Swan - Michaela DePrince
Michaela DePrince is a rising star. She was born in war-torn Sierra Leone during the country’s decade-long civil war. Rebels killed her father, and shortly after her mother died of fever and starvation. Michaela had vitiligo, a disease that causes patches of skin to lose colour. In Michaela’s native land, vitiligo was considered a curse of the devil. Because of this, Michaela's uncle abandoned her at an orphanage. There, she was taunted and abused by the women who cared for the children. They called her the devil’s child.
One day in the orphanage, Michaela found a magazine. On the cover was a photograph of a beautiful ballerina en pointe. The picture gave Michaela hope and determination to one day become a ballerina. Soon afterwards, an American family adopted Michaela, and she became the eighth of their eleven children, nine of whom were adopted.
Michaela’s new parents recognized her love and talent for ballet. They enrolled her in ballet classes and supported her passion for the art. While attending the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre, Michaela worked hard to develop her skills so that she could overcome stereotypes of conventional beauty and racial barriers in the world of ballet.
After Michaela was featured in the ballet documentary, First Position, she debuted professionally as a guest principal at the Joburg Ballet in South Africa and appeared on Dancing with the Stars. At the age of seventeen, Michaela performed with Dance Theatre of Harlem. At eighteen she joined Dutch National Ballet, where she danced first in the Junior Company before joining the main company. After only two years, Michaela was promoted to the rank of Second Soloist.
In 2013 Michaela collaborated with her mother to write her memoir. This was published as the young adult book, TAKING FLIGHT by Knopf Books in 2014. Michaela’s memoir has been published under different titles in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Brazil, Japan, Korea, and Poland. Michaela also worked with her mother on BALLERINA DREAMS, a Random House Children’s Step-into-Reading book for young readers between the ages of six and eight years old.
Besides dancing, Michaela loves reaching out to disadvantaged young people, with whom she shares her message of hard work, perseverance and hope, in order to encourage them to strive for a dream. In 2016 she was named an Ambassador for War Child Netherlands. Michaela has been invited to deliver speeches at TED Talks and Google Talks. In 2016 she was invited by Beyoncé to appear in the ground-breaking video album, Lemonade.