Thursday, July 30, 2015

From Sierra Leone to Hollywood - 10 Things to Know About Ballerina Michaela DePrince's Inspiring Story

1. Michaela DePrince is one of the few black classical ballerinas in the world.

2.  She was born Mabinty Bangura in 1995, during the civil war that killed 50,000 people. At just three years old, her father was shot by rebels and she and her mother moved into the home of an uncle. That same uncle gave them so little food that her mother died of starvation.

3.  After her parents passed on, her uncle then deposited the child in an orphanage, where she became known as Number 27. At the she was totally mistreated and  frequently malnourished and derided as a "devil's child" because of vitiligo, skin condition causing depigmentation, she fled to a refugee camp after her orphanage was bombed.

4. Horrific violence was the norm each day, according to Michaela, who painfully remembers witnessing the brutal killing of the one teacher at the orphanage who cared for her. "She was pregnant, and the rebels, whom we called 'debils,' grabbed her as she left the school grounds. I squeezed through the rails of the gate and tried to go to her rescue, but I was very small and no help at all," she recalls. "The debils bet on whether her baby was a boy or girl. Then one of them slit her open, pulled out the baby and threw it away, and then cut off my teacher's arms and left her to die. For years afterward, I feared being chased by debils."

5. She and her best friend were adopted by an American couple when they were four. Her new mother Elaine saw that her daughter had an interest in dance and she enrolled five-year-old Michaela in the Rock School of Dance in Philadelphia, making the 45-minute drive from New Jersey every day.

6.At five feet four and a half inches, Michaela is shorter and more muscular than the "typical" ballerina, and a teacher once told her she didn't have the body to be a professional dancer—a common bias against black ballerinas. "Many people believe that black women shouldn't be ballet dancers, because they think we don't have classic ballet bodies," Michaela says

7. She rose to fame after starring in the documentary First Position in 2011, following her and other young ballet dancers as they prepared to compete at the Youth America Grand Prix.

8.   MGM has acquired the rights to DePrince’s memoir, “Taking Flight,” for a feature film.. "When I look back at all the things I've been through and everything I've accomplished," she says, "I realize, Wow, I am very blessed."

9. The 20 year old is now a ballerina in Amsterdam’s Dutch National Ballet - and she is the only dancer of African origin

10. "I’ve always wanted to be a role model, especially to young black girls," says DePrince, who has taught at schools in Brooklyn and South Africa. "I think I can inspire them to … just push and believe in yourself and become whatever you want. I’ve been through so much, but I was able to go forward to what I’ve always believed in."

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1 comment

  1. Wow!!! So inspiring. I'm not a dancer but I adore dancers, she at my age has achieved such a lot. I love her now.


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