Misty Copeland talks new book, ‘Ballerina Body’

Zita Allen | 3/30/2017, midnight
American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland’s latest book “Ballerina Body” has hit bookstores, and her excitement was palpable as ...
Author, trailblazing dancer Misty Copeland has written a children’s book to inspire young girls. Misty Copeland, soloist for the American Ballet Theatre. Photo courtesy Penguin Young Readers Group

She explained, “People often don’t grasp all that it takes to be a ballerina. They can imagine this about athletes, but often they don’t realize what’s needed for us to handle all the pressures we face. We’re athletes, too. Strength—mental and emotional—is No. 1.”

Reading like a one-on-one chat with the first Black principal ballerina with a major, elite international company, the tone of “Ballerina Body” draws the reader in from Page 1 and shares bits of Copeland’s own life story throughout. “So much of my approach to my life and career stems from my experiences as a child,” Copeland wrote, referring to her chaotic childhood, shyness and, at age13, finding refuge at a Boys & Girls Club in ballet classes “that would become my calling, and my salvation.” She wrote of overcoming a poor body image and reassured readers, “You are fiercely, lovingly, and divinely you.”

In a chapter titled “Ballerina Moves” Copeland laid out a series of accessible safe exercises that can begin before even getting out of bed, as well as exercises done lying on the floor and others often seen in ballet classes.

Next, what’s a book about the ballerina body that doesn’t tackle meals? Copeland recalled trying to “bury my hurt in a box of Krispy Kremes” when adolescence transformed her once lean body into one that could no longer hide her love of fried foods and Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits. She also recalled reaching for food when it seemed her skin color might be an obstacle to the world of classical ballet she loved so dearly. And she wrote about the strength that came from changing her eating habits and developing nurturing relationships instead, particularly one with “the man I had begun dating and who eventually became my husband.” Eventually, like Evans, Copeland became a pescatarian, making fish her main source of protein. “My energy level skyrocketed and the formula for lean muscles finally came together,” she wrote. Her book sings the praises of omega-3, debunks negative myths about eating fats and provides favorite recipes and thoughtful food plans.

But Copeland said this journey is also about relationships that nurture the soul as she shared what she has called “her mission.” In a chapter titled “Master Class” Copeland wrote about those who have mentored her and those she is mentoring, noting that just as doors were opened for her, she is determined to open doors for others. “I feel everyone can benefit from having that support system in their life,” she added, encouraging others to do the same.

Copeland’s “Ballerina Body” is designed to serve as a road map to your inner and outer fiercest self if, as Copeland asks, readers remember that the journey will be both smooth and difficult, but, “When you become frustrated tap into whatever ritual gives you peace. Clear your mind, focus your energy and once you’re revived, pick up and start again.”