TIME recently sat down with both President Obama and Misty Copeland for a really fascinating talk about race, body image, and success….and they caught it all on video. As African-Americans who have broken down major barriers in their respective careers, watching them tell their personal stories and exchange views on issues that affect everyone is so enlightening.
"As the father of two daughters, one of the things I'm always looking for are strong women who are out there who are breaking barriers and doing great stuff," says Obama. "And Misty's a great example of that. Somebody who has entered a field that's very competitive, where the assumptions are that she may not belong. And through sheer force of will and determination and incredible talent and hard work she was able to arrive at the pinnacle of her field."
Copeland admits that most of the racism she has experienced in the ballet world has taken place behind her back, or in very subtle ways. But it has instilled in her a fire to succeed.
"I think that having a platform and having a voice to be seen by people beyond the classical ballet world has really been my power I feel," she says. "It's allowed me to say, it's okay to have a healthy athletic body. We are fully capable of doing everything that the person who doesn't have an extremely athletic body, that is more thin. We're fully capable of doing exactly the same thing. And I think that being in this position and showing that I can execute and do all of these things that it's possible to have any skin complexion, to have a healthy body image for the ballerina body."
When the President expresses surprise over the fact that Copeland has been described as having a more "athletic" figure than other ballerinas, especially given her tiny frame, Copeland explains why she thinks that description may be more about race than actual body type.
"I think it's a lot of the language and how we use it," she says. "And I think for a lot of people of color, that seems to be an easy way or a way out by saying you don't fit in. It may be it's your skin color. It may be the texture of your hair. Whatever it is."
Head here for the full transcript of Obama and Copeland's conversation.