This rags-to-riches ballerina has become Under Armour’s biggest star

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland has become Under Armour’s breakout star. 

The sportswear empire credits the 32-year-old Copeland with driving sales. Thanks to her influence, Under Armour is becoming a viable competitor to Lululemon and Nike. 

“What separates us from the clutter is this blue-collar work ethic,” Adrienne Lofton, Under Armour’s vice president of global brand marketing, told Fast Company. “We’re an underdog brand. We work with athletes who most people wouldn’t or didn’t draft in the first round, or who they wouldn’t traditionally give a prima ballerina title to.”

Copeland falls in line with that ethos — and she’s much more than just a representative of the sportswear empire. Find out more about her.

[slideshow]
[slide
permalink=”/#copeland-was-born-in-kansas-city-missouri-1″
title=”Copeland was born in Kansas City, Missouri.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/lUpkAlsmMW/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: MistyCopeland.com
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#life-wasnt-easy-for-copeland-when-she-was-growing-up-she-lived-in-a-motel-suite-with-her-mother-and-siblings-for-awhile-in-san-pedro-california-2″
title=”Life wasn’t easy for Copeland when she was growing up. She lived in a motel suite with her mother and siblings for a while in San Pedro, California.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/hMqcmfMmHa/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: Huffington Post
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#before-she-was-13-her-only-dance-experience-was-dancing-on-her-middle-school-drill-team-the-teams-coach-encouraged-her-to-take-ballet-at-the-boys-and-girls-club-which-didnt-excite-her-at-first-3″
title=”Before she was 13, her only dance experience was dancing on her middle school drill team. The team’s coach encouraged her to take ballet at the Boys & Girls Club, which didn’t excite her at first.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/gw_xxxMmKx/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: The New Yorker
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#her-teacher-cindy-bradley-noticed-that-copeland-was-eyeing-the-people-who-were-dancing-the-fact-that-she-was-watching-so-intently-and-that-she-seemed-very-shy-cued-bradley-into-copelands-desire-to-dance-she-said-to-the-huffington-post-i-knew-she-had-to-be-asked-she-wouldnt-come-down-without-being-asked-she-was-13-and-she-was-just-tiny-4″
title=”Her teacher, Cindy Bradley, noticed that Copeland was eyeing the people who were dancing. ‘The fact that she was watching so intently and that she seemed very shy,’ cued Bradley into Copeland’s desire to dance, she said to The Huffington Post. ‘I knew she had to be asked. She wouldn’t come down without being asked. She was 13, and she was just tiny.'”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/zwX3FlsmNN/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: Huffington Post
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-was-on-pointe-within-three-months-5″
title=”She was on pointe within three months.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/fTo5xwMmCL/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: Elle
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-even-went-to-live-with-bradley-for-awhile-and-she-loved-it–she-would-dance-and-train-and-sleep-in-a-real-bed-6″
title=”She even went to live with Bradley for a while, and she loved it — she would dance and train and sleep in a real bed.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/T11RpUsmDP/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: Elle
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#but-escaping-from-her-family-culminated-in-an-ugly-custody-battle-between-bradley-and-her-mother-it-was-like-my-world-was-ending-she-said-to-elle-they-were-like-family-i-think-both-my-mom-and-cindy-wanted-the-best-for-me-they-were-two-women-from-completely-separate-worlds-cindy-saw-a-girl-who-was-deprived-and-my-mother-saw-a-woman-taking-her-child-away-over-time-i-realized-my-mom-did-what-she-could-but-i-resented-her-for-years-to-this-day-its-hard-for-us-to-talk-about-these-things-she-added-7″
title=”But escaping from her family culminated in an ugly custody battle between Bradley and her mother. ‘It was like my world was ending,’ she said to Elle. ‘They were like family.’ ‘I think both my mum and Cindy wanted the best for me. They were two women from completely separate worlds. Cindy saw a girl who was deprived, and my mother saw a woman taking her child away. Over time, I realised my mum did what she could. But I resented her for years. To this day, it’s hard for us to talk about these things,’ she added.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/TG-o04MmAS/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: Elle
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#this-battle-was-widely-covered-by-the-media-it-was-a-nightmare-copeland-said-to-the-new-yorker-i-had-no-places-left-for-privacy-where-i-could-feel-safe-everyone-had-an-opinion-about-what-happened-8″
title=”This battle was widely covered by the media. ‘It was a nightmare,’ Copeland said to the New Yorker. ‘I had no places left for privacy, where I could feel safe. Everyone had an opinion about what happened.'”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/SLtD-5smNx/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: The New Yorker
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#at-age-15-she-was-accepted-by-the-san-francisco-ballets-intensive-program-on-a-full-ride-9″
title=”At age 15, she was accepted by the San Francisco Ballet’s intensive program —  on a full ride.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/gb2s43MmBE/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: The New Yorker
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#but-instead-of-attending-school-she-went-to-try-out-for-the-american-ballet-theater–it-was-her-dream-10″
title=”But instead of attending school, she went to try out for the American Ballet Theatre — it was her dream.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/gul-JdsmKs/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: The New Yorker
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-joined-the-american-ballet-theaters-studio-company-in-2000-and-was-promoted-to-a-member-of-the-corps-de-ballet-the-following-year-a-huge-accomplishment-11″
title=”She joined the American Ballet Theatre’s studio company in 2000, and was promoted to a member of the corps de ballet the following year —  a huge accomplishment.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/02ifUvMmFB/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: MistyCopeland.com
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#but-she-faced-some-adversity-by-the-time-she-hit-puberty-her-ideal-body–according-to-the-ballet-community-had-evaporated-they-basically-said-your-body-has-changed-youve-added-weight-its-creating-a-different-line-and-its-not-what-we-want-i-didnt-know-how-to-take-care-of-it-id-always-eaten-whatever-i-wantedtaco-bell-soda-burgers-and-french-fries-i-would-come-home-and-eat-an-entire-pizza-from-dominos-and-six-donuts-cry-and-go-to-sleep-the-next-day-id-be-hiding-in-class-it-was-a-really-dark-time-i-went-through-a-lot-by-myself-because-i-didnt-have-anybody-in-my-life-yet-who-understood-she-said-to-elle-12″
title=”But she faced some adversity: by the time she hit puberty, her ‘ideal’ body — according to the ballet community —  had evaporated. ‘They basically said, ‘Your body has changed. You’ve added weight. It’s creating a different line, and it’s not what we want.’ I didn’t know how to take care of it. I’d always eaten whatever I wanted — Taco Bell, soda, burgers and French fries. I would come home and eat an entire pizza from Domino’s and six doughnuts, cry, and go to sleep. The next day I’d be hiding in class. It was a really dark time. I went through a lot by myself because I didn’t have anybody in my life yet who understood,’ she said to Elle.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/RsfFfYsmLo/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: Elle
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#i-was-barely-over-a-hundred-pounds-but-i-felt-so-fat-and-even-a-stranger-at-a-club-when-i-told-him-i-was-a-ballerina-said-no-way-copeland-said-to-the-new-yorker-it-took-me-about-five-years-to-figure-out-how-my-body-worked-and-to-understand-how-to-make-my-muscles-more-lean-13″
title=”‘I was barely over a hundred pounds, but I felt so fat, and even a stranger at a club, when I told him I was a ballerina, said, ‘No way,” Copeland said to The New Yorker. ‘It took me about five years to figure out how my body worked, and to understand how to make my muscles more lean.'”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/RlAL6ysmHS/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: The New Yorker
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#in-2007-she-became-the-second-ever-african-american-woman-soloist-at-abt-14″
title=”In 2007, she became the second ever African American woman soloist at ABT.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/Z8Mp9GsmK7/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: MistyCopeland.com
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#in-2012-she-played-the-titular-role-in-firebird-15″
title=”In 2012, she played the titular role in ‘Firebird.'”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/T0mm6jsmJf/embed/

