Misty Copeland presents both power, femininity

Recently Under Armour began running a commercial featuring Misty Copeland, a ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre. The commercial sends a powerful message, not only to athletes, but also to every body-conscious person out there.

The commercial begins with Copeland en pointe and a slow pan beginning at her feet. There’s a voice-over a girl reading a rejection letter because she, at 13, is too old to be considered for a dance academy. As the girl speaks, the camera shows Copeland’s strong and well-developed calf and thigh muscles.

On the surface, the commercial shows a person overcoming the odds – a feel good story that illustrates the elusive American Dream. But beneath that initial emotional response, there’s something more.

Women are supposed to be delicate and graceful, and if anything, ballerinas are supposed to epitomize this. “Center Stage,” released in 2000, addressed the commonplace eating disorders found through the dance world. Even beyond that words, lithe and willowy are what comes to mind. But with one simple image, Under Armor shattered that. During the commercial, only one word comes to mind: Powerful.

As the camera exposes Copeland’s face, small sprigs of hair stick out. She is undeniably beautiful and yet the messy hair only seems to add to it. This is a woman who is not perfect, and, more importantly, doesn’t pretend to be. She has been able to use her athleticism with her poise to combat the idea of women’s frailty.

All across the country there are women, and men, battling anorexia, bulimia, hypergymnasia (the excessive and compulsive need to exercise). There’s a need to meet some kind of standard – some unrealistic standard.

One common quote passed around in the dieting world is “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” First of all, that is wrong. Second of all, fad diets and such don’t work, not long term. Denying yourself any morsel of food that has over 10 calories in it tends to only lead to overindulgence later.

As you may have guessed, I’m a “live to eat” kind of girl. I enjoy my food, and I’d much rather eat a little bit of something I enjoy that a lot of something I don’t.

Now, I’m not saying we should all just ignore all the health and fitness strides we’ve made. I’m just saying you shouldn’t feel guilty for eating a bowl of ice cream.

I’m not sure when a basic human need began to become something we feel guilty over. Life’s too short to constantly be in pursuit of unhealthy weight.

In an interview with Self, Misty Copeland said at a certain point, she had to accept the fact that she could be a ballerina and a woman. She could have hips and breasts and still do the thing she loved. She also began looking at food differently. Instead of the enemy that caused her to gain weight, it became the source of strength for her to do what she loved. She even admitted to eating sweets.

This is the kind of body image the media needs to be uplifting, not the models who haven’t eaten since they turned 18.

Women can come in all shapes and sizes, and we should each come to appreciate the beauty found within that.

Julia V. Pendley is the lifestyles editor of The Daily Leader. You may email her at julia.pendley@dailyleader.com or mail a letter to her at Julia V. Pendley, Lifestyles Editor, P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602-0551.

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