In conversation

President Obama praises Misty Copeland for promoting positive body image

(L) (Bon Duke/The New York Times); (R) (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

President Obama praised ballerina Misty Copeland for serving as a positive role model for African-American women, including his own daughters, in a discussion for Time magazine about race, body image, and success on Monday. The pair talked about how Copeland, who is the first African-American principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre, has been described as “athletic or large,” despite how petite she is, and the ways in which there is extra pressure on black women to have the right body type, hair, or complexion to fit in with society’s demands.

“When I was a kid I didn’t realize as much, or maybe it was even a part of which is the enormous pressure that young women are placed under in terms of looking a certain way. And being cute in a certain way. And are you wearing the right clothes? And is your hair done the right way. And that pressure I think is historically always been harder on African American women than just about any other women,” he said.

Obama said that he has realized, as a father to two daughters, how images of strong, athletic women can be powerful to encourage them to continue on in sports and dance, which can contribute to a lifetime of increased confidence and happiness.

“Misty’s a great example of that,” he said.

Copeland said that blazing her own trail within the ballet world has helped boost her own confidence and acceptance of her own body.

“We are fully capable of doing everything that the person who doesn’t have an extremely athletic body, that is more thin. We’re fully capable of doing exactly the same thing,” she said.

Read the full transcript at TIME.

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