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Isabella D. Keh

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Sometimes in life’s journey, roadblocks can make us feel defeated and want to give up. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t working to become a professional dancer, and have faced many ups and downs along the way. I almost gave up until I was introduced to Misty Copeland. She is someone I look up to not only professionally but also in life.

Misty Copeland was the first African American principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater, a world-renowned ballet company in New York City. Her journey is an inspirational story that inspires me to continue working to achieve my dreams. Copeland achieved her goals with extreme perseverance and her strong-willed character. Growing up, she was always told that her body was not fit for ballet. The “ideal” female ballet dancer is very skinny, with strong, but not bulky muscles, and long limbs. Misty Copeland is very muscular and is only 5’ 2”, which is much shorter than the average (what is average height) of the ideal ballerina. Additionally, she was an African American woman in ballet, which to this day, is not common. She also grew up poor and did not have the opportunity to dance because training for ballet is very expensive. Despite many obstacles and several people telling her she couldn’t make it, Copeland persevered and defied the odds against her. Copeland received a full scholarship to the American Ballet Theater’s program and joined the prestigious ballet company at only 18 years old. Years later, she became the first-ever African American principal dancer in the 75-year-old company.

My dream too was her dream until one of my ballet teachers told me that I could never be in a company that big because of my height. I stopped growing in sixth grade at a whopping 4’10”. I was told to change my dreams by most people in my life. Even though their hearts were in the right place, it always hurt me. When I discovered Misty Copeland, it made me realize that maybe my dreams could come true. Her life story got me through so many challenges in my dance training.

My dream too was her dream until one of my ballet teachers told me that I could never be in a company that big because of my height. I stopped growing in sixth grade at a whopping 4’10”. I was told to change my dreams by most people in my life. Even though their hearts were in the right place, it always hurt me. When I discovered Misty Copeland, it made me realize that maybe my dreams could come true. Her life story got me through so many challenges in my dance training.

When I begin to audition for jobs with professional companies after college, I will continue to keep her story forefront. Even if people try to discourage me, I know that I can still reach my goals if I am diligent. Striving for your dreams is never an easy task, but knowing that other people have defied the odds despite their setbacks can make it so much more motivating.