Privilege is everywhere these days. Just turn to any reality TV show and no doubt you’ll be vicariously immersed in a world full of excess. A world where talent holds no value, and appearances are everything and more.
But what do you do if you don’t have the luxury of money, power, and privilege? What do you do if you are a 4‑year old girl living in an orphanage where the adults label you a “devil child” due to your Vitilgo?
The answer, for ballerina Michaela DePrince, was simple: grab hold of a dream and work tirelessly to make it a reality.
In this month’s issue of Glamour magazine, Deprince candidly recounts how she has gone from being a nameless girl,Orphan 27, from a remote orphanage in Sierra Leone, to where she is today: a 20 year-old member of the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam. In the trailer for her memoir, Taking Flight, Michaela reveals that there were 27 orphans and that they were numbered in order of favor. She was number 27 due to her skin condition. “Who would want to adopt a girl who looks like you?” The orphanage staff would tell her.
Deprince’s decision to become a ballerina happened much by chance. While she was still at the orphanage, she happened upon a magazine image of a ballerina en pointe, and she was instantly mesmerized. “The dancer looked beautiful and happy—that’s what caught my eye,” she recalled. “I wanted to be happy.”
When the adults at her orphanage would tell her she was too ugly to ever be chosen. Deprince recalls, “I guess I was a little sassy. Whenever people called me things, I would say, ‘I don’t care. I’m going to be someone.’” And she’s made good on that promise to herself. In truth, belief in herself was all she had when she met her adoptive mother. She handed her the magazine picture of the ballerina, and when her parents took her back to Cherry Hill, New Jersey her trek to ballerina stardom would begin in earnest.
By the time she was 14 she had starred in her first documentary, and this year MGM just acquired the film rights to her memoir, Taking Flight.
There is a reason stories like Michaela Deprince’s will never get old. Hers is more than a rags to riches story. Hers is a timeless story about the value in never giving up. Hers is a story about relying on talent and skill to triumph in a world where one’s value is often linked to Western standards of beauty. Deprince has never allowed the world’s view of her to shape her identity. Even at four years old, virtually alone in the world, she knew she was destined “to be someone,” and she never allowed that belief to waver. She is a testament to the power of perseverance, and we are honored to watch her star rise.
What do you all think of Michaela’s spread in this month’s Glamour Magazine?