Misty Copeland Just Shut Down a Major Myth About Ballet Dancers
The iconic ballerina stars in Stuart Weitzman's holiday campaign, and gave InStyle some insight about what it's like to be in her shoes.
It’s not news that Misty Copeland is an icon, in the dance world and beyond. The ballerina has been putting her talent, strength, and confidence on display for years, and every performance (heck, every photo) has managed to leave us in awe.
Still, Copeland’s Stuart Weitzman campaign impressed us on a whole new level. In a series of short videos, the star moves so smoothly while wearing three different pairs of everyday shoes — at one point, even twirling around in strappy Merinda heels like it’s no big deal.
“I think they figured those would be the most difficult for me to dance in,” she tells InStyle over the phone, talking about the campaign. “I was like, ‘No, this is second nature!’ As ballet dancers, we’ve worked a lifetime to build up the smallest muscles, which most people don't develop in their lives — even professional athletes. All of those muscles are there to support us so we can stand on our toes and dance on our toes with complete control. So, to put on a heel is not that crazy.”
It also makes sense Stuart Weitzman would partner with Copeland around the holidays, a time of year that's always important for dancers. “The Nutcracker and Christmastime are such a huge part of our repertoire and what we do,” Copeland says.(Copeland will be performing The Nutcracker with the American Ballet Theater in Orange County throughout December.) “So, it was really organic and happened quickly; we filmed the three parts in one day," she says.
The campaign’s setting made it all the more magical for the dancer, who is quick to point out she was moving around in a real, large box. “It felt like I was dancing inside of a gift box, inside of a present. As a dancer, the sets and the environment are such a big part of becoming a character and your performance. It was nice to be in that atmosphere, rather than kind of creating my own ideas in front of a green screen.”
Ahead, Copeland tells us about the outfits she’d style with her Stuart Weitzman shoes, the celebrity whose shoes she’d like to spend a day in, and her resolution for 2020.
Since you’re on your feet all the time, how important is it to have comfortable footwear?
It's definitely changed throughout my career and with age. I used to be that girl that was in pumps all the time. I don't know if it's a dancer thing or more specifically me — just the flexibility of my ankles and my high insteps and just hypermobile legs. I can wear very high heels and feel comfortable.
You’ve spoken about the importance of inner strength as well as physical. Is there anything specific that motivates you to have inner strength?
I think it's something that every woman possesses and can relate to. Just existing in a world where we haven't always been given a voice or seen as leaders, as well as being mothers — there are so many elements to what makes a woman so incredibly strong. We possess the inner strength to be able to multitask and hold it together. Even as a dancer, you're taught inner strength — emotionally, psychologically — while performing, to make look as though you're happy, or whatever you're expressing through your character. We hold inside whatever it is that's hurting, injuries, or what may be going on in our lives. It’s beautiful thing to have strength in every possible way, and to show that and to be proud of it. I definitely am.
What would someone be surprised to know if they spent a day in your shoes?
Just how not glamorous my life is. I'm used to putting in the work and grinding on a daily basis, waking up in the morning and doing what I need to do. [I’m not] putting in time in terms of makeup, or doing my hair, what I'm wearing, because eight hours of my day are spent in a ballet studio in dancewear or activewear and you're sweating. People see us as professional dancers on stage, and it's beautiful, and we're always so feminine, and elegant, and the makeup, and the tutus. But, I would say that I'm pretty low-key casual — just surviving and doing what I need to do to take care of myself and my body and get everything done.
Is there someone whose shoes you'd like to spend a day in?
Oh my gosh, so many people. I would love to spend a day in the shoes of Sarah Jessica Parker. Or Tracee Ellis Ross — I would love to spend a day in her shoes. She seems like she just has so much fun, probably, from the moment she wakes up. No matter what she's doing work-wise, she's so hilarious. I love her style and the chances she takes. And, I'm so proud of her with her new haircare line [Pattern], as a girl with curly hair and as black women, struggling with accepting and embracing our texture and that it's beautiful. I would love to spend a day in her shoes.
How would you style the over-the-knee boots?
It's so funny, they actually sent me a pair before this, to try on and see how I felt and how I would style the shoes. I was like, "Oh, there's so many options!” We're in winter here in New York City and I have way too many high-waisted skinny jeans. You could put on a pair of those boots with any high-waisted skinny jean, maybe with a cute body suit under, and layer it with a sweater over it or even a cropped hoodie. Also, with the baby blue color, the first thing I reached for was this really cute, ruffly summer skirt and a matching, midriff-showing top that has the same kind of pastels in it.
What about the heels?
I would literally wear them with anything. Nowadays, where fashion has gone, it's really about mixing, and highs and lows — like, cute, fashionable sweatpants with a pair of strappy heels.
In particular, the gold color that I'm wearing is so close to my skin color, and I'm all about my lines as a dancer. That's something I'm conscious of, even when I’m not on stage. That gold color really continues the line; it doesn't break it, so it makes my legs look even longer. It’s just a beautiful silhouette and really elegant.
Can you put together your perfect holiday outfit?
I'm a jeans girls, so I feel like you can dress up a pair of high-waisted skinny jeans with those strappy sandal shoes. Then, a really cute sweater that has some length to it, but that you can tuck into the front of the jeans, so you still get to see the line of the waist and have the long lines of the legs. Then just kind of let it casually hang down in the back. Maybe a knit sweater — that type of thing. And a really high bun.
What was your biggest takeaway from 2019, now that we're wrapping up the year?
It has been quite a year. So much has happened — good and bad — but I've learned so much. [This year] really allowed me to embrace this next chapter in my life and in my career. I've found my voice, especially within the ballet world, which is really difficult for dancers, especially if you dance in elite companies; it's really difficult to have your own identity. Now, I feel like I've gotten to a place where my voice is being heard.
Also, just venturing into new artistic avenues that I never imagined I would. I have a production company that I started, this endorsement with Stuart Weitzman, I have more children's books coming out, and more books that I'm writing. There's so much happening that's so exciting. I feel like I definitely took a big leap in 2019.
If you could make a one- or two-word resolution for 2020 what would it be?
No boundaries. No expectations for what's to come. Be open and go with what is presented to you.