Misty Copeland

Ballet

Served as envoy

  • 2016  –  Cuba

Born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in San Pedro, California, Misty Copeland began her ballet studies at the age of 13 at the San Pedro City Ballet.  At the age of fifteen she won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards.  She then began her studies at the Lauridsen Ballet Center.  Copeland has studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared ABT’s National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000.

Copeland joined ABT Studio Company in September 2000, then joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001 and was appointed a Soloist in August 2007.  Her roles with the Company include Terpsichore in Apollo, Gamzatti, a Shade and the Lead D’Jampe in La Bayadère, Milkmaid in The Bright Stream, the Fairy Autumn in Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, Blossom in James Kudelka’s Cinderella, Swanilda and the Mazurka Lady in Coppélia, Gulnare and an Odalisque in Le Corsaire, Kitri, Mercedes, Driad Queen, the lead gypsy and a flower girl in Don QuixoteDuo Concertant, the Masks in Christopher Wheeldon’s VIII, Lise in Las Fille mal gardée, the Firebird in Alexei Ratmansky’s Firebird, Flower Girl in Gaîté Parisienne, GiselleZulma and the peasant pas de deux in Giselle, Queen of Shemakahn in The Golden Cockerel, Pierrette in Harlequinade, the title role in Jane Eyre, Manon and Lescaut’s Mistress in Manon, Clara the Princess, Columbine and one of The Nutcracker’s Sisters in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, Bianca in Othello, a Gypsy in Petrouchka, the Lead Polovtsian Girl in the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor, the Saracen Dancer in Raymonda, Cowgirl in Rodeo, Juliet and a Harlot in Romeo and JulietSinatra Suite, Princess Florine in The Sleeping Beauty, Odette-Odile, the pas de trois, a cygnet and the Hungarian Princess in Swan Lake, the Waltz in Les Sylphides, the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Princess Praline in Whipped Cream, leading roles in Bach PartitaBirthday Offering, Brahms-Haydn Variations, Monotones I, and Thirteen Diversions, and roles in AirsAmazed in Burning DreamsBaker’s DozenBallo della ReginaBlack TuesdayThe Brahms-Haydn VariationsBrief FlingCompany BDésirDeuce Coupe, GongHereafterIn the Upper Room, Overgrown Path, Pretty Good Year, Private LightRaymonda Divertissements, Sechs TänzeSinfoniettaSymphonic Variations, Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison and workwithinwork.

Copeland created the Spanish Dance in Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, the Fairy Fleur de farine (Wheat flower) in Ratmansky’s The Sleeping Beauty, His Loss in AfterEffect, and roles in AFTERITE, C. to C. (Close to Chuck), DumbartonGarden Blue, Glow – StopHer Notes, I Feel The Earth Move, One of Three and With a Chance of Rain.

Copeland received the 2008 Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts and was named National Youth of the Year Ambassador for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2013.  In 2014, President Obama appointed Copeland to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.  She is the recipient of a 2014 Dance Magazine Award and was named to the 2015 TIME 100 by TIME Magazine.  Copeland is the author of the best-selling memoir, Life in Motion, children’s book Firebird and Ballerina Body.

Copeland was appointed a Principal Dancer in August 2015.

Ms. Copeland’s performances with American Ballet Theatre are sponsored by Valentino D. Carlotti.

Shaquille O’Neal

Basketball

Served as envoy

  • 2016  –  Cuba

Born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 6, 1972, Shaquille O’Neal is considered to be one of the most dominant basketball players in NBA history. At 7 ft 1 in tall and weighing 325 pounds, Shaq’s larger-than-life personality and powerful athleticism have resulted in worldwide adulation and one of the most passionate fan bases in sports and entertainment.

O’Neal played for six teams throughout his 19-year NBA career and was announced as a nominee for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on December 21, 2015.

Following his career at Louisiana State University, O’Neal was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft. He quickly became one of the best centers in the league, winning Rookie of the Year in 1992–93 and later leading his team to the 1995 NBA Finals. After four years with the Magic, O’Neal signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won three consecutive championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002. In 2004, O’Neal moved on to the Miami Heat and won his fourth NBA championship in 2006. Between 2007 and 2011, Shaq took his talents to Phoenix, Cleveland and finally Boston where he finished out is illustrious basketball career.

