAL STATS AGE: 35 JOB: Prin­ci­pal dancer, Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre GO-TO BREKKIE: Gra­nola and yo­ghurt FAVE SKIN­CARE BRAND: Proac­tiv+ WIND-DOWN SE­CRET: Post-din­ner prosecco

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