Misty Copeland was born in Kansas City, Missouri but raised in San Pedro, California. She was born into a family that moved often due her mother's constantly-changing relationships. She has seven siblings, including her half-brothers and sisters. While being raised in San Pedro California, she participated in after school activities at the local San Pedro outlet of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Misty had always been a child who liked to dance, even if was in her bedroom to the music of Mariah Carey to another pop star. Misty auditioned to be on the step dance team of her middle school after seeing her sister do it. Misty immediately became captain of the team and even choreographed routines for them to perform. After seeing her dance, the dance team's sponsor told Misty she should take ballet classes at the Boys and Girls Club, since she was already going there after school. After a week of watching the ballet class every day, the ballet teacher Cynthia told her to join them.
It was discovered that Misty was considered a ballet prodigy. She had a late start at the age of 13, but by the age of 15 she had won ballet competitions and was living with her teacher Cynthia Bradley to help with her ballet education. She attended ballet summer intensives such as the one for the San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. She even faced controversy over her request for emancipation from her mother, which she later revoked.
Misty was accepted into the Studio Company for ABT in 2000. A year later, in 2001, she was accepted in the studio's professional company, American Ballet Theatre. She was in the Corps de Ballet. After being in the Corps de Ballet for many years and considering offers from other companies such as the Dance Theater of Harlem, she was promoted to soloist in 2007. She is ABT's first African American female soloist. Throughout her career at ABT she has had featured roles such as the firebird, the Queen of Dryads, the lead gypsy in Don Quixote, and the Fairy of Valor in the ballet Sleeping Beauty. She hopes to be promoted to a Principal at ABT.