Misty Copeland was born on September 10, 1982, in Kansas City, Missouri. She was the fourth of six children. Misty’s mother, Sylvia Delacerna, had quite a few tumultuous relationships that made home life hard for Misty and her siblings. But Misty was able to find solace in the halls of school and the world of performance. She developed a love of movement and connected with the story of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci.
Misty was chosen to be the captain of the drill team at her middle school and the teacher who ran the team thought she should take ballet classes at the Boys and Girls Club she already attended. Misty eventually did so under the direction of Cynthia “Cindy” Bradley, who realized that the youngster was a prodigy, able to see and perform choreographed movement immediately and dance en pointe after a very short period of ballet training.
Homelife was getting more difficult for Misty and her family so her mom decided to leave her husband and moved the family into a motel. Her mom and Cindy decided to allow the 13-year-old dancer to move in with her teacher’s family. Misty was able to continue her training while also entering the public spotlight as a promising up-and-coming performer, featured at special performances such as a charity event with actress Angela Bassett. Around this time Misty also had a lead role in the Debbie Allen production The Chocolate Nutcracker. “She’s an incredibly gifted ballerina. . .She’s a child who dances in her soul,” Allen said of Copeland in a December 1999 issue of Los Angeles Times Magazine. “I can’t imagine her doing anything else.”
After having attended a summer intensive program on scholarship at San Francisco Ballet, Misty’s mother demanded that she return home. With accompanying coverage from local media, a battle ensued between Bradley and Delacerna, with Misty, at 15 years old, looking into legal emancipation from her biological parent. The request was ultimately dropped, however, with Misty getting a police escort and returning to live with her mother.
Yet Misty refused to let go of her career. After taking classes at Lauridsen Ballet Centre, she did another summer intensive in 1999, this time at the renowned American Ballet Theatre. She joined ABT’s studio company in September 2000 and then became part of its corps de ballet the following year. In 2007, Misty reached the rank of ABT soloist, with an artistic forcefulness to be showcased in productions like Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère, Alexei Ratmansky’s Firebird and The Nutcracker, and Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite and Bach Partita, among an array of performances lauded by critics.
In June 2015, Misty became the first African-American woman to dance with ABT in the dual role of Odette and Odile in Pyotry Ilycih Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Then on June 30 of that same year, she became the first African-American performer to be appointed an ABT principal dancer in the company’s 75-year history. Her trailblazing accomplishments have been recognized by a range of institutions, and in spring 2015 she was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, a rare feat for someone from the dance world.
On a personal note, Misty married attorney Olu Evans on July 31, 2016, in Laguna Beach, California. The pair had been together for a decade before tying the knot.References: