Misty Copeland is officially a member of the #BarbieSquad this week. The ballerina — who became the first-ever Black woman to be promoted to principal dancer in American Ballet Theater (ABT) history last summer — was adamant that a doll created in her image would live up to its namesake. "One of the most important things definitely was to show what it is to be a dancer — how athletic we are, how strong we are," she told Refinery29 Monday afternoon. "So to really get the calves right, to show her muscles, to have proportions that are realistic to me." Mattel certainly managed that. The doll's legs are magnificently muscular, though it definitely took some time to whip Barbie into shape. "There were a lot of pictures that I sent of me, and the doll was being sent back and forth with different things being altered and changed," Copeland explained of the design process. "I was like, 'No, her boobs need to be bigger. I want this to be real.' "I don't want her to look like this idea of what people think of as a ballerina — which is smaller and childlike. We all look very different but this is what I look like," she emphasized. "And I think it's such a strong powerful image for a young child to see, that it's okay to be those things, that you can be a ballerina — or anything you want to be — with whatever package you come in." It's not surprising that Copeland insisted on pushing the boundaries of what the world expects from a Barbie doll — after all, she's been doing that in the ballet world for years now where, much like in Barbieland, true change has been slow to arrive. "Classical ballet is an art form with such deep history and tradition — and that's what we thrive off of, and it is continuing that. But something that needs to change and evolve is the lack of diversity," she explained.
"I want [kids] to see a real person — like, reality — and see themselves," Copeland said. "[To see that] Barbie can be anything, that they can be anything, it doesn't matter what they look like, or where they come from. That they should be able to dream and have limitless opportunities. To be able to see a Black ballerina doll with like, muscles and curves, that's very powerful." The prima ballerina also shared some thoughts about a powerful force that impacted her when she was still nascent in her career, and inspired her to become the artist she is today: Prince. Copeland was contacted by the dearly departed musician back in 2009, and became a muse and collaborator on several of his stage performances. "There were so many sides to him," she remembered. "I feel like I experienced something that really started to ignite in me the artist that I am now, which is him allowing me to just be free onstage, and to figure things out as I was going. It was the first time I really started to venture into what it means to be an artist," she added. "Not that I'm going to go onstage at ABT and do whatever I want, but to be able to take those tools and apply them in a way that works for the ballet world — I just feel like it opened up this vulnerability in me: That it's okay to be obsessed with your art form and put all your attention into it in order to grow. I think that's something that a lot of young people kind of feel like 'that makes me weird' or different. He made me feel comfortable with owning that."