Michelle DePrince is a well-known ballerina who has danced as a soloist with the Boston Ballet, been in music videos by Beyoncé and Madonna, and starred in the movie version of Coppelia. On the other hand, she didn’t come from a normal family. She lived in an orphanage as a child and was called “the devil’s child” because she had white spots on her skin from vitiligo. She then looked for Dance Magazine and found it.
She said, “I loved what I saw on the inside, but the dancer on the cover seemed so beautiful, elegant, and happy.” “As a result, the road I’m on now was paved.” I still keep a copy of the magazine in a safe place at home to remind me.”
Michaela DePrince, whose real name is Mabinty Bangura, was born in Sierra Leone on January 6, 1995. At the time, the country was in the middle of a civil war. Her father was killed by rebels, and not long after, her mother died of hunger. When she was three years old, her uncle left her in an orphanage.
The children were ranked from 1 to 27, with 1 being the most liked. DePrince was at number 27 on the list. “I didn’t get enough to eat, the best clothes, or the last choice of toys,” she said. “Because I was in the back, they didn’t care if I died or what happened to me.”
People thought that her vitiligo meant she was possessed by a bad spirit. Every day, they told me I wouldn’t be adopted because no one would want a devil’s child, she said.
DePrince and her favorite teacher walked home from school together one night, as they often did. As they got closer to the gate of the orphanage, three rebel troops passed by. DePrince said, “Two of them were drunk, and the third was a kid.” “I was inside while my teacher stood outside the gate.” When the two older rebels got there, they found out she was pregnant.
During the civil war in Sierra Leone, soldiers did bad things to pregnant women. Soldiers would cut open their stomachs to find out what the baby was going to be. If they found a boy, they would either let the woman go or kill the mother and save the baby. After cutting my teacher’s stomach open, they found a baby girl inside, so they cut off her arms and legs.” The younger soldier also stabbed DePrince in the stomach with a machete, perhaps to show off in front of the more experienced soldiers. She passed out, but just in time, someone helped her.
After this terrible thing happened, she found something that turned her life around. Someone threw away a copy of Dance Magazine. The woman on it was wearing a pretty pink tutu. I had never seen anything like that before. It was a beautiful outfit with glitter that stood out. I saw beauty, hope, love, and everything else that I didn’t have in that person. I said to myself, “Wow!” I want to be like this.
In the end, Charles and Elaine DePrince, an American couple who had already lost three children, took in Michaela DePrince. Elaine DePrince found out quickly that her daughter loved ballet. Michaela said that she had seen the movie “The Nutcracker” 150 times. She also told her mother when dancers got their steps wrong during a live show.
Michaela, who was only five years old at the time, was signed up at the Rock School of Dance in Philadelphia. She was still shy and self-conscious, though. She asked her teacher if her vitiligo would stop her from doing well, and her teacher told her that she hadn’t seen the pale spots because she was too busy watching her dance.
On the other hand, Michaela’s race turned into a bigger challenge. Elaine’s dance teacher told her that she didn’t want to spend “a lot of time and money” on Black dancers because they only get fat and have big thighs, so she almost stopped dancing.
But these comments made DePrince more determined.
I’m still trying to change how people see black dancers by showing them that they can be delicate dancers and ballerinas.
Millions of poor young people have been encouraged by Michaela DePrince to keep going, have hope, and dream big. She became an ambassador for War Child Holland, a non-profit group that helps kids around the world who are affected by war.
“Even if you’ve had a bad past and are going through a lot right now, if you have something you love that makes you happy, keeps you growing, and makes you want a good future, focus on that instead of the bad.”