In the Kitchen with Renowned Ballerina Misty Copeland
Most people know Misty Copeland as a formidable ballet dancer, named by the American Ballet Theatre as its first-ever Black female principal dancer. What might not be as well known about Copeland is that she is an avid cook and a brand ambassador for LG Signature, which just launched its new state-of-the-art wine cellar, as well as the host of LG Signature’s new four-episode food and wine video series, Notes from the Cellar.
As the pandemic continues, and with live performances still on hiatus, Copeland has found herself taking to her newly renovated kitchen.
“I don’t know how I would’ve survived without having a kitchen,” Copeland says.
Copeland recently spoke to Worth about the challenges of being a ballerina during COVID, what she’s been cooking during quarantine and why a partnership with LG Signature made total sense.
Q: First off, I’d love to have some insight into what your life as a ballerina was like prior to COVID.
A: It’s been a very interesting time for me personally because at the same time as the pandemic hitting the world, I had suffered an injury to my back, and I had to pull back, pull out of these shows while we were on tour, while American Ballet Theatre (ABT) was on tour. And about a month later was when we went into quarantine, and I think a week before we went into quarantine, I had a procedure done on my back. So, my world had already shifted in terms of what it typically was like at the same time as everyone in the world’s experiences [began] changing and shifting as well. But before this pandemic hit, my life was pretty packed and full of traveling.
That’s the bulk of what I really do. Though ABT is stationed here in New York City, where our rehearsal studios are, we’re a touring company.
And on top of what I do with ABT, I also tour for a lot of other opportunities and things that I have. Speaking engagements, my book tours and stuff like that. So it was pretty shocking to have it all kind of stop so abruptly, and on top of it, because of my injury, I was not able to really be physical.
So, I mean, it was kind of a blessing in disguise for me to be locked in my home and forced to really not do anything and really just heal. I went from rehearsing eight hours a day, five to six days a week, being extremely physical. To literally just like laying on my back—a very dramatic change from what my life has been for the past 25 years.
At Worth, we talk a lot about extraordinary women in their fields, and some of those women we’ve been talking about are in the WNBA, which is now back. I know arts and live performances are kind of a different story; we know Broadway won’t be coming back until next year. So, I’m curious, how you think the arts and live performance will change once we emerge out of this?
Yeah. I mean, I think we’re all in a similar boat. I mean, of course you see the sports, they can still continue on without having the people there. It’s still a new, scary situation. But for the theater world, I mean, we’re similar to Broadway, and we haven’t been given any real timelines like that. But we’re in the theater. And if the theaters aren’t open, then we can’t do what we do.
So I think that the ballet world in particular…I know that maybe Broadway is similar. Opera is on a different level in that they do have a lot of access to their live performances. But it’s difficult when the only opportunity to really see us is to come to the theater and to pay a pretty penny for tickets.
But I feel like this is an opportunity for the theater world to really embrace the digital world and have a virtual presence in a way that we haven’t…I look at what Hamilton has done with Disney, and I mean, it’s huge. So many people came in and people want to see it. People want to feel included in those worlds and have access to seeing it.
It’s not the same thing as live, [but] it’s still so important, I think, to be exposed to the live art. And I just think it’s an opportunity for the theater world to step up their game and really be more accessible to more people and to include so many different demographics and communities. And I think that the way to do that is virtually and online.
With that, have there been any opportunities that have arisen for you due to COVID?
I feel like I’ve taken this opportunity to challenge myself, but also challenge the dance world to do so many things that I think a lot of arts organizations and dance companies like to say, they’re doing diversity initiatives and having those discussions about the lack of diversity and racism in the fine arts, and in ballet in particular. And I feel like because of this moment where everyone is really kind of isolated and all of our focus is on what’s happening in the world, and you add Black Lives Matter into it, and it’s really just kind of changed the discussion and brought it to the forefront in a way that I’ve never seen in all my years in the ballet world.
And so I think that it’s given me an opportunity to have discussions in a new way where I think that it’s not just kind of a talking point. That these companies are kind of being put to task and making public statements and saying things they’re going to be held accountable for. And I think that’s a step in the right direction, which I’ve never seen before. It’s really positive. So to be able to have an opportunity to collaborate with a former colleague of mine and create a project [called Swans for Relief] to ask for relief, to bring relief efforts, to dancers all over the globe and major companies—22 different companies in 14 countries—was an incredible opportunity for me to use my platform and my reach to get funds to dancers who have lost out on opportunities to be on the stage and therefore can’t make money.
