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Misty Copeland visits Philadelphia on new book tour

Misty Copeland visits Philadelphia on book tour
Misty Copeland visits Philadelphia on book tour 03:40

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- She's no 15th-century ballerina. Misty Copeland is shattering stereotypes, proving ballerinas come from all backgrounds.

If you're not already familiar with Copeland, you should be. In 2015, she was the first Black woman named principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre. More recently, she's a new mother and an author. And next month, Copeland will launch a new sportswear line with Derek Jeter and Wayne Gretzky.

Copeland made a recent trip to Philadelphia to promote her new book "The Wind at My Back: Resilience, Grace, and Other Gifts from My Mentor, Raven Wilkinson."

Her new book reads like a letter to Wilkinson, thanking her for her guidance and support.

Both women fought for their position on stage.

"Ever since I joined American Ballet Theatre at 17 years old, I thought about, "What does this look like for the future?" Copeland said. "Will I ever see another Black woman in my lifetime come into this company?"

She is still one of only a few Black ballerinas to reach such prominence and shared some thoughts on the ballet community's need to change.

"It's extremely important that we grow and change with the rest of the world and with society," Copeland said. "It's not just about the representation we see on the stage. But it's the audience members, it's the board of directors, it's the teachers that are teaching these young dancers."

"This is an art form that I care so much about and has given me so much, she said, it should represent in a positive light everybody who is coming in and supporting them." "It's made me into the person I am today and I'm so grateful for it."

CBS Philadelphia: You have a lot on your plate these days. A toddler. This new book, a new clothing line coming out next year? It's an exciting time for you.

"To be able to be a woman, to be a Black woman, and to have control, to have ownership over so many of these incredible things in my life," Copeland said. "I want to just set an example for the next generation, not just for little girls. But for boys as well."

Copeland is also doing philanthropic work with the Misty Copeland Foundation.

"It's truly a culmination of my life's work if I can say that at 40 years old but my life's work!" Copeland said. "It's really about giving these children the opportunity to be exposed to something they might otherwise not have the opportunity to be exposed to."

"I'm starting the Misty Copeland Foundation with our first signature program, the Be Bold program, ballet offers leadership development," she said. "It's giving access and opportunity to communities that are under-resourced. A free ballet class. I want them to see the beauty and joy and the fun that is not often connected to ballet."

Making ballet more inclusive is still an uphill battle. Earlier this year, Copeland spoke out about Russian ballerinas in blackface.

"You have a responsibility when young people of color are seeing this imagery that's so connected to a terrible history in America, blackface," Copeland said. "It was important for me to take a stand."

CBS Philadelphia: You put an incredible amount of pressure on yourself. You've said, "Failures close the door for anyone following in your footsteps."

"But I think that it''s about me putting my best foot forward and using my platform to set an example, Copeland said. To mentor young people and hopefully give them more opportunity than so many people to me, generations before me had."

Whether it's through writing books, through my foundation, so many different endeavors, she said. I'm just excited and honored to be a part of this art form that I can continue to bring to more people because I love it."

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