Width: 658px”
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#shortly-after-she-learned-she-had-six-stress-fractures-in-her-tibia-and-she-needed-to-have-surgery-16″
title=”Shortly after, she learned she had six stress fractures in her tibia, and she needed to have surgery.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/T6mTFGsmJ1/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: New Yorker
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-worked-with-marjorie-liebert-on-barre-a-terre-classes-or-ballet-classes-lying-down–to-regain-her-strength-while-she-was-out-of-commission-she-wasnt-going-to-be-sidelined-17″
title=”She worked with Marjorie Liebert on barre-a-terre classes —  or ballet classes lying down — to regain her strength while she was out of commission. She wasn’t going to be sidelined.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/lyKt9tsmKf/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: The New Yorker
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-was-back-dancing-soon-18″
title=”She was back dancing soon.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/RiZfCfMmBT/embed/

Width: 658px”
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#in-2014-she-continued-to-break-ground-when-she-danced-the-lead-in-coppelia-at-the-met-19″
title=”In 2014, she continued to break ground when she danced the lead in ‘Coppelia’ at The Met.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/n7AiwesmLO/embed/

Width: 658px”
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#in-2014-she-told-new-york-magazine-she-wanted-to-make-history-there-are-so-many-roles-that-im-preparing-to-do-that-ive-never-done-before-its-just-focusing-and-pushing-myself-artistically-i-want-to-be-a-principal-dancer-i-would-be-the-first-ever-african-american-woman-to-be-a-principal-dancer-in-an-elite-company-so-thats-still-my-goal-right-now-she-said-20″
title=”In 2014, she told New York Magazine she wanted to make history. ‘There are so many roles that I’m preparing to do that I’ve never done before. It’s just focusing and pushing myself artistically. I want to be a principal dancer. I would be the first-ever African American woman to be a principal dancer in an elite company, so that’s still my goal right now,’ she said.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/QavLpvsmNr/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: New York Magazine
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#in-june-2015-she-got-her-wish-and-indeed-made-history-she-was-the-first-african-american-principal-dancer-at-abt-21″
title=”In June 2015, she got her wish and, indeed, made history: she was the first African American principal dancer at ABT.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/3_1KWfMmC2/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: MistyCopeland.com
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-has-danced-many-iconic-roles–including-that-of-odetteodile-in-swan-lake-22″
title=”She has danced many iconic roles — including that of Odette/Odile in ‘Swan Lake.'”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/slYaDdsmMg/embed/

