Michelle DePrince is a well-known ballerina who has danced as a soloist with the Boston Ballet, appeared in music videos by Beyoncé and Madonna, and starred in the film adaptation of Coppelia. On the other hand, she came from an unlikely background. As a child, she was raised in an orphanage and called “the devil’s child” because of her vitiligo, a skin condition that left her with white spots. She then found a copy of Dance Magazine.
“I loved what I saw inside,” she said, “but the cover, the dancer, seemed so lovely, elegant, and happy.” “As a result, the path I’m on now was paved.” I still keep a copy of the magazine in a safe place at home, just to remember.”
On January 6, 1995, Michaela DePrince, whose real name is Mabinty Bangura, was born in Sierra Leone during the civil war. Her father was killed by rebels, and her mother died of famine shortly after. Her uncle abandoned her in an orphanage when she was three years old.
The children were ranked from one to twenty-seven, with one being the most favored child. DePrince was ranked number 27. She explained, “I didn’t get enough food, the best clothes or the last choice of toys.”. “They didn’t care if I died or whatever happened to me because I was in the back.”.
Vitiligo was interpreted as a sign that she was possessed by an evil spirit. Every day, they told me that I would not be adopted because no one would want a devil’s child,” she said.
Her favorite instructor and DePrince walked home from school one evening, as they often did. As they approached the orphanage’s gate, three rebel troops passed by. “Two of them were drunk, and the third was a youngster,” DePrince explained. “My teacher was standing outside the gate, while I was inside.” “When the two elder rebels arrived, they discovered she was pregnant.”
Pregnant women suffered at the hands of soldiers during Sierra Leone’s civil war. Soldiers would cut their stomachs open to check the gender of the fetus. If they found a boy, they would either let the woman leave or kill the mother and save the infant. Having ripped open my teacher’s stomach, they discovered a baby girl, so they severed her arms and legs.” Perhaps to impress the senior soldiers, the younger soldier also stabbed DePrince in the stomach with a machete. She passed out, but was rescued just in time.
After this heinous incident, she found something that changed the course of her life. An issue of Dance Magazine had been dumped. The lady who was on it was dressed in a pink, lovely tutu. I’d never seen anything like that before, a stunning outfit that stood out with glitter. I saw the beauty in that individual, as well as the hope, love, and everything else I lacked. I thought, ‘Wow!’ ‘This is who I want to be.
In the end, Michaela DePrince was adopted by Charles and Elaine DePrince, an American couple who had already lost three children. Elaine DePrince quickly found out about her daughter’s ballet addiction. Michaela remarked that she watched the Nutcracker movie 150 times. She also informed her mother when dancers missed their moves during a live performance.
Michaela, a five-year-old, was enrolled at the Rock School of Dance in Philadelphia as a result. She remained bashful and self-conscious, however. As she asked her teacher whether her vitiligo would prevent her from succeeding, she was told that she hadn’t noticed the pale spots because she had been so preoccupied watching her dance.
Michaela’s race, on the other hand, turned into a bigger challenge. An instructor told Elaine that she didn’t want to invest “a lot of time and money” in Black dancers because they only become obese and have large thighs, so she almost stopped dancing.
However, these comments bolstered DePrince’s resolve.
To show people that black dancers can be delicate dancers and ballerinas, I’m still trying to change the perception of black dancers.
Michaela DePrince has inspired millions of impoverished young people to persevere, hope, and dream big. She became an ambassador for War Child Holland, a non-profit organization that helps children affected by war around the world.
“Even if you’ve had a terrible past and are going through a lot now, if you have something you love and that makes you happy and gives you that feeling inside that keeps you growing and makes you want a great future, focus on that rather than the negative.”