2015 IMPACT25 Influencer: Misty Copeland

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"Every time I dance, I'm trying to prove myself to myself." -- Misty Copeland

Ballerina Misty Copeland's year was, in all aspects, a grand jeté: the powerful ballet leap in which the dancer flies high above the stage in an impressive splits pose. Before this year, Copeland had already disrupted the classical world of ballet -- she was the first African American to play the lead role in "Swan Lake" -- and challenged millions to rethink their definition of an athlete through her Under Armour campaign. (Tutus and tiaras deserve as much respect as shoulder pads.)

In 2015, she continued to turn heads. Her muscular body landed on the cover of Time, and months later, she landed her biggest role to date. On June 30, the American Ballet Theatre promoted her to the role of principal dancer, making her the first African-American woman in the company's 75-year history to hold that title.

What's more, New Line has optioned her 2014 autobiography, "Life in Motion"; a documentary about her life, "A Ballerina's Tale," was released in the fall; and she announced she's teaming up with writer Tracy Oliver to create a drama about aspiring dancers. A powerful leap, indeed.

More On Misty Copeland

• The announcement: Copeland wows us Story »

• Copeland beats the odds Video »

• "Late Show" performance with Yo-Yo Ma Story »

• Copeland inspires GoldieBlox video Story »

The IMPACT25 is espnW's annual list of the 25 athletes and influencers who have made the greatest impact for women in sports. Explore the 2015 list at espnW.com/IMPACT25.

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