updated 08/02/2014 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 08/02/2014 AT 3:50 PM ET
A soloist in the American Ballet Theatre (and a recent guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance), Copeland, 32, shows off her athletic form in the 60-second I Will What I Want spot, performing exquisite ballet moves across the stage while a girl’s voice reads real rejection letters Copeland received growing up: “You have the wrong body for ballet.”
Raised in San Pedro, California, Copeland didn’t take her first ballet class until she was 13, which is considered by many to be too old to start a dance career. Although she was quickly deemed a prodigy, she was also criticized for having legs that were too muscular and feet too big for a dancer.
Refusing to give up, at 24 Copeland became the second black soloist in the history of the prestigious American Ballet Theatre in N.Y.C., making her the perfect subject to deliver the “I Will What I Want” campaign’s message of perseverance.