Last year, Misty Copeland made history when she became the first African American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT). One Barbie doll, two books, several awards and 1.1 million Instagram followers later, all eyes are on the 33-year-old as she takes on the lead ballerina role in Disney’s live-action version of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. According to Deadline, the movie will blend Tchaikovsky’s original ballet with its origin story, E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King—and see legendary director Lasse Halström (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Chocolat), head behind the camera to capture all the twirls and grand jetés.
If you’re not already as obsessed with Copeland as we are, that’s about to change. Here’s a crash course.
1. Copeland is a RL prodigy She didn’t start dancing until she was 13 (very late in the ballet-sphere), and she was en pointe within three months (a totally unbelievable accomplishment).
2. Her book, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, is a New York Times bestseller In it, Misty details her journey to success, and talks openly about her family’s struggle to stay afloat: “Most of my dance peers had grown up immersed in the arts, putting on their first tutus not long after they learned to talk. They had summered in Europe, while I didn’t get my first passport until I was 17. Their families had weekend homes. I had spent part of my adolescence living on the floor of a shabby motel with my single mom.”
3. She developed D cups at 18 Copeland’s doctor had to medically induce puberty—a common struggle for professional athletes with low BMIs—with birth control pills. The sudden transition made it difficult for Copeland to recognize herself in the mirror: “I think it took me roughly five years to truly understand my body. I had breasts and muscles, but, yes, I was still a ballerina. And ABT, seeing how hard I had worked and how well I was performing, eventually stopped asking me to lengthen. [Copeland says “lengthen” equals “get skinnier and fast.”] They came to see things my way, that curves are part of who I am as a dancer, not something I need to lose in order to become one.”
4. Prince was one of her first fans In 2009, years before her breakthrough, Misty danced in the video for “Crimson and Clover” and joined the artist on his European tour.
5. She was featured in Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want” campaign Misty’s video, which went viral with over 10 million views, features a muscular dancing Misty and a voiceover of all the reasons it appeared she could never become a ballerina: her height (too short), her torso (too long), herr bust (too big). Let’s just say it all worked out.