Interview: Breitling’s Resident Ballerina Misty Copeland Talks Time And Watches
When Breitling hosts a party, they do it right. So, at the re-opening of their Madison Avenue boutique in New York City, it seemed only natural that ballerina extraordinaire Misty Copeland was present. Not only that, but she also talked with Watchonista one-on-one about time and watches.
Misty Copeland says time is always on her mind as a Breitling brand ambassador and the first African American woman to become principal ballerina for the American Ballet Theater. That's because gliding through the air on stage in front of hundreds of people takes perfect timing and precision – much like a fine watch. So when Breitling CEO Georges Kern asked Copeland last year to join the Spotlight Squad (alongside Charlize Theron and Yao Chen), she said yes.
"I think the [squad] concept is so powerful, especially the Spotlight Squad. For young girls and other people to see women lift up women around them, and the sisterhood there is beautiful,” says Misty. "I think we are not often given that opportunity as women. There are so few spaces for women, so having this squad stand together and empower one another with people from different walks of life is a great example for others. I am so honored to be part of this amazing legacy and group of incredible women.”
Elegantly coiffed in a light blue dress with a voluminous skirt reminiscent of a ballerina’s tutu, Copeland waxed eloquently about timepieces and the synergies between her art and the art of watchmaking.
“[Watchmaking] feels so connected to what I do. All of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making something is what people don't see. They don't know what it takes to create this beautiful piece of art, and they don't always recognize the process and the work that goes into its making, whether it's on the stage, in stores, or on the wrist. I have so much respect for what it takes to create something qualitative and timeless. I feel very connected to that journey.”
Copeland, who endured a challenging childhood that included moments of homelessness and, as such, not even dreaming of becoming a ballerina, insists that dancing found her, not the other way around. Today, the ballet dancer, who had her first ballet experience at age 13 in an afterschool program at her local Boys and Girls Club, has become one of the most famous ballerinas of our time. She was named by Time magazine in 2015 as one of their "100 most influential people" and had a documentary made about her life (A Ballerina’s Tale). Copeland has won numerous awards – all at a time when there was no role model in ballet that looked like her.
Always fighting for inclusivity and diversity, Copeland founded Swans for Relief during the pandemic to help struggling dancers worldwide. She's also in the throes of starting a new eponymous foundation.
“I think for kids today that are struggling, it’s hard to see a brighter future for yourself or to see the possibilities. It is important to stay open-minded and know that you are not your surroundings. You are not the circumstances that you are in.”
She added, “The foundation is about giving back to communities that need afterschool programs and access to the arts to enrich lives. It’s about meeting people where they are. I hope to give [the communities] access, give them tools and surround them with people that look like them. That will allow for an easier transition into something unfamiliar and different.” Copeland noted that this is another connection to her roots and the arts that she is bringing full circle to help others.
Between her dancing, her production company, her foundations, and her role as a Breitling Spotlight Squad member, Copeland says that time is the thing she grapples with the most – mainly because it comes into play in several different ways.
“Time plays a huge role and is always something on top of a dancer’s mind. A dancer's career is so concentrated, and you have a sense that there is such a short amount of time to accomplish everything that you want to do, so it is always on our minds. But, in another way, when you dance, you are working against gravity and time, creating this beautiful illusion on stage that stops time for the audience. Your art replaces what is in their mind, and they are no longer on the clock of what their lives are. You create this beautiful, timeless moment where they can just appreciate something. So, when on stage, there is a sense of that moment where time stops and stands still. I appreciate that, too.”
After reflecting on the art of ballet, watchmaking, and talking about the many roles time plays in her life, Misty looked down at the Breitling Chronomat on her wrist. "There is something so beautiful about wearing a watch and about the kind of delicate touch, especially on a woman’s wrist, that I appreciate,” she said. While the first watch she ever owned had sunflowers on the dial and was a gift from her mother when she was about seven years old, Copeland says she can see herself as a watch collector. “As a ballerina, I am so aware of my limbs and how to balance things beautifully to find the right proportions in the things I wear, including jewelry and the watch on my wrist. I love the feminine power of them, so I definitely see myself becoming a collector.”
As to the Breitling Spotlight Squad concept, Copeland says she thinks the next squad should be a group of younger people. “We need to target that young, up-and-coming influential person, like Amanda Gorman, people who are changing the world in different ways and that are trying to empower the next generation to do more than us. So, a young youth squad would be inspiring.”