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Who are your biggest inspirations? When did you find them? What did watching them move or hearing them speak or enjoying their art show you? There’s probably so much there that you could fill a book. Like all of us, American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer Misty Copeland collects role models and people that inspire her—and she did fill a book with all of the amazing things they’ve done.

Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy came out last week, and in it, Misty Copeland tells the stories of 27 women of color who have changed ballet, from Royal Ballet Principal Frankie Hayward to former Houston Ballet Principal Lauren Anderson, with illustrations from artist Salena Barnes.

“As a young girl living in a motel with her mother and her five siblings, Misty Copeland didn’t have a lot of exposure to ballet or prominent dancers. She was sixteen when she saw a black ballerina on a magazine cover for the first time. The experience emboldened Misty and told her that she wasn’t alone—and her dream wasn’t impossible.
In the years since, Misty has only learned more about the trailblazing women who made her own success possible by pushing back against repression and racism with their talent and tenacity. Misty brings these women’s stories to a new generation of readers and gives them the recognition they deserve.
With an introduction from Misty about the legacy these women have had on dance and on her career itself, this book delves into the lives and careers of women of color who fundamentally changed the landscape of American ballet from the early 20th century to today.

These dancers, like Misty, were and are trailblazers that changed the ballet world in incredible ways, and there are so many more like them both in the past and working now to make classical dance more inclusive. We can see why Misty would want to capture the things they’ve done in this short book and encourage her readers to look for these icons and their impacts.

In an interview with Good Morning America about the book, Misty talked about the things she’s learned over the course of her career, “My key message throughout my journey, throughout my career, has been having mentors in my life, being open to accepting guidance and advice, and I think that’s what young people should be prepared for. That you can’t do this on your own and it’s so important to have a support system.”

Black Ballerinas is out now! You’re going to want to learn about the dancers between these pages.