misty copeland
Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment
1. I was born to move. I didn't take dance or gymnastics as a kid—my first ballet class was when I was 13—but I taught myself how to do backflips in the yard and choreographed routines for every Mariah Carey song you can think of. No one ever said, "Do this, try this"—it naturally flowed out of me.

2. Getting a late start has its advantages. There are ballet dancers who burn out by their teens, but I was ready to go, and still hungry. My body wasn't worn down, and I didn't have that craving for approval that gets ingrained when you start at age 3 or 4. I was just dancing to dance, because I loved it.

3. If you can make it through the second act of Swan Lake, you can do anything. It's excruciating, it's agony, so you have to go someplace else in your mind. When I was in the corps de ballet, I would listen to my iPod right before going onstage and quietly sing to myself during the performance. The time would fly by because I was singing Justin Timberlake instead of focusing on the pain.

4. Cooking is my escape. It's a way to be creative and experimental without being extremely physical, which is what I'm used to. And it's mentally relaxing. There's nothing like zoning out and chopping onions.

5. You can never be overprepared. I'm a Virgo, superorganized, very type A; my boyfriend makes fun of me because I can't do anything without making a list first. It's the same before I go onstage. When I'm creating a character, I want to know everything.

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