'This Week' Sunday Spotlight: Misty Copeland

American Ballet Theatre dancer Misty Copeland on overcoming adversity in the classical ballet world.
3:00 | 04/06/14

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Transcript for 'This Week' Sunday Spotlight: Misty Copeland
President Obama will mark the anniversary this week. Now we shine our Sunday spotlight on an african-american trail blazer. Misty Copeland is set to become a breakout ballet star. One of the only elite ballerinas, and she's wondering why there aren't more like her. Here's "Nightline" and weekend "Gma" anchor, Dan Harris. ? Reporter: Two surprising things to know about misty Copeland who's a soloist at the prestigious American ballet theater. First, her day in this supposedly day or nighty, genteel world is phenomenally rigorous. There are professional athletes who probably couldn't handle your day. Yeah. It takes more strength than a lot of athletes put in. Reporter: The second surprise, how she rose to the top of this elite art form. I had no real direction or motivation to become anything. Reporter: Copeland let an impof I impoverished childhood with her siblings and her single mom in a hotel. We were pretty much homeless and living in a motel trying to scrape up enough money to go to the corner store and get cup a noodle soup to eat. It was the worst time in my childhood when ballet found me. Reporter: More specifically, ballet teacher Cindy Bradley who discovered misty at age 13 at this boys and girls club. Having someone believe in me is why I think I dove into it. Reporter: Incredibly, just four years after her first class, misty was accepted by one of the top ballet companies in the world. But then should face an even larger struggle. I can't wait. She's back. Of course she's back. Reporter: No, not "Black swan"-style scheming. But instead something for subtle. How often do you run across african-american or other minority ballerinas? With classical ballet, you don't see it. Reporter: In classical ballet, elite ballerinas are virtually always white. People don't to want break the tradition of what they think is an ideal image of a ballerina. Reporter: She was the only black ballerina at Abt. And none at the highest level, the position of principal ballerina, Copeland's fervent dream. Here we are in America with a black president, and this little world is so tough to crack. It's really hard, the classical ballet world is so far behind. Reporter: Have you ever encountered overt racism? Not so much myself. But to hear from a 7-year-old african-american girl being told that, you know, maybe you shouldn't be in this ballet class because you won't have a career. Reporter: She is hoping to change that with a new Abt program to recruit minority students. And she's a star as well. Dancing with prince or tlc. You're going to do a lunge and hold your arm out. Reporter: Even with an uncoordinated television reporter. I want you to know that I'm doing all the hard work here. Are you ever up on stage, thinking, how did I get here? It's crazy, but then I have to remember all the hard work that went into those years to get here. But I do often think of that. Reporter: And she's not done yet. For "This week," Dan Harris, ABC news, New York. A big thanks to misty and Dan. Check out an excerpt of misty Copeland's new book, life in motion, on ABC news.com/this week.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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