There was a time when Disney’s The Nutcracker and The Four Realms might not have had ballet in it at all. Lucky for us, not only is there an incredible ballet scene in the film, but the talented Misty Copeland leads the way, telling a story, and breaking down barriers. This is our interview. This is her story.
(Disney and ABC have invited me to California on an all-expenses paid trip, in exchange for our coverage of events. As always, all opinions are my own. Affiliate links in post.)
Nutcracker’s Misty Copeland – Storytelling Her Way
The beautiful Misty Copeland has no fear of barriers. She chases her dreams. And she clearly did both when she made history as the first African American Female Principal Dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre.
It’s clear that she’s not stopping there. She’s adding movie star to her list as the Ballerina Princess in this month’s holiday film, The Nutcracker and The Four Realms, and she has a little venture that I believe has a big future ahead.
Misty Copeland shared with us, “I do have a production company. We haven’t done anything yet. It’s a long process, but I think that I want to be able to be an authentic voice for Ballet, for dance in this medium”.
It’s clear she has a heart to help others and it was no more evident than when she told us, “I helped to start a diversity initiative through American Ballet Theatre in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America of Project CA. It’s a diversity initiative. I’ve worked with so many different organizations like one that is really dear to my heart, MindLeaps in Rwanda, and it allows me to see structural things that I can then bring back to the States. I think it’s about going to those communities and making those communities feel comfortable. It’s not about bringing in some white teachers like we’re gonna save you black people.”
She went on, “I think it’s about training the people that are there in those communities so they can teach their communities. That’s a huge step that we can take in this natural growth of diversified dance.”
I did a bit of research looking into MindLeaps after talking with Misty Copeland. They “engage kids in fun dance classes that are part of a carefully crafted curriculum to develop the key cognitive and social-emotional skills vital to success in school and work.”
Copeland isn’t messing around. She has her sights on what is important in life and changing lives as she goes.
Creating a Character out of Nothing
I mentioned earlier that there was a time when Disney’s The Nutcracker and The Four Realms might not have had a ballet sequence. It’s very true.
The film is based on the book, not based on the Nutcracker ballet that so many of us are familiar with. There was no ballet in this version of the story. (You have read my no-spoiler movie review, right?)
I think Disney quickly realized that for a holiday film of this magnitude, many of us would miss the intricate ballet we all know and love, so they literally created a character for Misty Copeland.
The character – the Ballerina Princess, one who is a storyteller who, through a ballet sequence, shares the story of the four realms with Clara.
Having your own Barbie?
Can you imagine having Mattel create not one, but two Barbie dolls in your likeness? As a little girl who once played with Barbies a little too much, Misty Copeland is living the life.
Check it out here (I’m thinking holiday gifts) –> The Nutcracker and The Four Realms Ballerina Princess!
She talks about how she took this Barbie doll thing very seriously, and I couldn’t be prouder as a woman, and as a mom.
Copeland shared about being involved in creating the first Barbie doll in her image. She said, “It was a lot of work. I was very involved. I made it very clear that I wanted it to be a true representation of me and what I stand for. Just don’t take Barbie’s body and paint her brown. I want her to have boobs. I want her to have like thigh muscles and calves. And I want her nose to be wider than Barbie, and the lips to be full.”
She continued, “They kept coming back to me and I was like, ‘the boobs aren’t big enough’. Their last final, they’re like OK, here it is. I was like’ Oh my God, they’re still not big enough’ and then it was we’re gonna pad her bra.”
So the mold was already made from the previous Barbie doll when they needed one for the new Disney Nutcracker Ballerina Princess. A little white wig. New dress. Changed up the makeup. Voila!
A beautiful brown Barbie, one so many little girls can see themselves in.
Breaking Barriers in an Industry. In the World.
Copeland shared that this film is the perfect platform to introduce dance to the masses, realizing that not everyone feels “welcome to step through the doors of the Metropolitan Opera House.”
She is so proud to be part of a cast that is so diverse and then commented on the future, one where this generation “sees a brown ballerina in this Nutcracker film,” but the next generation, “hopefully sooner than maybe 30 years” sees that it’s just a ballerina.
Copeland shared, “And that to me, is just so incredible and empowering and I think that’s something that Disney Movies have done for me growing up.”
The Struggles She Went Through
Growing up underprivileged, Copeland got personal. She said, “The first ballet class I took was on a basketball court at the Boys/Girls Club in San Pedro, California, and I don’t want to say hated, but it was not something I thought I was gonna do. I think all the other kids that also were coming from underprivileged backgrounds like me – none of them danced. And they were all older. I was 13.”
With baggy basketball shorts and socks on, she felt out of place next to the legging wearing kids around her.
Then something happened one day.
Copeland says, “I put on the pink tights and I put on the leotard and I could see myself in front of the mirror. That’s when it clicked. I felt beautiful for the first time in my life. I felt right. I felt like being a black young girl, being super skinny and long legs and these massive feet and big hands and little head, of which everything was just wrong in the real world. And I stepped into the studio and it was like oh, everything is exactly right.”
It gave her power and confidence like she’d never experienced before. She felt beautiful for the first time.
Advice to Girls
In a nutshell:
Ask for support or guidance (it’s been her saving grace with everything).
Believe in yourself (not what you see on Instagram or the person next to you).
Be uniquely YOU – own that!
See Misty: You can see the American Ballet Theatre actually in Los Angeles during December, performing at the Orange County Performing Arts Center – The Nutcracker!
PARENTS: Be sure to read my no-spoiler review to get your questions answered: Is The Nutcracker and The Four Realms Scary?
The Nutcracker and The Four Realms – In Theatres Playing Everywhere Now!
Let’s take a look…
Read about my conversation in the dinner line with Morgan Freeman here in my The Nutcracker and The Four Realms red carpet premiere post.