Changing the look of Ballet
Michaela DePrince was born in war-torn Sierra Leone during the country’s decade-long civil war. Rebels killed her father, and shortly after her mother died of fever and starvation. Michaela has vitiligo, a skin condition that causes patches of skin to lose its color. In Michaela’s native land vitiligo was considered a curse of the devil. This caused her uncle to abandon her at an orphanage.
Adopted by an American family, Michaela became the eighth of their eleven children, nine of whom were adopted. Inspired by a magazine cover of a ballerina she found and kept while in Sierra Leone, Michaela’s new parents recognized her talent for ballet. They enrolled her in ballet classes and supported her passion for the art. Michaela gained prominent recognition after being featured in the ballet documentary, First Position.
Michaela performed with the Dance Theatre of Harlem professional company. At eighteen she joined the Dutch National Junior Company as a second-year member and apprentice to the main company. Michaela is now ranked as a soloist at Dutch National Ballet.
DePrince had to overcome stereotypes, being told that she couldn't perform as Marie in The Nutcracker because "America's not ready for a black girl ballerina." In addition, a teacher once told her mother that black dancers weren't worth investing money in. In 2016, she performed in the "Hope" sequence of Beyoncé's Lemonade.
Michaela now reaches out to disadvantaged young people, to motivate and encourage them to strive for their dream. In 2016 she was named an Ambassador for War Child Netherlands. Her book, Taking Flight, collaborated with her mother is now destined to be turned into a movie.