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‘Aware to the Broader World’: Misty Copeland Addresses Backlash for Exposing a Ballet Company’s Use of Blackface

Misty Copeland spoke about the backlash she received for posting an Instagram photo in December that shows two ballerinas wearing blackface.

Copeland wanted to let people know the kind of racism that can exist in ballet, and how it’s common for Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre to dress its dancers in blackface.

Misty Copeland talked about the backlash she received for calling out a Russian ballet company that dresses its dancers in blackface. (Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images)

“They’re one of the biggest, most elite companies in the world, they’re in Russia and they still perform in blackface,” said Copeland at the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit on March 6, according to Essence.

“I made it aware to the broader world just by posting a photo of the little girls in blackface. I don’t think I can ever go back to Russia now,” she then said facetiously. “I don’t think they’ll let me in.”

The photo that Copeland posted in December shows two young girls dressed in blackface for a ballet called “La Bayadère.”

“And this is the reality of the ballet world,” she captioned that photo.

“And I’ve gotten so much backlash, which is just crazy,” Copeland told the audience last weekend. “It turned into me bullying some little girls because I exposed what they are doing and have been doing.”

Copeland also posted one person’s criticism of the picture, as well as her response.

“This is so so so wrong and this doesn’t make it okay but keep in mind the girls dress like this should know better but they don’t and have also been forced to dress like this and wear this makeup because of the company,” someone wrote. “The people in power at the Bolshoi need to learn this is wrong.”

“I want to believe that this is true,” Copeland replied. “But we all live in the world, and there’s no way on earth, with the access we have to the media, social media, educating and exposing ourselves to the world that they would be blind and ignorant.”

“I’m tired of giving the oppressors the benefit of the doubt,” she added. “They need to be exposed, called out, educated and more.”


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