Michaela DePrince, the girl who nearly starved to death in childhood but became a star when she grew up
Some stories deserve to be told and told over and over again. Like that of Michaela DePrince, a world-famous classical dancer but with a very difficult history behind her. She told her own story in the autobiographical book Now I Can Fly, a book that touched many people, including Madonna, which turned it into a movie.
"I was born in 1995 in Sierra Leone, in the middle of the war. At the age of four I lost my parents and my uncle chose to leave me in an orphanage. Because of a skin condition called Vitiligo I was called the 'Devil Girl' and I was very sad. One day the wind brought to the door of the orphanage a magazine with the photo of a ballerina. "She looked so happy that I promised myself that one day I would become a ballerina like her," says Michaela DePrince.
Born on January 6, 1995 in Sierra Leone, her first name was Mabinty Bangura. She lost her family, of Muslim origin, when she was still a child. Her father was killed by a group of revolutionaries when she was only three years old and her mother died of starvation shortly afterwards. Her three siblings also died as children.
Left in an orphanage by her uncle, in 1999 she was adopted along with another child named Mia by Elaine and Charles DePrince and flew with them to the United States, to begin a new life in Cherry Hill, New York. Jersey.
"After I moved to the United States, my mother enrolled me in a dance school to help me make my dream come true. I am now a Dutch National Ballet dancer. In 2014, 15 years after my adoption, my mom and I wrote my story together. The people I talk about in the book have played an important role in my life.
Although ballet is my passion and dream, it is not entirely true to say that it saved my life, not to mention the people who helped me save this life. I loved some of these people, I hated others. But if it were not for them, I would not be alive and I would not be a dancer either.
I must first remember my African mother, who loved me so much that she left me her food when we were starving. Then there was my bad uncle Abdullah. Although he hated me, he felt quite responsible for leaving me in an orphanage rather than selling me as a slave worker on a cocoa farm, or leaving me on the street and starving to death.
My American parents have dedicated their lives to their children. Thanks to their love I learned to live in America. And when my mom learned about my passion for ballet, she convinced my dad to help me. Thanks to their time, energy and savings, my dream has come true. "They encouraged and supported me during the difficult years of my career," says Michaela.
New life in the United States was not so simple. Michaela has actually shown how difficult it was for a girl of color to go on stage and dance. Only recently has she begun to no longer feel discriminated against as a dancer.
At the age of 8, on a scholarship to the American Ballet Theater School, she was told that she could never dance in The Nutcracker and that her parents were wasting money. However, the director of the Dutch National Ballet believed in her and her courage.
"Director Brandsen allowed me to wear brown tights in classic roles, knowing that ordinary pink socks are created to lengthen the bodies of white dancers, but to cut in between those of colored dancers. Also in London, where I danced the role of Myrtha to Giselle at the English National Ballet, director Tamara Rojo allowed me dark socks and shoes. "In some posts on the Internet I have been criticized for this, but only if we have good colored dancers in prominent roles, we will break the prejudices", she says today as a message to the art world.