Misty Copeland has become one of the most famous ballerinas in America. As the first African American Female Principal Dancer of American Ballet Theatre (ABT), she has crossed numerous genres of mainstream media with her inspiring life story, talent, and athleticism. You may have seen her on stage at the Metropolitan Opera House, on the cover of Time Magazine, or in an Under Armour ad. Her story is one of rags to riches as she went from being nearly homeless to performing on some of the most prestigious stages in America. From her diet and training to her rituals and lifestyle, many were dying to find out what Misty does to achieve success at her level. In her latest book, Ballerina Body, she reveals how she came to be one of the most well-known and successful dancers of our time with step-by-step advice. Here are 5 things I learned from Misty Copeland’s Ballerina Body:
1. Embrace What Makes You Different– How many times do we compare ourselves to others? Having been a professional dancer myself, I know this is almost inevitable. Staring at those who are successful–whether in real life or on social media–can make us feel like if we don’t look like them, we can’t do as well as them. The truth is, we cannot become the best version of ourselves unless we respect and love our individual bodies. Misty strived to break every stereotype working against her in the ballet world and chose to embrace her skin color and naturally curvy body. Originally, she despised what made her different and that self-doubt and lack of self-worth only killed her motivation and momentum. It wasn’t until Misty embraced her uniqueness that she was able to fine-tune the body she was born with in order to reach her fullest potential. What many thought would get in her way of becoming successful has now made her one of the most memorable and relatable ballerinas in the world.
2. Visualization Is Key To Success– In Misty’s words, “If you can manifest what you want mentally, you can achieve it physically.” With all the challenges we face in the world, we have to find ways to stay focused on our goals. Negative people, unfortunate life circumstances, and injuries were all roadblocks to Misty’s dream of becoming a principal dancer in ABT. It was through visualization that she was able to get back on track and even stronger each time she fell behind. She created vision boards and wrote in her journal to raise her confidence and improve her concentration. She would see herself exactly where she wanted to be until she could feel it in her bones. Srinivasan Pillay, a Harvard M.D., says “We stimulate the same brain regions when we visualize an action as we do when we actually perform that same action.” So start visualizing your success in order to achieve it!
3. Fat Is Good– No one wants to hear the word “Fat” in the ballet world. In fact, fat gets a bad rap outside of the ballet world. A common myth Misty wants to dispel is that eating fat makes you fat. There are actually good fats and bad fats. Eating good fats in foods like avocados and nuts can actually improve your performance and help give you a strong, lean ballerina body. Misty used to eat a box of doughnuts when she was feeling anxious only to wake up feeling sluggish, bloated and zapped of energy. She was gaining weight and had pressure from the ballet company to slim down. The fats she was eating in pastries like doughnuts were hydrogenated fats which are unhealthy. Eating good fats on the other hand kept her fuller for longer, gave her muscles energy, and even fought inflammation. Certain vitamins like A, D, E and K, need fat to be absorbed into the body, so a diet rich in good fats helps to keep your weight under control. Fat isn’t always to be feared.
4. Achieving a Ballet Body Must Be A Way of Life Not Just A Workout– It’s not just about what you eat and how many hours you work out, it’s also about how you walk, sit and move throughout your entire day. Whatever your fitness goals are, that training mentality needs to be woven into every part of your life. From choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator to engaging your core while sitting at your desk, Misty emphasizes that training is not just limited to the studio or gym. Full body awareness in all areas of life is vital to every person’s well-being. Our balance, energy, and health all start to deteriorate if we don’t exercise our mind-body connection. Rather than burying our heads in our phones, mindlessly eating or slumping in our chair, try to stay present and connected with what your body is doing physically and energetically throughout your day.
5. Mentors Are Essential For Achieving Goals– From Cynthia Bradley, her very first ballet teacher at the Boys and Girls Club to Raven Wilkinson, the first African American Woman to dance with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Misty has had many mentors throughout her life. We’ve all felt fear and a lack of self-confidence at some point. Sometimes those feelings can paralyze our progress and that’s when we need encouragement from a mentor. A mentor can be a parent, teacher, or peer who helps to inspire and empower you because they can see your full potential. No one becomes successful all alone. Reach out, ask for help, and nurture relationships. Eventually, your success will turn into someone else’s inspiration and it will be your turn to pass it on.
Have you read Misty Copeland’s Ballerina Body? What are some of the most effective health and wellness tips that have helped you reach your goals?
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Photos: Misty Copeland via Instagram