Michaela DePrince is a well-known ballerina who has performed as a soloist with the Boston Ballet, appeared in music videos by Beyoncé and Madonna, and starred in the film adaptation of the ballet Coppelia. She, on the other hand, came from the most unlikely of backgrounds. She was raised in an orphanage and was dubbed “the devil’s child” due to her vitiligo, a skin disorder that left her with white blotches. Then she came across a copy of Dance Magazine.
“I loved what I saw inside,” she added, “but the cover, the dancer simply seemed so lovely, elegant, and happy.” “As a result, the route I’m on now was constructed.” I still have a copy of the magazine put away in a safe location in my house, just to remind me of where I came from.”
Michaela DePrince, whose real name is Mabinty Bangura, was born in Sierra Leone during the civil war on January 6, 1995. Her father was killed by rebels, and her mother died of famine not long after. When she was three years old, her uncle abandoned her in an orphanage.
The children were ranked from one to twenty-seven, with one being the favored child who receives the most special treatment. DePrince was ranked number 27 on the list. “I didn’t get enough food, the best clothes, the last choice of toys,” she explained. “They didn’t care if I died or whatever happened to me because I was in the rear.”
Her vitiligo was interpreted as a sign that she was possessed by an evil spirit. “They mistook me for a devil’s child.” Every day, they informed me that I wouldn’t be adopted because no one would want a devil’s child,” she added.
DePrince and her favorite instructor walked home from school one evening, as they often did. Three rebel troops passed by just as they approached the orphanage’s gate. “Two of them were inebriated, and the third was a small youngster,” DePrince explained. “My teacher was standing outside the gate, while I remained inside.” “When the two elder rebels arrived, they discovered she was pregnant.”
Civilians, particularly pregnant women, suffered at the hands of soldiers during Sierra Leone’s civil conflict. Soldiers would cut their stomachs open to check the fetus’s gender. “They would either let the woman leave or kill the mother and save the infant if they found a boy,” DePrince adds. “However, when they ripped my teacher’s stomach open, 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 retrieved just in time.
She found something that changed the path of her life shortly after this heinous occurrence. It was a Dance Magazine issue that had been dumped. “There was a lady on it, she was on her tippy-toes, dressed in a pink, lovely tutu.” I’d never seen anything like that before, an outfit that stood out with glitter and was simply stunning. I could see the beauty in that individual, as well as the hope and love, and everything else that I lacked. And all I could think was, ‘Wow!’ ‘This is who I aspire to be.’
Michaela DePrince was later adopted by Charles and Elaine DePrince, an American couple who had already lost three children. Her new mother quickly learnt about her daughter’s ballet addiction. Michaela remarked, “We found a Nutcracker movie and I watched it 150 times.” She also informed her mother when dancers missed their moves during a live performance.
As a result, Elaine enrolled Michaela, a five-year-old, at the Rock School of Dance in Philadelphia. However, she remained bashful and self-conscious about her skin. When she asked her teacher if her vitiligo would prevent her from succeeding, she was told that she hadn’t seen the pale spots on her skin since she was so preoccupied with watching her dance.
Michaela’s race, on the other hand, became a bigger challenge. When she was ten, an instructor informed Elaine that she didn’t like to invest “a lot of time and money into the Black dancers because they only get obese and get huge boobs and large thighs,” so she almost stopped dancing.
But DePrince’s resolve was bolstered by these comments.
“I’m still trying to shift people’s perceptions about black dancers, to show them that we can be delicate dancers and ballerinas.”
Millions of impoverished young people have been inspired by Michaela DePrince, who inspires them to endure, hope, and dream big. She became an ambassador for War Child Holland, a non-profit organization that aids children affected by conflict around the world.
“Even if you have a terrible past and have been through a lot and are still going through a lot, if you have something that you love and that makes you happy and that gives you that feeling inside to keep growing up and that makes you want to have a good future, you should focus on that rather than the negative.”