Star of the barre
Dance legend Misty Copeland gets real with WH
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