Michaela Deprince

Michaela DePrince is a Sierra-American Ballet dancer and was born at the time of the Civil War of Sierra Leone in 1995. She was born in a Muslim family as Mabinty Bangura, but spent most of her life as an orphan because her Uncle left her at an orphanage after she lost her parents where her identity was reduced to a number. She was mistreated by the staff who saw her as the “devil’s child” because of her pigmented skin medically known as Vitiligo. They named the children after numbers from One to Twenty seven. One was the favourite child while Twenty Seven was given to those they did not like and Michaela was number Twenty Seven. The girls at the orphanage were encouraged not to play with her, but she found a friend and a confidante in another girl called Mabinty. She was disliked because she was left handed. She also gained the support of one of her teachers who made became a ray of hope for her as a young student. Michaela was distraught when she found out that her friend was going to be adopted because she knew that she would be left alone among cruel people, but Elaine and Charles DePrince, adopted both the girls and took them to the United States of America.

Michaela found a discarded magazine where she found a lady. In an interview by BBC World Service she said, “The lady was on her tippy- toes in this pink, beautiful tutu.” It was the kind of thing that she has never seen before and that’s when she decided that she wanted to be like her. Michaela began learning ballet at the age of five from the Rock School of Dance in Philadelphia. Even as a young child, she was conscious about the pigmentation and often covered her body in turtle necks and tights to hide it. Her African origin was another thing that stood in her way. People are unaware of the fact that there aren’t a lot of African soloists in ballet in the US. But she did not let the colour of her skin get in her way. At a young age, Michaela was awarded with a scholarship to study at the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Ballet. As an eight year old she was told that she couldn’t as Marie in The Nutcracker because the nation was not ready for a “Black” ballet dancer. A year later, a teacher told her mother that “Black dancers” were not worth spending on.

After beating the odds, Michaela managed to create a niche for herself as a young successful dancer and became an inspiration for every African-American girl. She showed the world that there is no obstacle than cannot be overcome with passion and hard work.