Shaq’s individual accolades include the 1999–2000 MVP award, the 1992–93 NBA Rookie of the Year award, 15 All-Star game selections, three All-Star Game MVP awards, three Finals MVP awards, two scoring titles, 14 All-NBA team selections, and three NBA All-Defensive Team selections. He is one of only three players to win NBA MVP, All-Star game MVP and Finals MVP awards in the same year. He ranks 7th all-time in points scored, 5th in field goals, 13th in rebounds, and 7th in blocks. Largely due to his ability to dunk the basketball, O’Neal also ranks 3rd all-time in field goal percentage (58.2%).

Shaquille O’Neal’s off-court accolades rival his athletic accomplishments, having found success in acting, music, television and gaming. Currently, Shaq is an analyst on Inside The NBA.

Philanthropically, Shaquille’s relationship with the Boys & Girls Club of America dates back to his youth in New Jersey. As a national spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, he has been participating in campaigns with the non-profit company for the past 15 years.

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Baseball

Served as envoy

  • 2011  –  Philippines
  • 2014  –  Mexico
  • 2014  –  Cuba

Ken Griffey Jr. was born Nov. 21, 1969. He is married to Melissa Griffey. They have three children: George Kenneth III (“Trey”), daughter Taryn Kennedy, and adopted son Tevin Kendall.

Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the greatest baseball players in history. “Junior,” as he is often called, won 10 straight Gold Glove awards, was named to the All Star team 13 times, was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1997, and hit at total of 630 home runs, placing him fifth on the all-time list. He is the first son to play on the same team as his father, current Cincinnati Reds coach Ken Griffey Sr. During his career, Ken Griffey Jr. played for the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds, plus a short time for the Chicago White Sox.

In November 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named Griffey a public diplomacy envoy. Due to his obligations to Major League Baseball, he was unable to make his first trip until February 2011, when he led a highly successful visit to Manila and Cebu in the Philippines. Ken Griffey Sr. has worked with our sports visitor programs on several occasions, most recently this March with our Honduran baseball coaches program.

Natasha Watley

Softball

Served as envoy

  • 2013  –  India
  • 2014  –  Mexico
  • 2014  –  Cuba

Natasha Watley has mastered softball on every level she has played and competed in; from travel ball from a very young age, all the way through her professional career by taking home a gold medal from the 2004 Olympics & a silver medal from 2008 Olympics.

During the 2004 Olympics, Watley, assisted the US Softball Team on their third consecutive gold medal in Athens, by breaking the Olympic record for stolen bases, and was third on the team with a .400 batting average, with 9 hits and 10 RBI. During the 2008 Olympics, Watley hit .321 in the leadoff position with two home runs and six RBIs.
Also internationally, Watley is a two –time Pan American Gold Medalist (2003 & 2007), three-time World Champion (2002, 2006, 2010), and a four-time World Cup Champion (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010).
As a four-time All- American short stop, Watley, led her UCLA softball team to three straight Woman’s College World Series and the NCAA Divsion 1 Softball Championship title in 2003. She was awarded the Honda- Broderick Cup for top collegiate female athlete, as well as PAC 10 Player of the Year award, in 2003. She was a starter for the Bruins all four years and finished top three in career his (395), top five in career runs (252), top ten in career batting average (.450) and top ten in career stolen bases (158). Watley holds the single season record for hits (112) and is currently ranked fourth in Pac- 10 history; as well as seventh on the all –time NCAA record books with 112 hits in a single season.

In Watley’s high school years, she was named second team Louisville Slugger All- American. She hit over .445 in her last three seasons of high school softball, in addition to stealing over 20 bases stolen each season.

Though, she was a superstar on the softball field, Watley managed to balance her education, and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and a minor in Afro- American Studies from UCLA. She received her Masters Degree in Business from Saint Leo University.
Currently Natasha Watley is playing professionally in Japan for Team Toyota, competing in the National Professional Fastpitch league with the USSSA Pride.

The Natasha Watley brand is expanding daily. Natasha runs many camps and clinics throughout the nation, has an instructional DVD on the market titled “The Art of Slapping”, and sponsors a 12U Team Watley, in Southern California. Watley is very concerned with the development of today’s youth and cares deeply for underprivileged children.

The Natasha Watley Foundation (NWF) is her newest expansion; which is a public, non profit, national community service organization. Watley uses NWF as a vehicle to help bring the sport of softball to young girls in the nation’s inner cities. The foundation provides an opportunity for young women to compete in leagues and on teams when financial resources are limited; and provides a positive alternative to the every day struggles they may endure in the inner cities.