If Misty Copeland joined the American Ballet Theater, one of the most respected companies in the world before the age of 17 years, could not help but feel like a stranger. “We do not know that black women in history, the beginning of time in the ballet, was said to whiten the skin and to shade the nose in a white so looking” Copeland told an audience with WeWork 500 7th avenue in New York City on September 17, “a large part of my youth at the American Ballet Theater was hearing those words.” Copeland, but more than it proved that he belonged. In 2015, she became the first female solo dancers African Americans are called the American Ballet Theater. In the same year she was nominated for the TIME 100, TIME’s annual list of most influential people in the world. Since then Copeland advertising contracts with the ink with Under Armor, Estee Lauder, Dannon, and other companies. Your way to the top of the ballet was unusual. “I had an education very chaotic,” he said. One of six children raised by a single mother, says Copeland, lived in a motel, when his first ballet class at 13 he attended a Boy & Girls Club in San Pedro, California. Many dancers start training soon after they start walking. But a late start does not stop Copeland. When she joined the American Ballet Theater, Copeland was inescapable fact, both for their graceful performance and their race. “My first three or four years in the company, was the first time it struck me that I was alone,” said Copeland. “That I’m the only black woman. It ‘was the first time that the race has been brought to my attention. It’ was shocking.” For example, Copeland says at one point she was told that he could not play in the second act of Swan Lake, the popular ballet, performed for the first time in the late 19th century, Russia because of their skin color. Some people whispered that should not be in Swan Lake at all, says Copeland. As a soloist, Copeland took a special interest in mentoring color dancers and ballet diversification. She answered by aspiring dancers letters and remained attached to the Boys & Girls Club. In 2016, Mattel released a Barbie doll in the image of Copeland. Copeland made sure that no skin tone was lightened. No one in the shadow of his nose. “It ‘was very important for me,” he said. “And ‘that enables to grow so for young girls with a brown Barbie, who is a dancer.” Copeland conference, which was a time corresponding Haley Sweetland Edwards moderate was the third event in the TIME 100 x WeWork Speaker Series.