Now, the brand has released a new commercial featuring Copeland; prepare to feel feelings. The clip opens with the voiceover of a young girl reading a rejection letter that says "you have the wrong body type for ballet." Then, it shows Copeland in true badass-ballerina glory. It’s a 60-second film of empowerment, determination, and grit — everything Under Armour is trying to capture in their new “I Will What I Want” campaign, which also highlights downhill skier Lindsey Vonn and soccer star Kelley O’Hara.
“[It’s about] focusing on yourself and not the noise from outside [or] the opinions of people, which is just so hard,” says Copeland. “Especially when you’re in an art form, and you’re criticized — you’re putting it out there.” She says she wants "to be the first ever African American female principal dancer in any major ballet company...in the world. As well as just to diversify ballet.”
We had a chance to chat with the powerful and stylish ballerina; click through to see what she has to say about body image and performance mantras — and to check out her incredible new commercial.
“It’s not about fitting in to this meticulous mold. It’s about transforming and becoming a character on stage, and what you can do with your body. I was considered a prodigy at 13 and a professional [in a few] years, so I was clearly capable of doing all of those things. Body types are constantly changing and evolving, and I think that the ballet world has to catch up with that.”
Q: What do you tell yourself mid-routine when you feel like you can't go on?
“Not to give up. It’s so easy to get outside of yourself during those moments when you have to be so focused. We have these things in ballet where you’re constantly repeating things, like a fouetté turn — and you do it 32 times. You get to the point where you’re like, I just can’t do this. It’s literally one thing at a time. [I think to myself,] you can do this, you can do this, you do this every day of your life, you can do this.”
Q: What did you think about being a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance this season?
"I can sit there and watch those dancers all day. To be able to really give them constructive feedback — I know it meant a lot to them because I spoke to them afterwards. It helps them as dancers. I had some of them come up to me and say ‘It’s been three weeks now, and I’m working on lengthening my neck, and I hope you see it.’ I think it [my feedback] is a bit shocking for America, because they’re not educated enough to know that’s what we [dancers] receive every single day in the studio. Through things like SYTYCD and Dancing With The Stars, we are slowly introducing America to what dance is.... it’s not that they just get out there and do these steps, and it’s like, ‘You’re fabulous.’ You have to get better...you need to hear these criticisms.”
Q: Very true. How are you constantly pushing yourself to improve?
“I take class every single day. Every day is a new start; as they say, you’re only as good as your last performance. And, it’s about being the best dancer I can be every day, and starting new, every time.”
Q: Ballet-inspired and barre fitness classes — a good or bad fitness trend?
“It’s amazing. I think it’s a great way of introducing our art form, and I hope that it’s not going to be just a trend. Pilates has become a part of people’s workouts and cross-training, and I hope that ballet and barre workouts can be one of those things. It’s a full-body workout...I really don’t think there’s anything else that will be able to replace ballet when I stop doing it.”