Misty Copeland is featured in the December 2016 issue of SELF.
Soon after meeting the world’s most famous ballerina, I begin thinking of her not as Misty Copeland but as @MistyOnPointe. Her social media handle describes her day job as well as her general way of being: elegant, controlled, direct. When Copeland floats into the brasserie across the street from her Manhattan apartment, she is warm but focused; she maintains eye contact; even her outfit—a Mara Hoffman jumpsuit that shows off her toned shoulders and rock-hard calf muscles—is on point. “From 10:15 to 11:45 every morning is ballet class,” she explains, when I ask about her schedule. “Then we rehearse from noon to seven, sometimes with a lunch break, sometimes not.” At night she performs with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), and on Mondays, her “day off,” she makes appearances for her many sponsors, including Seiko and Under Armour. “It’s nonstop!” she says, sounding exhilarated.
When we meet, Copeland is preparing for her honeymoon in the Maldives; she married attorney Olu Evans, her longtime partner, last summer, and the two like to travel—not that Copeland is ever really off duty. “Even on vacation I’m doing ballet class every day,” she explains. “If I can’t find a gym, I’m in my room holding the back of a chair like a barre. I was in Guadeloupe last December, and my poor husband had to drive me 45 minutes every morning to a gym that had a ballet school attached!”
So when exactly does Copeland relax? “I try to find time here and there,” she says with a laugh. “I love seeing concerts—I just went to Drake.” The rapper has become a part of her preshow ritual as well. “Before every performance I put music on and focus on what I’m about to do. That keeps me calm, focused on my breath,” Copeland says. And she’s become an avid cook, concocting lighter takes on her favorite recipes, like banana-oatmeal cookies that her husband loves.
Having journeyed such a distance to get to where she is, Copeland takes nothing for granted. “When you’re in a company like ABT, you’re only as good as the performance that’s happening,” she says. “It’s not like I won a gold medal and can sit back and think, Everyone’s going to remember that. At every performance there are people who’ve never seen me before.”
But Copeland also still views ballet almost as a sanctuary within which she shields herself from outside noise; if dance once gave her life structure, it now functions as a meditation, a way for her to close out the world and focus on her art. “I feel like it’s my sacred time, when I feel the most protected,” she says. “When I’m on the stage, I’m all about the physical. I can’t be on my phone or worried about things. All that other stuff just doesn’t exist.”
Photo Credit: Raf Stahelin for SELF