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Michaela DePrince (born 6 January 1995) is a Sierra Leonean-American ballet dancer. With her mother, Elaine DePrince, Michaela authored the book Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina.
Born Mabinty Bangura, she grew up as an orphan in Sierra Leone during the civil war. Her adoptive parents were told that her father was shot by rebels when she was three years old, and that her mother starved to death soon after. Frequently malnourished, mistreated, and derided as a "devil's child" because of vitiligo, a skin condition causing depigmentation, she fled to a refugee camp after her orphanage was bombed. In 1999, at age four, she and another girl, Mia, were adopted by Elaine and Charles DePrince from New Jersey, and taken to the United States. Due to intense ballet training, DePrince took online classes through Keystone National High School, where she earned her high school diploma.
Inspired by a picture she found and kept while in Sierra Leone, DePrince trained as a ballet dancer in the U.S, performing at the Youth America Grand Prix among other competitions. She pursued a professional career despite encountering instances of racial discrimination: aged eight, she was told that she couldn't perform as Marie in The Nutcracker because "America's not ready for a black girl ballerina", and a year later, a teacher told her mother that black dancers weren't worth investing money in. DePrince was one of the stars of the 2011 documentary film First Position, which follows six young dancers vying for a place in an elite ballet company or school, and performed on the TV show Dancing with the Stars.
In 2012, she graduated from the American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York, and joined theDance Theatre of Harlem. Her professional debut performance was in the role of Gulnare in Mzansi Productions and theSouth African Ballet Theatre's premiere of Le Corsaire on 19 July 2012.
In July 2013, she joined the junior company of the Dutch National Ballet, based in Amsterdam.In 2014 she joined the Dutch National Ballet as an éleve.
DePrince has cited Lauren Anderson, the first black American principal ballerina, as her role model.
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