News & Runway

Misty Copeland on Fashionable Workout Gear and Why Dancers Should Be Considered Athletes

Image courtesy Under Armour

Image courtesy Under Armour

Under Armour is making a push to appeal to women, rolling out a brand new campaign aimed at those athletically-inclined members of the fairer sex. To help with the campaign, the brand has tapped U.S. Olympic downhill ski gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, U.S. Olympic soccer gold medalist Kelley O’Hara, American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland and a bevy of other strong female athletes. The trio was on hand at yesterday’s press event to chat about the brand’s latest campaign and commitment to creating athletic wear, not just for women who consider themselves athletes, but for active women with busy lifestyles and a penchant for functional, fashionable gear. 

While Lindsey and Kelley are extremely impressive in their own rights, Misty’s involvement with the campaign is particularly groundbreaking for Under Armour. She is the first non-competitive athlete to front the brand — note our use of “non-competitive.” Throughout her career, Misty’s overcome incredible adversity. She started taking ballet at the ripe old age of 13, or at least what is considered old in the dance world. Her body wasn’t “right” for the genre, since her figure was deemed too curvy. But through all that, Misty managed to work her way into one of the most respected dance companies in the world, scoring a position as the third black female soloist to be featured in ABT’s history — only the second in two decades

Misty’s story makes her the perfect person to front this brand — oftentimes, people don’t consider dancers athletes, despite the supremely athletic nature of what they do. But if there is any question about her athleticism, a quick look at the commercial she did for Under Armour’s latest campaign will surely put that to rest. Her body is simply otherworldly; her calves pulse and tremble as she slowly rises in her pointe shoes. The muscles in her arms undulate as she gracefully port de bras before turning into controlled yet frenzied spins, breaking out into an elegant leap. She’s beautiful, she’s strong, she’s athletic — she’s an athlete. But it seems that the rest of the world has some catching up to do. The New York Times published an article yesterday about Misty’s involvement with Under Armour, citing her as the first “nonathlete” to front the brand. Needless to say, the word choice gave us pause, especially after seeing such a tremendously athletic display in her commercial.

We caught up with Misty after the panel to find out how this partnership came about and how she feels about being referred to as a “nonathlete.”

theFashionSpot: Tell us a little bit about what inspired you to get involved with this campaign.

Misty Copeland: Everything that Under Armour stands for, and the feeling that these athletes are underdogs for whatever reason. Even a brand that was this small, competing with these massive brands who already had such superstar athletes — I feel like everything they stood for, being so fierce and the passion and beating the odds for whatever it is you’re going through in your different genre of sport or art — it just really spoke to me as an individual. You can be different, look different and succeed, become the new face of whatever it is you’re doing.

tFS: Fashionable athletic wear is definitely trending right now. Under Armour’s doing this campaign, Net-a-Porter just launched Net-a-Sporter…do you feel like it’s important for athletes to have fashionable gear?

MC: I think that as dancers, we’re constantly thinking about our lines and proportions and what works for us. It’s ingrained in us from our training and what we wear in the studio and onstage. It has to flatter our bodies, so it’s definitely a part of our daily lives. I’m constantly thinking about those things. My hair, for example, is always put together, and I’ll go out and people will be like, “I like your bun,” and I just came from rehearsal — like it’s not some fashionable thing, but people will be like, “Can you show me how to do that,” which is pretty funny!

Image courtesy Under Armour

Image courtesy Under Armour

tFS: Speaking of which, there’s a lot of gym-to-drinks style gear out on the market right now. Some people have been a little wary of the trend, arguing that it’s a little impractical to wear something you’ve been sweating in for hours to go out and grab dinner directly after. What are your thoughts? Do you ever find yourself wearing your workout outfit straight out of the gym or rehearsal?

MC: It depends. I was recently in Mexico on vacation, I don’t know the last time I had a chance to take a vacation, but every day I gave myself a ballet class in the gym and I worked out. So, I would go to the gym with my Under Armour sports bra and a shirt, and I would leave and it would be so sweaty, and I would have the cute little Under Armour shirt to put on over it. It’s a little more high-fashion. I think there are little ways of altering your gym look. Pull out something small from your bag, and keep it moving. 

tFS: Do you ever wear any of your ballet gear out?

MC: [Laughing] No! I’ve never ever done that! I think I would be uncomfortable to have the butt line [that a leotard makes] all day. But I do wear some of my Under Armour stuff out, and I get the biggest compliments. I’ll put on one of their sports bras underneath a Helmut Lang maxi dress, and you can kind of see it sticking out. It’s really cute.

tFS: Who knew sports bras and Helmut Lang could go so nicely together?

MC: Right?

tFS: So, I was reading The New York Times article talking about your involvement with Under Armour. They said you were the first “nonathlete” to front the brand. How do you feel about that descriptor?

MC: I say that of all that was said in that article, that was probably a little bit off. But I think that’s what this commercial is doing. That’s why I’m here, to educate people on what we are as ballet dancers — the respect we deserve, how athletic it is and that we’re more than athletes — we are artists. I think we’re still trying to find the right words in describing who I am and how I represent this now.

tFS: Finally, who are you loving in fashion today?

MC: Nicole Richie! She’s petite and she’s daring, but she’s still like this little elegant, classy thing. I’ve been watching her! I don’t really follow celebrities on Instagram, it’s just my circle of people, but I follow her because I want to see what she’s wearing. 

tFS: Only she could pull off blue hair.

MC: She still looks classy! I’m just like, “How did you do that?” It’s the perfect shade!