Ballet dancers engender wild enthusiasm among fans, but only rarely do they break out of the niche-y confines of their underappreciated art form to capture the general public’s imagination and create anything approaching mainstream buzz. Mikhail Baryshnikov, legendary star of the 1970s–’80s stage, was probably the most recent example of a classical dancer turned household name. It took a few decades, but a fresh contender has finally emerged with the requisite charisma and promise of similar career relevance and longevity. Misty Copeland, the first Black female principal dancer at the world-famous American Ballet Theatre, sprang onto the internet’s radar in 2014 in an emotionally moving and thrillingly athletic Under Armour campaign (Google “I Will What I Want”), which went viral, garnering more than 10 million views on YouTube and catapulting Copeland from ballet’s best-kept secret to bona fide cultural sensation.
Copeland has amassed nearly two million Instagram followers; been the subject of a documentary (A Ballerina’s Tale); written several books, including her best-selling memoir, Life in Motion; performed dazzlingly onstage with Prince (who was a mentor) and Taylor Swift; had a Barbie doll released in her image, commemorating her pivotal role as the iconic Firebird; and accomplished all of this while continuing to sell out New York’s massive Metropolitan Opera House whether she is cast in the lead in Swan Lake, Giselle, or Romeo and Juliet.
Using her mighty platform to inspire and advocate for dancers of color and to educate the dance world about systemic racism, Copeland has organically morphed her artistry and stardom into activism. Along the way, she herself has become a celebrated global symbol of perseverance and triumph in the historically white world of ballet. If anyone deserves a delicious place to put her feet up after a long day on pointe, it is the famously humble, driven, talented, globally influential, beloved, and sweet-natured Copeland.
Two years ago she and her husband, lawyer Olu Evans, purchased their dream apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and enlisted in-demand, L.A.-based AD100 interior designer Brigette Romanek to completely reimagine the classic three-bedroom. “There are things we just cannot do on our own, and we realized how necessary it was to have a professional team,” Copeland says of the decision to hire a designer. “I did not comprehend how many layers there are to creating a beautiful home that feels organic.”
Evans, who took the lead in overseeing the project, says, “We wanted a person of color. There was a comfort level there, a vernacular. With Brigette we spoke the same cultural language. I enjoyed that connection,” he continues, adding, with a nod toward his other half, “I’m always drawn to strong women.”
Romanek says her starting point was “bringing the beautiful love of Misty and Olu into the apartment. They are a fantastic couple, they make each other better, and they are so hardworking. It had to be functional and full of color and life. I envision them coming home after an incredible performance, after creating a thing of beauty, and being in the next beautiful thing.” To that end, the designer riffed on Copeland’s brief—“relaxed grandeur, not precious, pretty, dreamy”—by bringing in cozy, sumptuous fabric. The assorted velvets, silks, and linens all introduce a tactile yumminess she calls “livable luxe.”
In the living room, that translated to regal blue velvet upholstery (“Brigette pushed us with color,” Evans notes. “She calls it her ‘funky’ side”) and a custom walnut wall cabinet to house the TV and their collection of personal photos. In the adjoining dining area, a generously proportioned chandelier that looks like a vintage find but comes from Circa Lighting reflects glamorously in a mirrored wall, which itself enlarges the space. For the couple’s bedroom, Romanek suggested a lush silk rug (“It had to feel good under Misty’s feet,” she says laughing) and upholstered the walls and headboard in creamy, cocooning suede. “We started with a box, and now we have a jewelry box,” says Romanek, who brought on architect Jeffery Povero to work on parts of the project.
Despite the glittering beauty of the decorating scheme, Copeland insists, “We live hard! We are not delicate people. We needed things that would age well.” Pausing a beat, the elegant ballerina reveals, “My nickname is Bamm-Bamm.” The couple say that the open living-dining room is their favorite space. “We love to entertain,” avers Evans. And Copeland, the chef in the family, mentions the newly refreshed and brightened kitchen as a particular happy place. (Her 2017 book Ballerina Body, another best seller, features her own recipes and nutrition tips; she is also a host of LG Signature’s new Notes From the Cellar wine-and-cooking series.)
But no matter how much they insist they are just a couple of clumsy, home-cooking homebodies, a peek into the impressive walk-in closet (formerly a bedroom) reveals an intense aspect of Copeland’s high-profile career: red carpets, endless events, and guest appearances. “My dressing room was my number-one priority,” says Copeland, who helped style and design it. “I was nervous about that space,” Romanek confesses. “I needed to nail it! Misty has so many events. She needed a place to be alone, to get dressed. Working with California Closets was great. We tried to give her exactly what she needs and what she wants. There is a place for dresses, for shoes, full-length mirrors, a generously sized island, and a spot for glam with good natural light…a lot of thought went into it.”
Another area of focus is the notable art collection Copeland and Evans are patiently building, composed largely of artists of color, including Lorna Simpson, Deborah Roberts, and Asuka Anastacia Ogawa. “Again, we seem to be drawn to women,” reflects Evans. The couple have been contentedly nesting in their new home throughout the COVID-19 quarantine, Evans working at the dining table and Copeland exercising at a movable ballet barre in the building’s gym until she can resume her calling onstage. “Being here for so many months, we have really made it our own—normally it would have taken years because of our work and travel schedules,” they say in perfect unison. Life in balance.