When Michaela DePrince’s mum got an email from Beyoncé, she forwarded it on to her daughter, but Michaela assumed it was a joke. After all, how many 21-year-olds are getting personal emails from Queen Bey herself?
Well, Michaela DePrince isn’t most 21-year-olds.
Any way you look at it, Michaela DePrince is kicking some serious ass right now.
But her success hasn’t come easy.
Michaela was born in Sierra Leone in 1995 during the brutal civil war. When she was three, both of her parents passed away, so she spent a year living in an orphanage before she was adopted by an American couple, where she became part of an enormous and encouraging family (she has ten siblings, eight of whom are also adopted. Michaela’s parents make the Jolie-Pitts look like a small family).
When she was in the orphanage, she remembers finding a magazine with a picture of a ballerina on the front. She didn’t yet know what a ballerina was, but he tucked the page under her shirt as something to cling onto; maybe one day she could be as happy as the woman in the magazine.
This image inspired her to take up dance, which led her to the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and then on to the Dutch National Ballet, where she is the only ballerina of African descent.
In a video she starred in for The Avant/Garde Diaries, Michaela explains:
When I was young, it was hard for me to express myself with language, so I expressed myself with dancing…dancing is what really helped me overcome the nightmares of the past.
Michaela has experienced racial discrimination throughout her career, from teachers telling her they don’t invest time in black dancers because of their body shapes (WHAT?!) to being told, when she was eight, she couldn’t play Marie in the Nutcracker, because “people weren’t ready for a black Marie.” Even the traditional pink and white tutu that is designed to blend into pale skin is a sticking point for Michaela, who has to dye her point shoes so they actually match her skin tone.
This would have been enough to put most people off dancing altogether, but DePrince isn’t the type of person to turn her back on her dreams.
Talking to Teen Vogue she said:
My life is proof that no matter what situation you’re in, as long as you have a supportive family, you can achieve anything.
And she’s right. Michaela is living proof that if you want it bad enough and work hard enough, anyone can dance with Beyoncé.
Michaela DePrince, you’re our Shero.