Misty Copeland, the first black principal dancer for America’s leading classical ballet company,the American Ballet Theatre, is significant not just for breaking a racial barrier, but for what her body represents. Copeland is not built like a ‘typical’ ballerina. She is shorter, more busty and — like her counterparts Serena Williams in tennis and Simone Biles in gymnastics — visibly muscular.
“As an adult, I was told that I didn’t have the right skin color… I was too muscular. I was too curvy. My breasts were too big. I was too short.” — Misty Copeland
Copeland is a true departure from the traditional image of a ballet dancer as fair-skinned, tall and lithe, so she made sure to gently check critics after they accused her of photoshopping an image. At issue is a re-touched image from Gregg Delman’s coffee table book Misty, a collection of the most iconic photos of the ballerina. Copeland’s torso is twisted towards the camera, her waist looking preternaturally small. Although amazing, the image is not photoshopped save for the smoothing of her leotard, and Copeland took to Instagram to make it clear.
“I’m so proud of this wonderful book that @greggdelmanphoto made. The positive body image that is shown throughout is a healthy one and what I stand for. The image on the left was photoshopped to smooth out my leotard. No altering was done to my body. I’m happy and proud of my body and would never participate in changing it.”
When interviewed about her fitness regimen in NY Mag, Copeland marveled at how perfect ballet is for strengthening and maintaining the body;
“I don’t think people understand all that it takes to create a ballerina body. This craft is structured in a way where you really don’t have to do other things. When I’m in my off seasons I’ll do other cross trainings, but when I’m in season I’m in ballet class every day, rehearsing for eight hours. The ballet technique is so smart and beautiful and for hundreds of years it has been able to create strong bodies that look beautiful all on its own. Off season, I take Pilates floor mat classes, Gyrotonic on the Reformer, and run on the elliptical machine for cardio — I don’t use any resistance because I tend to bulk up quickly.”
Here are some visual reminders of how remarkable Copeland’s body is.
Yeh… she don’t need photoshop.