In the early years of her dance career, Misty Copeland was told she didn’t have the “right body” for ballet. Despite the criticisms she faced, and despite being a black woman in a predominantly white art form, she persevered to become the first black female principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history. In the years following her historic inclusion into the prestigious dance company, Copeland continues to leap into other endeavors, proving her skills as an author, a women’s empowerment advocate and a designer are also en pointe.
As discussed at a media breakfast moderated by Instagram’s Director of Fashion Partnerships Eva Chen on Feb. 25, Copeland’s Signature clothing collection with athletic brand Under Armour features 13 pieces which highlight the female form, in an effort to make the uncontainable woman feel bold, empowered and comfortable.
“To be given that opportunity and a voice to bring what I think [women] want to be seen in and to feel good in…those are just things that I really wanted to be able to lock into,” Copeland said regarding her intentions with the line. “To just have women feel fierce and feminine and powerful.”
Amongst the sea of soft blush tones and warm whites, Under Armour’s Design Director Charlene Marshall notes that vibrant greens and neon-nudes additionally encompass the collection’s range of hues. When conceptualizing the third season of Copeland’s line, the ballerina’s admirable characteristics were kept in mind throughout the design process.
“Misty is basically at the epicenter of how we ground this collection,” Marshall says of Copeland’s elegant and regal personality. “Away from that, we look at trends, and we look at the things that we’re really feeling for the season, and come together and really curate and craft. [We keep] a sketchbook of pairs and fabrics, and we meet with Misty to run through what we’re thinking.”
Unlike the previous collections of Copeland’s Signature line, this season—which features hoodies, leggings, sports bras and more—seamlessly blends aesthetics with performance and style. The dancer tells VIBE that her collection is rooted in versatility, and is made with women-on-the-go in mind.
“I have a lot of clothes, but I spend eight hours a day in the [dance] studio, and I don’t get to wear them,” Copeland explains. “I like how with this line, I can literally leave the house in this, take off a layer and then just keep going. I think we’ve gotten to the point where you can make your style versatile in terms of bringing it from the street, gym, pilates, ballet class, and into the evening.”
Recently, Under Armour and other athletic brands such as Nike have been highlighting women’s experiences through their media, and have shown an understanding of the female form through their clothing collections. Copeland believes that this shift in representing and appreciating women’s bodies is imperative in today’s culture.
“Even something as simple as the exposure, and seeing someone who looks like you, to have a range of women and their body types and to show their strength. I think it’s important to bring those conversations up,” she smiles.
As an advocate for women of color and body positivity, Misty Copeland acknowledges her position as a public figure and aims to continue her efforts in raising awareness about the importance of self-love regardless of body type or skin tone. She is forthright about her experiences as a black woman in the ballet world, which she details was plagued with subtle, superficial comments about her appearance. Through having honest conversations about the experiences of women, she believes important messages will continue to be heard.
“I’m fortunate to have the confidence and the strength to persevere with the support of all of these incredible black men and women who have come into my life, and have inspired me in some way,” Copeland says. “It’s important for this next generation to learn about our history, and to see that we’re doing it.”
“Art is what you bring to people and how you make them feel, it’s not based on how long your arms are or how long your legs are, and that’s the beauty of it,” she grins. “You go on stage, and you just transform into a character, and that’s what it should be about.”