And it’s a lot to people, too. Already it’s hard to survive on a dancer’s salary, no matter where you are in the world. So, in this time, it’s even harder. And most major ballet companies, we are based in some of the biggest and most expensive cities in the world. So, it’s been hard to witness and watch, and I just wanted to be able to help in any way possible. It was nice to be able to take this opportunity to create that.
That sounds amazing!
I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about LG Signature. I know you’ve recently partnered with them, and that struck me as an unexpected collaboration, so I’d love to know how this partnership came about.
Yeah. I absolutely understand where you’re coming from. When I think about art, there are so many genres and so many categories. It’s something that I’ve always been drawn to, especially since I moved to New York City on my own when I was 17 years old, just fresh out of high school and attempted to survive and take care of myself, and cooking became such a big part of my life.
And I found it to be another artistic escape—a way to be creative in the kitchen and it not be as physical as dancing, but to still allow myself to be able to explore and learn about myself and take care of my body.
So to me, collaborating with LG made perfect sense. When I think about the things that they create and make, it’s up to the standards of what artists experience. And to be able to show what it is—to put in the work and the effort and that you don’t often see all that goes into creating something and then you just see this beautiful outcome—that’s something that I’ve often wanted to expose about the ballet world. Because I think there’s so much beauty in the work that goes into creating a product…I think there’s so much artistic creativity that’s so aligned with artists and ballet dancers in particular, putting in the work. That journey to creating this beautiful finished product that can help make people’s lives easier and more beautiful.
I attended LG Signature’s Notes from the Cellar wine tasting event. And during that tasting, you mentioned that you’d been cooking more. I’m curious what types of creations you’ve been cooking up, and if there are any specific products you’ve been really leaning on during quarantine.
It’s also been an interesting time because me and my husband have been finishing renovations on our apartment, which we bought two years ago now. And everything had to stop with everything that’s happening in the world. And so luckily, we were able to get our kitchen finished before we went into quarantine.
I don’t know how I would’ve survived without having a kitchen. And I got my LG signature range in there. The stove and the oven and there’s an amazing grill that I’ve never seen on a stove before. I’ve never had a chef’s kitchen, which is a dream. But to have a product that’s up to that standard is a new thing for me in my life, which I value so much because I do have so much respect for that industry and chefs and cooking. And so, something that is different about what I’ve used with these ranges is the grill. That’s something that I’ve never really explored. And I’ve done a lot of that during quarantine, and I grilled, I mean, everything you could possibly think of. I try and find a way that I [can] grill something. But like lobster tails are something that I did recently and had a picnic in the park with friends and made like a lobster salad. And they were so impressed. And I was like, “Oh, it’s my first time like using the grill.” And just to grill vegetables. And I love grilling leeks on it. But it’s just given me so much to explore in a new way that I haven’t cooked before. And just the quality and level of the product is something that I’ve never experienced in my New York City kitchen. They come with like a basic stove.
Oh yeah, I totally understand that. LG Signature also just released its new wine cellar. What do you think of it?
Oh my gosh, it was really exciting. The first time that I really got to explore and interact with it was when we shot for the segments. And it was unbelievable. I was so impressed…You just place your foot under the center to have the door open, so if your hands are full with bottles that you don’t want to break, to have that freedom to have a product, that’s there to, like I was saying, make your life easier.
And it’s just so multifunctional. And I’m a wine and prosecco/champagne drinker, so to be able to have one place where you can control the different temperatures for different wines and champagnes and sparkling wines is a new experience for me.
I think it’s really cool. And of course, it [has] refrigerator storage as well. To have a freezer and refrigerator drawers underneath the wine. I mean, it was a lot to take in. I was like, this is amazing. I could play with this all day.
I noticed that there are three words LG signature has been using in regard to its partnership with you. And those are “power,” “passion” and “performance.” What do those words mean to you?
I mean, everything. Like those are all things I think that it takes to be at this level as a performer, as an athlete, as an artist, to put out the best product. I think that for me, as a classical ballerina, there’s no way to survive and persevere and sustain at this level. I’m approaching my 20th season with American Ballet Theatre. There’s no way to get to that point and maintain without the passion.
And I think all the other things just kind of fall into place. I think that you just have to have power in order to have the strength to do what I do and what dancers do, and especially being a Black woman, there’s just a certain amount of power that you have to uphold and grace. I just feel so connected to all of those words. And I think that’s what it means to be a woman in the world, you know? I think it’s what it means to be an artist, and I just connect with those so directly and clearly.