Image Credit: today.com
In an industry filled with the stigma that you have to be a size 6, white skinned, blonde hair female to become a principle ballerina, Sierra Leonean born dancer, Michaela DePrince is defying all odds.
The black ballet dancer was awarded a scholarship to study at the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Ballet in 2012, following her performance at the Youth America Grand Prix.
Her career then escalated, and Deprice was one of the stars of the 2011 documentary film ‘First Position’, which follows six young dancers vying for a place in an elite ballet company.
Not only this, but in 2011 the talented dancer made her European debut, before joining the Dance Theatre of Harlem, where she was the youngest member of the company. However, despite the masses amount of success which is still ongoing, Michaela DePrince faces continuous discrimination, all due to the colour of her skin.
Born into a Muslim family, DePrince grew up in an orphanage in Sierra Leone during the civil war. Here, DePrince lost both her father and mother, at the age of three years old, and was often alluded to as the ‘devils child’, due to her skin condition vitiligo, which causes depigmentation.
The young starlet fled to a refugee camp after her orphanage was bombed, leading to her official adoption taking place in New Jersey, by Elaine and Charles DePrince.
It is important to consider how DePrince was not introduced to ballet yet was inspired by a magazine cover of a ballerina she found and kept while in Sierra Leone.
Whilst earning her high school Diploma, Michaela DePrince began the pursue of her childhood dream by embarking on ballet training. However, at the age of eight, despite having the rawest talent in her class, she was told she could not perform in the classical ballet ‘The Nutcracker’, because ‘America was not ready for a black girl ballerina’. Following this, a teacher told her mother that black dancers were not worth investing any money in.
However, her talent proved that this claim had no substance. In 2012, DePrince landed the Principal role: ‘The Sugar Plum Fairy’ in the ‘Nutcracker’, the same production that rejected her on the basis of her skin colour a few years prior. She then joined the ‘Dutch National Ballet’, where she was the only dancer of African origin.
Yet again, due to her immense talent, she became a soloist of this company, leading to people recognising her on an international scale.
Perhaps what makes Michaela’s story so inspiring is her background. In 2016 she announced she would become an ambassador of War Child, whom are committed to giving war children a future.
This signifies the growth of a Black child born into an orphanage, who faced constant racial discrimination, but who persevered and became one of the the most talented, inspiring ballerinas of the century.