When American Ballet Theater soloist Misty Copeland joined Under Armour as a spokesperson earlier this year, we were happy to see the athletic-wear company venturing outside the realm of hulking linebackers. Now, we’re absolutely stoked.
Copeland, the third African-American soloist in ABT history, stars in this just-released 60-second spot for the brand’s “I Will What I Want” campaign. And it is fierce. It opens with shots of Copeland—in all her sculpted, sinewy glory—warming up. Then you hear a girl’s voice in the background reading a rejection letter from a ballet school:
Dear Candidate, Thank you for your application to our ballet academy. Unfortunately, you have not been accepted. You lack the right feet, Achilles tendons, turnout, torso length, and bust. You have the wrong body for ballet. And at 13, you are too old to be considered.
And then Copeland leaps across the stage with the power of a gymnast and the grace of a dancer. The video closes with the tagline “I Will What I Want.” Cue chills.
While the voiceover was not from an actual letter, it is a “compilation” of negative feedback that Copeland, 31, received—and overcame, according to David Droga, creative chairman for the agency producing the ad, speaking to Ad Week.
Copeland got her start at 13, and within months was on pointe, being lauded as a prodigy. After she went pro, she got injured and hit puberty all while facing increasing pressure to conform to the ideal ballet body. She struggled with binge eating, but she still went on to land the ABT soloist spot in 2007 at age 24.
Olympic skier Lindsay Vonn, tennis player Sloane Stephens, and soccer star Kelley O’Hara are also involved with the “I Will What I Want” campaign. And now we know which YouTube channel to check when we need motivation—fitness or otherwise.
Amelia Harnish is an Associate Editor at Health.