The world’s most inspiring women are not only adept at shining in the spotlight, they are equally masterful in raising awareness of the causes that matter most to them. This is why Breitling chose three talented women, each with a fierce sense of purpose, to form its Spotlight Squad: American ballet dancer Misty Copeland, award-winning actress and producer Charlize Theron, and Chinese actress and philanthropist Yao Chen.
In the campaign, they each reveal how they have inspired change through their work and recount the moments that led them to where they are today. Click the links below to jump to their stories.
Misty Copeland is considered one of the dancing world’s greatest prodigies. After taking her first class at the age of 13, Copeland was dancing en pointe within just three months, and was performing professionally within four years when she joined American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company. She also made history when she was promoted in 2015, becoming American Ballet Theatre’s first African American female principal dancer — an achievement she cites as the one she is most proud of.
“Ballet discovered me. And it was the first time in my life that I felt beautiful and I felt empowered, and I felt like I had a voice and I had purpose.” — Misty Copeland
“To be a Black woman, an American, and a principal dancer in a classical ballet company with the American Ballet Theatre — and to know what that represents and how it has changed the classical ballet world — is probably one of my proudest accomplishments,” says Copeland.
Misty’s Copeland’s appointment as principal dancer created a shift in audience members at the theatre, helping to attract more diverse and younger fans. It’s something she says is a highlight of her 20-year career and a trend that she hopes will only continue to grow.
“I speak openly and candidly about race and racism in ballet and it’s something that will never end. It will always be something I’m fighting for, as long as I’m alive,” says Copeland.
As one of the world’s most successful award-winning actors and producers, the spotlight is familiar territory for Charlize Theron. Since the start of her career in the ’90s, Theron’s work has been received with critical acclaim, but it was the film Monster that saw her make history as the first South African to win an Academy Award in a major acting category.
“Getting nominated for, and winning, the Academy Award for Monster was life-changing and it really changed my career.” — Charlize Theron
Theron believes that the driving force for her success has always come from the love, satisfaction and fulfillment that she gets from her work. “I was raised in South Africa, a country with a lot of political turmoil, and when I was a young child it was still part of the apartheid era,” she says.
“I think growing up in a country with that constant boiling of the pot made me very aware of the appreciation for good things in your life. The concept of finding something that I loved to do, that would make me happy and wasn’t just a job, was something that I knew to appreciate from a very young age.”
And while Theron’s career brings her much personal satisfaction, she is also dedicated to opening doors for more women in the film industry through her role as a producer. “The future of the movie industry is one we need to be held somewhat accountable for,” she states.
“I think we’ve talked a really good game for so many years, but we haven’t necessarily done that much about it. I do this as a producer, and as somebody who can develop material and hire directors: what is the story that I’m telling? Is this a story that we deserve and that we don’t get enough of? And how can I bring in more female voices to actually tell those stories that are the most familiar to them?”
Actress Yao Chen has redefined what a leading lady in China can be thanks to a diverse array of roles. Growing up as the only child of a train driver, she never imagined she’d become a star of the stage and screen. “When I was a kid, I didn’t fantasize about being under the spotlight,” she reveals. “At that time, my dream was to become a teacher or a painter, but I never thought I would become an actress. Sometimes fate just takes you to where you need to go.”
“The driving force for me to keep moving forward is love. Love can make people go from earth to heaven.” — Yao Chen
As well as being an award-winning actress, Yao is a prolific social activist and uses her influence as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador to raise vast funds for refugees in Asia. “The driving force for me to keep moving forward is love. Love can make people go from earth to heaven,” she explains. “It can go deep into various professional fields to witness the miracles of people who love life.”
Chen has also founded her own studio, opening doors for mature actors, and is passionate about breaking down barriers to empower others. As she describes it, “I was born to be an adventurous person. In my opinion, the biggest adventure in life is the process of learning about yourself and others. It takes curiosity and courage, so that you won’t give up easily when faced with difficulties. You can choose to keep moving forward.”