The ever-inspirational Misty Copeland spoke about what it means to "embrace who you are" and "be your healthiest self" as she took to the stage to discuss grace and style at the inaugural Beauty & Style Expo at Essence Fest in New Orleans today. During her talk, the groundbreaking ballerina—the first African American woman to become a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater—shared empowering words about positive self image and overcoming challenges.
The 33-year-old opened up about how she struggled with her changing body as she grew from being an adolescent into an adult, facing pressure to lose weight but thankfully having the support system to stay healthy and grounded. Copeland stated, "you can't change how God made you," going on to say, "I think it's possible to be able to mold your body to do whatever it is you want to do, and I feel like I'm proof of that."
The barrier-breaking star also spoke about the upcoming debut of her dancewear line, Égal Dance, which launches this August and was directly inspired by her challenge to find dancewear for her body type. Copeland said the idea for the brand, which has been ten years in the making, was sparked by her difficulty to find leotards and dancewear for a woman who had "curves, and muscles, and boobs." The options currently on the market are made with little to no support within them, which Copeland asserts, "really doesn't give everyone a fair opportunity to even want to start dancing because they don't feel they have the right support, they don't feel beautiful in the things that are offered to them in their size." Her revolutionary collection is meant to be worn anywhere a woman wants — "to a yoga class, to the gym, to a pilates class, or on the street" — and Copeland also mentions plans to eventually go into plus size.
The ballerina also commented on her personal style outside of the dance studio, which she describes as pretty classic. "I'm very aware of my frame and how to flatter it best," she notes, but says, "every so often I'll throw something funky in there." She admits she's even let the funk "get the best" of her while working with the late Prince, to whom she also paid tribute at the festival. The two were friends before they ever performed together, and it was Prince who encouraged Copeland to " just go out there and create," a freedom not usually found or embraced in ballet. Of Prince, Copeland says, "the more I performed with him the more I just learned about who I wanted to be as a person and as an artist, so I will forever credit and thank him for that."