To be a dancer, a Sugar Plum Fairy, a ballerina, is a fairy-tale fantasy, but Misty Copeland, the first Black principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history, has made it a reality. And her sumptuous apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, purchased two years ago with her husband, lawyer Olu Evans, reflects the life she lives and the life she dreamed.
The couple enlisted the know-how of Los Angeles–based interior designer Brigette Romanek when, as Copeland has said, she realized how making a home involves many layers. Evans is quoted as saying they chose Romanek as a person of color for the cultural connection she would bring to the project, among other attributes. Romanek worked with Evans and Copeland to make the apartment a center of calm in the life of two busy urban professionals, incorporating lush fabric, velvet, silk, linen, and suede, along with dramatic area rugs, to add beauty as well as function to the classic three-bedroom apartment. Works by artists of color like painter Asuka Anastacia Ogawa and photographer Lorna Simpson are featured throughout.
When they began the renovation they had no idea how much time they would be spending there, but Copeland always knew her closet would be, as she told Architectural Digest, “my number-one priority.” Copeland wanted not just a closet, but a special dressing room where she could be alone, feel at peace, and get dressed. This space, created from a spare bedroom, has places for her vast collection of shoes, her dresses, and her handbags. There are full-length mirrors, as well as a dressing table and lots of good natural light. In short, everything she wanted and needed. Like the rest of the apartment, this room reflects Copeland’s desire for simplicity and ease with ample accommodation for her busy, accomplished life.
Copeland’s life, and her home, are far different than that of her childhood. Living in a motel room with her mother and five siblings, Copeland was 13 when she decided she wanted to be a ballerina. Being told she was too old and did not have the right body for ballet didn’t deter her. In one year, she was dancing professionally and on point within three months of her first dance class.
A glass-ceiling breaker, Copeland has written books, including her best-selling memoir, Life in Motion; has performed with Prince and Taylor Swift; was the subject of a documentary, Ballerina's Tale; and even has a Barbie doll created in her image.
Her professional life is augmented by her commitment to giving back. Stateside, she is involved with programs for at-risk youth and is an advocate for more girls discovering ballet regardless of their age or background. In Rwanda, in 2015, she launched the inaugural girls’ dance program with international nonprofit MindLeaps. In May 2020, she became a creator of Swans for Relief, a virtual performance of international ballet dancers to raise funds for dancers all over the world.
A dynamic woman embracing a changing world, Copeland is a model for young girls everywhere. Dream it. Then make it happen. That’s the point.