While the world is still celebrating Misty Copeland – the first ever African-American female to be promoted to principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre and Essence magazine’s latest cover girl, there is another special ballerina making waves.
20-year-old rising star, Michaela DePrince went from being an unwanted orphan with Vitiligo to happy & world-renowned ballerina.
The dancer with Dutch National Ballet was a Sierra Leonean orphan from a very young age after losing her father in the civil war and mother to fever. Because of her skin condition and status in life she was called “Devil Child” and was told she was too ugly to be adopted.
Speaking to Glamour magazine in a recent feature, she told them “But I guess I was a little sassy. Whenever people called me things, I would say, ‘I don’t care. I’m going to be someone.”“
Her statement came through one day when she was sitting outside the orphanage home and a magazine cover blew in her face. When she looked down at the cover it had a photo of a ballerina on it, en point and smiling. She told Glamour that “the dancer looked beautiful and happy — that’s what caught my eye. I wanted to be happy.“
So when she was finally adopted by her new mother – Elaine DePrince – the magazine cover was the first thing she handed to her.
After they moved to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Michaela was enrolled in dance class and realized how much love she had for dance, specifically ballet. However, she wasn’t done proving herself yet – she was constantly told she was too athletic to dance ballet and got turned down from many roles because of this and her dark skin. Even though her mother, Elaine, spent hours dyeing her clothes so they suited Michaela’s skin tone, it seemed even that was not enough.
She recalls “I put up a front that I was fine with being the only black girl or not getting a role. But it was very difficult.“
Today, at age 20, Michaela is not only a member of the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam but is also working towards being a role model for others through dance and other means. “Sometimes you just need to make a little ripple to open the doors for others.” “I still find it amazing how that magazine cover came at the perfect time, just as I was almost losing hope.“
She also met with the dancer who was on the magazine cover that motivated her for so long – Magali Messac – a French prima ballerina who has since retired. She commented on Michaela’s incredible story saying – “Michaela’s story—the magic of it, but equally the hard work and belief in her dream—is remarkable,” says Messac. “She will inspire other young girls to dream high and believe in themselves.“
So inspiring! Read the full feature on Micaela by Glamour Magazine here.
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