Misty Copeland is what many would classify as a true success story. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1984, the 35-year-old dancer is now based in Manhattan with the American Ballet Theatre.
In 2015, she made history by becoming the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the company’s 75-year history.
But she didn’t get there without hard work and spends eight hours a day, six times a week practicing.
With hard work as a dancer comes pain, but Copeland apparently isn’t someone to let that get in the way of what she wants, and has faced several stress fractures during her career.
After her first lead role with the American Ballet Theatre, at the Metropolitan Opera House in June 2012, she had to withdraw from the entire season due to six stress fractures in her shin.
Copeland also didn’t have an easy start as a dancer, after being left homeless just as she was starting her career.
When she was 13 years old, her family — including her mother and five siblings — moved into two hotel rooms, where she slept on the floor.
She didn’t begin dancing until that same age, making her much older than usual to begin training.
Copeland attended San Pedro High School in California, and began dancing in a free class at her local Boys & Girls Club.
She started studying ballet at the San Pedro Dance Center soon after, and won a national contest and her first solo role within the year.
Copeland has previously appeared on A Day in the Life and So You Think You Can Dance, and toured as a dancer for Prince on his Welcome 2 tour.
To learn more about Misty Copeland’s life, you can explore her memoir, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, where she talks at length about overcoming adversity as she made history with her career achievements.
World of Dance airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC.