Ruth La Ferla in The New York Times:
You would have to have lived on Saturn’s seventh ring to have missed that fact, or for that matter, Ms. Copeland’s repeatedly told saga of hardship, perseverance and ultimate triumph — one she chronicled in her 2014 memoir “Life in Motion: an Unlikely Ballerina.” The book described her rise from a chaotic childhood, trailing her oft-married mother and six siblings from cramped apartments to roadside motels, chasing fame and excellence under the wing of a well-to-do benefactor, and selected at 17 as one in a handful of African-Americans to dance with the vaunted American Ballet Theater.
It was a story recycled many times, on “60 Minutes,” in a Time cover profile, in the pages of The New Yorker, and once more Dec. 17 on ABC, when Barbara Walters named Ms. Copeland as one of the 10 Most Fascinating People of 2015. To say nothing of a flurry of glossies that extolled Ms. Copeland as a fashion plate.
All that fevered attention reached a crescendo last summer when Ms. Copeland emerged, calves rippling and en pointe, as the unlikely subject of “I Will What I Want,” a commercial for Under Armour, the athletic wear brand, that drew four million views on YouTube within a week of its July release.
Indeed, and by Ms. Copeland’s own account, the last 12 months have been an annus mirabilis – a time during which she fulfilled a cherished goal.
“I’m not trying to dilute the ballet world,” she said last summer. “But for a long time I wanted to be at the forefront of pop culture.”
That Ms. Copeland, 33, has so swiftly hit her mark raises a question: Just how and why did such a metamorphosis occur?
Talent and drive played roles, of course, as did Ms. Copeland’s uncommon beauty and athleticism. And there was the matter of race. “Her blackness was a big part, obviously,” said Nelson George, the culture critic and director of “A Ballerina’s Tale.”
“She isn’t a conventional looking ballerina,” Mr. George said, her 5-foot-2 frame and womanly curves rendering her relatable to an ever-widening public. “She could be one of those athletic girls in your gym,” he said. “In your mind you could be that girl.”