Photo Credit: Jade Young
Over the past couple of years, many fans of dance have watched Michaela DePrince become a rising star in the ballet world. Daily, she is flooded with media inquiries, and is even considered a celebrity in some countries, but all the while she wonders why people want to know so much about her. Her journey to stardom certainly hasn’t been an easy one, but with all the negativity going on in the world, it’s refreshing to latch on to a remarkable success story such as this one.
Born in Sierra Leone during the country’s decade-long civil war, DePrince lost both of her parents at a very early age. In addition, she was born with vitiligo, which is a disease that causes patches of skin to lose color. This disease was considered a curse by the devil in Sierra Leone, and it caused her uncle to abandon her at an orphanage, and the women who ran the orphanage to call her the devil’s child. Just as she had lost hope though, she found a magazine that featured a ballerina en pointe on the cover. Immediately, DePrince became mesmerized and was determined to make a life for herself as a ballerina. Shortly after, she was adopted by an American family and became the eighth of their 11 children.
DePrince’s parents recognized her talents in the arts and enrolled her in ballet at Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre. She worked hard at her craft so she could overcome stereotypes of conventional beauty and racial barriers in the ballet world. During her ballet studies, she was featured in the documentary First Position, which profiled dancers who were competing in the Youth America Grand Prix, a ballet competition that got DePrince a scholarship to the American Ballet Theater School.
At a very early age, DePrince made her professional debut as a guest principal at the Joburg Ballet in South Africa. Then, Dancing with the Stars got wind of her story and had her perform on the show. Check out a clip of her performance. She went on to perform with the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s professional company at age 17, and at age 18, she joined the Dutch National Junior Company as a second-year member and apprentice to the main company.
Last year, at 21-years-old, DePrince had two years with the main company under her belt and was promoted to Grand Sujet for the Dutch National Ballet’s main company during the 2016-2017 ballet season. At the end of that year, she was then given the title of soloist. Outside of her work with her ballet company, DePrince also made a cameo in Beyonce’s “Lemonade” video.
In addition to her accomplished ballet career, DePrince is also a published author. She partnered with her mother to publish her memoir in 2014, which was a young adult book called “Taking Flight.” Then, she and her mother worked on a book for 6-8-year-olds called, “Ballerina Dreams.” Particularly, with “Ballerina Dreams,” DePrince hoped that children got the message to never give up on their dreams. To hear more about DePrince’s ballet career, and her time as an author, watch this interview she did with The Pool Uk.
Photo Credit: Glamour Magazine
Despite all of the media attention that DePrince receives, her number one focus is to be a successful ballerina. She strives to break down racial barriers and beauty stereotypes through her love of dance. “I’ve always wanted to prove people wrong, and that’s what drives me,” DePrince told the New York Times in 2015. It’s that attitude that makes DePrince such an amazing role model for up-and-coming ballerinas. She doesn’t let the color of her skin, or the spots on her skin, hold her back from chasing her dreams. “I don’t cover up my spots. I don’t try to hide who I am,” said DePrince to Elle Magazine in 2017 when she was interviewed for its Talking Body series.
When I think about DePrince’s journey, the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” comes to mind. Through escaping many hardships early in life, DePrince achieved at 22-years-old what most women hope to achieve in a lifetime. She’s comfortable in her own skin, she has a career she loves, and she’s confident in herself.