Width: 658px”
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-also-wrote-the-memoir-life-in-motion-with-the-help-of-charisse-jones-which-chronicles-her-career-trajectory-23″
title=”She also wrote the memoir, ‘Life in Motion,’ with the help of Charisse Jones, which chronicles her career trajectory.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/oQ4g4QsmMi/embed/

Width: 658px”
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-wrote-the-childrens-picture-book-firebird-with-the-help-of-christopher-myers-24″
title=”She wrote the children’s picture book, ‘Firebird,’ with the help of Christopher Myers.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/rR1iMSMmK4/embed/

Width: 658px”
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#in-2015-she-made-her-debut-on-broadway-in-on-the-town-25″
title=”In 2015, she made her debut on Broadway in ‘On The Town.'”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/7RHWyHMmO0/embed/

Width: 658px”
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-has-appeared-on-the-cover-of-magazines-like-essence-and-she-has-appeared-in-ads-for-brands-like-dr-pepper-26″
title=”She has appeared on the cover of magazines, like Essence, and she has appeared in ads for brands like Dr. Pepper.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/6zxwf5MmBO/embed/

Width: 658px”
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#and-she-was-named-one-of-times-most-influential-people-in-2015-27″
title=”And she was named one of Time’s most influential people in 2015.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/1iYIf0MmGG/embed/

Width: 658px”
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-gives-back–she-has-returned-to-visit-boys-and-girls-clubs-in-fact-shes-also-part-of-project-plie-which-helps-to-attract-dancers-from-all-walks-of-life-into-the-ballet-community-mentorship-is-very-important-to-her-i-had-some-really-incredible-people-who-mentored-me-and-gave-me-things-i-never-got-from-my-parents-i-think-its-so-important-for-young-dancers-of-color-to-have-someone-who-looks-like-them-as-an-examplesomeone-they-can-touch-she-said-to-elle-28″
title=”She gives back — she has returned to visit Boys & Girls Clubs. In fact, she’s also part of Project Plie, which helps to attract dancers from all walks of life into the ballet community. Mentorship is very important to her. ‘I had some really incredible people who mentored me, and gave me things I never got from my parents. I think it’s so important for young dancers of colour to have someone who looks like them as an example — someone they can touch,’ she said to Elle.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/Xr_F5vMmME/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: Elle
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-learned-so-much-from-her-periods-off-kevin-mckenzie-the-american-ballet-theaters-artistic-director-said-to-the-new-yorker-misty-could-have-done-these-same-rolestechnicallyten-years-ago-but-she-wouldnt-have-been-ready-29″
title=”‘She learned so much from her periods off,’ Kevin McKenzie, the American Ballet Theatre’s artistic director, said to the New Yorker. ‘Misty could have done these same roles — technically — ten years ago, but she wouldn’t have been ready.'”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/lLnLCFMmFY/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: The New Yorker
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-faced-adversity-for-her-race-but-she-never-let-that-stop-her-certain-people-theyd-come-in-and-cast-ballets-and-wouldnt-even-give-me-the-time-of-day-or-the-chance-to-see-if-i-was-talented-enough-to-portray-certain-roles-they-think-the-corps-de-ballet-should-be-uniform-and-thats-the-thing-its-a-visual-art-form-so-theyre-judging-me-on-my-physical-appearance-and-some-of-them-just-dont-want-to-see-brown-skin-on-the-stage-it-could-have-stopped-me-many-times-but-i-was-extremely-fortunate-to-have-a-teacher-who-saw-past-the-color-of-my-skin-she-said-to-new-york-magazine-30″
title=”She faced adversity for her race, but she never let that stop her. ‘Certain people, they’d come in and cast ballets and wouldn’t even give me the time of day or the chance to see if I was talented enough to portray certain roles. They think the corps de ballet should be uniform and that’s the thing. It’s a visual art form, so they’re judging me on my physical appearance, and some of them just don’t want to see brown skin on the stage. It could have stopped me many times, but I was extremely fortunate to have a teacher who saw past the colour of my skin,’ she said to New York Magazine.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/xfEKqtsmHi/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: New York Magazine
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#and-now-shes-become-a-huge-boon-to-under-armour-since-becoming-the-face-for-the-brand-under-armour-has-seen-a-huge-spike-in-its-womens-apparel-sales-31″
title=”And now, she’s become a huge boon to Under Armour. Since becoming the face for the brand, Under Armour has seen a huge spike in its women’s apparel sales.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/kyprKYsmOg/embed/

Width: 658px

Source: Business Insider
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#copeland-is-living-proof-that-hard-work-pays-off-32″
title=”Copeland is living proof that hard work pays off.”
content=”Instagram Embed:

http://instagram.com/p/5NKxlysmM2/embed/

Width: 658px”
image=””
source=””
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[/slideshow]