Inspiration: Model Call

3 Minutes with
Misty Copeland

We leapt at the chance to chat with
principal ballerina Misty Copeland on the set of her
first shoot with Estée Lauder for Modern Muse.

Who is a Modern Muse? The description of our iconic fragrance says it all: She’s confident and independent, soft and strong, feminine yet dynamic. Stylish and original, she inspires everyone she meets—without saying a word.

And the above could not ring more true when it comes to Misty Copeland. A principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre in New York City, Copeland is the epitome of grace and all that inspires. She’s spent her life breaking down barriers, particularly as it relates to the notoriously tough world of ballet, where she rose to prominence as the first African-American principal ballerina in the history of American Ballet Theatre. She uses her remarkable athleticism to her advantage, striking a noteworthy balance of feminine strength. In essence, she is the living embodiment of Modern Muse. Read on from our conversation with her to find
out why.

What does beauty mean to you?
Uniqueness. Being different, not fitting into the mold, all of these things—not being able to compare yourself to someone else and say, “Oh, I’m just like them.” Being different makes me beautiful.

What does it mean to be feminine?
Being feminine is owning who you are as a woman, whatever that may be. I feel like my strength makes me feminine. My grace as a ballerina makes me feminine. My perseverance and unwillingness to give up makes me feminine.

What do you find inspiring about Estée Lauder, the woman?
There’s so much history and legacy when it comes to Estée Lauder. And to me, as a dancer, legacy and tradition and history are the most beautiful parts of what I do, and so I really appreciate [that heritage].

When do you feel most inspired?
When I’m in the studio, or when I’m on the stage—but it’s definitely when I’m surrounded by music and movement. Also, being surrounded by dancers that I mentor, or who I’m just observing, is extremely inspirational to me.

What is the difference between being a role model and being a muse?
As a muse, you have something about you that attracts people to you—you are a vessel to be able to share whatever it is the artist has envisioned. As a role model, I think that you take on a responsibility to be powerful, and the example that you are setting for the next generation is extremely important.

What are your first memories of fragrance?
My first memories of fragrance are definitely connected to my mother. As someone who was very aware of what she looked like when she left the house, she always had something that had a vanilla scent, and then a bright red lip.

How do you use fragrance now?
I over-use fragrance now. [Laughs] Usually when I put on fragrance, it’s before I step onto the stage. So I definitely have this strong connection to performing and being onstage with the scents that I wear. It kind of puts me in my zone and in the mood, and just feeling really beautiful, feminine and ready to perform. I’ve learned to apply a little bit on the inside of my wrist, a little behind the ear, and just a dab on the neck—but I spray it all over my body. [Laughs]

Your life is very regimented. Do you ever have moments where you just want to do nothing?
Yes, my life is extremely regimented. But as a dancer, we have extremely short careers. So I know that this is my time to do what I need to with a healthy body, and a youthful body. Yes, there are days that I just want to sit on the couch and sleep, but I don’t often allow myself to completely decompress, because then it’s even harder to get back to where I am physically. But, of course, I have to have some downtime in order for my body to recuperate.

Do you have a mantra—something you tell yourself every day that keeps you going?
I definitely remind myself daily that every day is another opportunity to start again and to be better. And that’s something that I just have to constantly remind myself, especially as a performer. You may have an amazing show the night before, and you have to reset and start again and prove yourself again. Or you may have a bad show, and start over, and know that you can be better every day.

What advice would you give to young women trying to realize their
dreams today?

You know, as corny as it sounds, it’s so important to be your biggest champion—to believe in yourself. I think it’s important to surround yourself with people who are going to be there to push you on those days when you just can’t do it on your own, but you have to have that strength and belief in yourself, first and foremost.

What is it about the discipline of ballet that you think has had a positive influence on your life?
It takes a certain type of person to be a ballerina. You have to be willing to put in the hours, the endless hours and days of work. But every dancer, I think, can say that they’ve learned what it is to be an extremely hard worker, and what it is to give of your time at such a young age, and make that sacrifice. And every dancer I know who stops dancing goes on to do incredible things, because we have that structure and discipline that’s ingrained in us. Every venture that I am a part of, I definitely take that work ethic with me that I’ve learned from being a dancer.

Can grace be learned? What does it take to achieve the perfection and grace that you’re known for as a dancer, mentally and physically?
[Laughs] That’s really hard. I think that having this very feminine touch and grace about you is something that every woman has deep down inside. Being a ballerina, you definitely learn ways of showcasing that in a more outward way than most women may know how, but, yes, I think that grace can be learned.

To achieve grace as a dancer, there really are no shortcuts. To be a professional ballerina, you give your life to this art form. You commit every day, from the time you’re three years old to becoming a professional. It takes all of these things—all of these hours of work, and dedication, and sweat, and tears, and blood to create the athlete and the ballerina that I am.

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