As the first ever African American female principle dancer of the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copland takes her role as a ground breaker and role model very seriously. Watch her move like a literal angel here.

Recently, she wrote a letter to her 13 year old self on the topic of beauty for Glamour magazine. In the letter, she assures her younger self that what makes her feel different now, will be the thing she will be proudest of in the future. As women and girls, we don’t often see versions of ourselves in many walks of life, so to follow these paths can seem impossible. This is why we need to draw strength from our differences, and use that strength to pave our own way, just as Misty did.

Read the letter below … 

Dear Misty,

You are beautiful.

You often struggle with feeling that way, and for good reason. In the classical ballet world, which is so centered around aesthetics—how you look on stage and in class, the arch of your feet, the extension of your back, the line your legs create—it can be debilitating when you don’t fit the mold (white, willowy, flat-chested). It’s hard enough to start dance at age 13, eight or 10 years later than most kids, but being black and only 5’2″ and growing to be busty with an athletic build, you’ll have a lot going against you.

There will be many times when you’ll feel like you don’t belong, times when you will be the only black person in the room or in your own dance company (for ten years, actually). You’ll be confronted with self-doubt and you won’t want to stand out. You’ll feel the insecurity of the invisible poor kid, one of six being raised by a single mom, you once were. But the circumstances you were born into and the environment you grew up in are not your fault, and it doesn’t mean you can’t come out of it and create your own destiny.

Don’t ever forget where you come from. But do not let other people’s words get in the way and distract or define you. Know that you don’t need to look like every other ballerina that’s come before you; you don’t have to have the same skin color, the same hair color. Brown skin is beautiful. If only you had more examples of success through people who looked like you…. For now, you will have to dream beyond what you’ve ever seen.

It’ll be a long journey to discovering and accepting who you are, to knowing that different can be beautiful. But trust that you will eventually discover beauty in your own terms.

You’ll feel strongest, and most beautiful, on stage. And you will feel most confident when you are natural and just yourself. Remember this feeling.

One day, you’ll even be in a beauty campaign—wild, right? And why that’s so important is because it matters that women and girls see themselves represented in every hue and every shape, with different careers and different paths. You’re going to do that for people. That is a huge deal!

You’re going to be on the world stage. The future is bright.

Love, Misty

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