Margaret Eby
September 12, 2014 12:22 pm

Misty Copeland, the badass ballet superstar who you might know from her Under Armour commercial, is taking her message of perseverance and body acceptance to a new level. Copeland just wrote a children’s book, Firebird, in order to inspire African-American girls to transcend racial stereotypes attached to their bodies and their career expectations.

“I don’t think every African-American or Latino or, you know, has the same body type, but, yes, that’s been one of the excuses,” Copeland, who faced frequent rejection due to the proportions of her body, told NPR’s Codeswitch. “When people meet me in person, they’re usually surprised at how petite I am because there’s just [an] idea that because I’m black, I just look a certain way.”

“I think it’s just something maybe I will never escape from—those people who are narrow-minded,” Copeland said. “But my mission, my voice, my story, my message is not for them. I think it’s more important to think of the people I am influencing and helping to see a broader picture of what beauty is.”

Firebird is about a famous ballet of the same name, and one of the first principal roles that Copeland danced. The book is dedicated to one of Copeland’s mentors, Raven Wilkinson, the first African-American ballerina to go on a cross-country tour. “She experienced a lot more severe, life-threatening racism than other minorities experience in the ballet world at this point,” Copeland said. Copeland is, herself, only the third black female soloist in the history of the American Ballet Theater.

Copeland has already written a memoir, Life in Motion, but this book, she said, is intended for a younger set.

“I think that especially young kids need to hear those words, because I think that if you say ‘maybe’ or ‘it’s possible,’ I think it’s very easy for them to interpret that as ‘no, it’s not,’” Copeland said. “I’ve seen it happen with these girls that come to me, and some of them are really broken because they’ve been told ‘no’ so many times.”

“There are so many opportunities beyond these top companies that they can be a part of the ballet world in some way,” Copeland said. “And so I think it’s necessary for them to here that.”

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