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First African American female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre

As the first African American female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland is a pioneer in the world of professional dance—and beyond. Among her many impressive titles: author, Broadway actor, movie star, big-name brand ambassador, diversity advocate, pop icon, Prince collaborator, internet troll fighter, and real-life hero to young dancers (just look at the fierceness she’s inspired). Copeland, who didn’t take up ballet until the late age of 13, is big on elevating the next generation of dancers. She’s served on the advisory committee for the ABT’s Project Plié, which provides training and mentorship to dance teachers in racially diverse communities around the country and in Boys & Girls Clubs. “I was the only African American woman at ABT for a decade, and so much of what I do now is mentoring young minority dancers and trying to be a support system for them,” Copeland told Variety in 2016.

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