Misty Copeland
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

June is African-American Music Appreciation Month, and as we celebrate the sounds that have inspired generations both past and present, the talented Misty Copeland has provided a special glimpse into the songs that influenced her life.

Starting from childhood, Copeland details how her all-time favorite songs have shaped her into the woman she is today. The raw passion of Anita Baker, the bare truths of Mariah Carey and the sweet melodies of Amel Larrieux each have a place on Copeland’s playlist.


This is how music has changed the life of one of ballet’s brightest stars.

Anita Baker, “Body and Soul”

“I hear and feel my dad with Anita’s music. I must have been about 4 when I remember hearing her for the first time. I could always feel this deep emotion from Anita’s voice. When this song came out, even though I had no idea what it was about because I was pretty young, it touched me in in a way that music should. Warm and powerful.”

Sade, “Lovers Rock”

“I grew up on Sade, but I was reintroduced to her by my boyfriend on my 23rd birthday. He made me a romantic playlist including some very descriptive songs [laughs out loud], but it was Sade’s ‘Lovers Rock’ which really spoke to me about us.”


Mariah Carey, “Looking In”

“Mariah’s early music was a huge part of my adolescence. ‘Looking In’ was this perfect description of what I was feeling and going through when I was about 16 years old. Feeling like no one understood me, who saw me as this perfect little ballerina girl, but just didn’t know the real me.”


The Beatles, “Something”

“Listening to this song blasting through the streets of Greece from the amphitheater as ABT [the American Ballet Theatre] performed on my first big tour as a company member. I had this crazy emotional rush of being in this incredible place, dancing with my dream company. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.”


Amel Larrieux, “For Real”

“I met my boyfriend the summer of 2004. This album spoke to me. This song in particular I thought was written for us. I would walk through [New York’s] Central Park and listen to this song over and over and write about him in my journal.” 


Trent Jones is an editorial fellow at The Root. He also produces a daily video commentary called #Trents2Cents. Follow him on Twitter.

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