Misty Copeland, Ballet Dancer

Why She’s a Maker: She’s not white, she’s not whippet-thin, she started dance training on a basketball court—Misty Copeland broke all the ballet stereotypes on her rise to fame. Despite the rigors of the profession, she’s written two books and mentors young dancers.

Balancing Ballet and Family: Misty was offered a contract to dance with ABT when she was just 16, but her mother insisted she delay her professional career to earn her high school diploma. “It was hard to hear at the time that I had to turn down the contract, but the following year I was offered a contract again and an apprenticeship with the company.”

Ballet Body Shaming: For centuries, ballet has demanded female dancers maintain nymph-like body types, a standard that has eliminated many talented performers. Copeland has broken that barrier, proving an athletic body-type can be graceful. “I’m a woman now and I don’t look like a little girl. And I don’t think we should look like little girls.”

Inspiring Next Generations: She knows her journey means as much to others as it does to her. “Being one of the few black women in the ballet world is something that I do think about maybe not every day, but when I speak to a young girl who has tears in her eyes and says ‘Thank you for doing what you’re doing,’— that’s when I’m most proud.”