AMY ASTLEY & MISTY COPELAND

AMY ASTLEY & MISTY COPELAND

FADE IN:

INT. BILL’S FOOD AND DRINK, MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY — AFTERNOON

The clubby private dining room of Bill’s, on East 54th Street, occupies the third floor of the 1890s-era brownstone-turned-restaurant. Antique books line shelves built into the walls, which are painted a moody shade of deep blue. A pair of armchairs upholstered in crimson velvet sits in front of an antique fireplace whose wood has been traded for several candles.

CUT TO:

AMY ASTLEY and MISTY COPELAND enter, already deep in discussion. Each takes a seat in an armchair as they continue to converse.

AMY
Oh my god. Your legs in the flesh [MISTY laughs]! You are so beautiful I can’t stand it.

MISTY
You’re crazy [laughs]! Your presence in fashion and among our youth, along with your passion for ballet, is so incredible.

AMY
That’s me in a nutshell: Fashion, youth, and ballet! I’ve been watching you for so, so long — both as a dancer and as someone whom I admire. I couldn’t get to Australia to see you in “Swan Lake,” but maybe I’ll make it to Washington, D.C. for your performances with The Washington Ballet.

MISTY
What’s so insane is that, in my experience, ballet tickets — unless for Mikhail Baryshnikov or Natalia Makarova — do not sell out. But my shows in D.C. sold out within two days [AMY claps].

AMY
High five! Best-selling author and dancer. That you can sell out a ballet is amazing. Exposing our readers to the arts is really important to me.

MISTY
The way you help promote us — me, other dancers, and dance itself — is awesome. Seeing it in Teen Vogue makes it compelling, and relevant, to our generation.

AMY
A lot of people say to me, ‘Only girls who take ballet will be interested.’ But Teen Vogue’s excerpt of your book, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, and the story we did on Michaela DePrince, another young dancer, are two of the most popular features we’ve ever published. Strictly Ballet, the show we did about New York City’s School of American Ballet on YouTube and TeenVogue.com was a massive hit — our most successful video program.

MISTY
People have to be exposed to that world in order to understand how it can enrich their lives.

AMY
As a fan of dance, Instagram has improved my life so much. I follow so many dancers and companies; every day, I get a dose. I love the videos you post! Sharing your talent, beauty, and excellence as a dancer on social media has resulted in more awareness, outside the world of ballet.

MISTY
It’s important to me to have a presence. Once I got to a certain point in my career, I wanted to bring ballet to more people. As a black woman, I’m representing this primarily white art form. But the cyberbullying —

AMY
Do you experience that?

MISTY
Yes. And I guess it’s up to me to listen or not to listen to it, but that can be really difficult. I get a lot of negative criticism —

AMY
Oh my god, my heart just stopped. I have the chills. That is the worst news.

MISTY
I try not to get caught up in it. I don’t want to be combative, or to give in to the critics. But I will defend what I stand for in an intelligent way.

AMY
Yes! Have you stopped reading the comments?

MISTY
No [laughs]. I’m used to hearing it. We spend ten hours a day in the studio getting feedback; I don’t know if it’s necessarily negative, per se, but you’re constantly getting criticized. So I can get fixated on it. I know what it’s like to be the only one — to be the only African American female dancer in a company of 80 — and I know I have to adapt to how the world works today.

AMY
It’s very destructive to witness haters. I hope you can move beyond them. I see so much support and love for you… I hope you’ll fixate on that!

MISTY
In my world — and, I imagine, even in the fashion industry — you become so accustomed to criticism that sometimes it’s easier to focus on the negative than the positive.

AMY
I was a dancer — I started at 11 — and now I work in fashion, so maybe I’m a glutton for punishment [MISTY laughs]. To me, one thing they have in common is that they’re both glamorous and beautiful, but there is so much hard work involved. My mother used to say, ‘Who would quit ballet, and then go work at Vogue?’

MISTY
People think of ballerinas as fairy tale characters; it’s as if they’re not real, so how could someone relate to that person? At this point, I think we want to be seen as the real people that we are.

AMY
In your book, you talk a lot about being told that you weren’t the right color, or that you were too curvy or muscular. It’s inspiring to see someone get where they want to go, especially when others say they can’t.

MISTY
Everyone knows what it feels like to be told you aren’t good enough, and I think people want to cheer on someone who’s persevered through that. Parents will say, ‘Why put my child through something when there are no real opportunities for them afterward?’ It’s not necessarily about becoming a professional dancer, it’s about gaining tools that can be applied to your life.

AMY
The experiences are enriching in themselves. That’s why I emphasize dance and athletics to kids, because you learn not to be a quitter or not to say ‘I can’t.’ I learned that in ballet.

MISTY
How do you feel when you’re watching a performance?

AMY
I feel out of shape [laughs].

MISTY
Oh my god, you’re ridiculous [AMY laughs].

AMY
I’m obsessed with the beauty of a dancer’s body — yours is one of the most extraordinary instruments I’ve ever seen in my life. I like to see the feet; sometimes I’ll be staring at yours and stop watching the choreography. Your muscles are strong and delicate. I think a huge reason why you’ve captured the public’s imagination is that mix of strength and femininity.

MISTY
I’m constantly being asked, ‘How do you get a ballet body?’ Take a ballet class!

AMY
For ten hours a day!

MISTY
I do things outside of dancing, like Pilates mat classes. And I will go on the elliptical. I remember being on vacation with my boyfriend when a couple approached us, walked right past me, and said to him, ‘You have the most amazing body. What do you do?’ He was like: I’m an attorney. And I was thinking, ‘I’m the professional athlete [laughs]!’

AMY
Taking care of one’s body is another aspect that dance and fashion share.

MISTY
I’d say more than half the battle —

AMY
Is nutrition.

MISTY
Yes. And it’s not about being thin, it’s about being strong. Even for models.

AMY
The feeling of strength is so important. When your body is strong, your mind is strong, and you learn that you can accomplish things.

MISTY
As an artist, and as a person, that’s part of what keeps me going: proving to myself that I’m capable of taking on the next challenge.

AMY
Whether in dance or fashion, if you can get to the top, you know you’re made of stern stuff. It’s sort of like “Swan Lake.” The swan is so beautiful on the water, but underneath, the legs are working like crazy.

CREDITS

Photography byChris Bernabeo

Conversation moderated byAnthony Rotunno

Special thanksBill’s Food and Drink

Amy Astley is the editor in chief of Architectural Digest
Misty Copeland is a principal dancer at American Ballet Theater and an author.

Did you see? Choreographer Justin Peck stages his first show for the New York City Ballet, Adult magazine editor Sarah Nicole Prickett takes The Thick Questionnaire.

THE END