Misty Copeland received an important distinction from New York University for her contributions to fine arts. On Wednesday, the ballet dancer was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree during the commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium in New York City.

She was among the four honorees selected by NYU, which included the Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Carolyn Bertozzi and the President Emeritus of the University of Maryland, Freeman A. Hrabowski.

“Congratulations to all of the 2023 NYU graduates!” Copeland wrote on Instagram. “The events of last night and today and receiving a Doctorate of Fine Arts from NYU has been beyond my wildest dreams and it’s incredibly humbling to be included among an incredible group of Honorary Degree Recipients.”


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Copeland became the first Black principal ballet dancer at the American Ballet Theatre in 2015. She shared her journey in her bestselling memoir Life In Motion.

“Once I became a professional, that’s when people started to really see me as a Black woman in a company where there weren’t any. And that’s when the language started to change around me fitting in,” Copeland previously told NPR.

“Still, to this day, I will read things that [say] I don’t belong because my breasts are too large, my muscles are too big, I’m too short. But these are all excuses because there are so many dancers who are not of color, who have similar body types to me that are shorter, that have larger breasts and bigger muscles,” she added.

“The norm is that everyone wears pink tights and that’s representative of white skin. So it was something I was aware of when I was 19 and came into ABT that I would have to wear pink tights … and then have to go on stage and attempt to make my skin look like the other dancers,” Copeland said, adding that she pushed back for roles where she was told to paint her skin white. “It chips away at you.”