Japanese-born ballerina Misa Kuranaga has been a principal ballerina in the Boston Ballet since 2009 in spite of a physical build that would normally be considered unsuited to the art. In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, the ballerina opened up about her struggle making her presence known in the world of ballet and how she overcame what others perceived as limitations.

Kuranaga is the driving force behind luxury skincare brand SKII’s new campaign, which encourages women to “go beyond their DNA” and challenge the physical and cultural standards imposed upon them. As one of the shortest women currently performing with the Boston Ballet and the first Asian woman to ever become a principal dancer with the company, she’s a prime example of overcoming adversity to accomplish something incredible.

“I’m pretty petite – only 5’1 ¾. But I knew I wanted to be a ballerina since I was seven,” she told The Huffington Post.  “I never took other lessons, and my whole life was about ballet. I didn’t know anything besides ballet, and it was the only thing I loved.”

Like every ballerina, Kuranaga had to work hard from a young age to get to the major companies she’s performed with during her career. After beginning lessons in Osaka at the age of seven, she went on to compete across the globe as a teenager, train with the San Francisco Ballet and ultimately joined Boston Ballet in 2003, toiling for six years before becoming a principal dancer. With the average professional ballerina standing between five foot five and five foot seven, the odds were stacked against the young dancer going pro, a struggle she overcame using her own tenacity.

“I have a strong head,” she explained. “Even if I don’t have the most beautiful body for a dancer, I was lucky enough to have every part necessary. I’m able to use my whole body. I feel like I have the inner strength to work hard, and that is the quality that helped me become a ballerina.”

Boston Ballet’s next production is Val Caniparoli’s “Lady of the Camellias” and opens on February 26.

[h/t Huffington Post]