All over the world, rules and standards are set for what is “right” and what is “pretty”. But that doesn’t mean that they have to be reasons to stop you from doing what you love. Today’s Girl Crush is dedicated to none other than the lovely Michaela DePrince.
Michaela DePrince was a war orphan from the country of Sierra Lyon. Her father was killed, and was taken by her uncle after her mother passed away…only to be left at the orphanage. As if being an orphan wasn’t a hard enough hurdle to go through in life, Michaela also had a skin disease called vitiligo. It is a well spread belief that those affected with vitiligo was thought to be the “devil’s child”. And for having this skin condition, Michaela was often shunned and left unadopted until the DePrince’s came along. (Source: Her Biography)
As a young mother, Elaine DePrince had a son who passed away at an early age. Before he passed away, he requested his parents to “please adopt an orphan from a war-torn country in Africa.” Tall order for a 7 year-old.
But he left his parents inspired as they did go to Africa to adopt a little girl. While there, their case worker had asked if they would consider adopting a girl additional to the one they were already going to meet. Apparently, this other girl would have trouble finding a family as her skin condition managed to chase others away. When asked what skin condition did this little girl have, the couple laughed. They too, had vitiligo (although it’s not quite as apparent on those with paler skin than those with darker skin), and soon adopted both girls. From hard beginnings, Michaela soon found a warm and welcoming family to be adopted to. (source: Vitiligo Voices)
Michaela DePrince now stands as a dancer as part of the Internationally known Dutch National Ballet, located in Amsterdam. From the time she started dancing, time and time again, she was told that “the world is not ready for a “black girl ballerina”", and that “black dancers weren’t worth investing in.” Despite not being the stereotype image of a ballerina (stick skinny and pale as snow), Michaela prevailed and is still dancing successfully today.
Check out this excerpt from her book, Taking Flight (pre-order here!)
Taking Flight: Exclusive Excerpt
When I awoke the next morning, the air was thick with orange dust. I could not even see the sun, and the force of the Harmattan wind almost knocked me over. Auntie Fatmata told us to stay inside, but I was sure that I heard my father’s voice carried by the wind. “Come with me, Mabinty Suma,” I said to my friend. “I want to walk to the gate to see if my father has come calling for me.”
“You are crazy, Mabinty Bangura. Your parents are dead, so how can your papa be at the gate?”
“But I never saw my papa’s dead body, and I hear his voice,” I insisted.
“That is just the wind calling,” Mabinty Suma scoffed.
I shook my head. “Maybe he didn’t die. Maybe he is alive, and he has come to visit me for my birthday,” I declared as I tugged at her arm.
Mabinty Suma rolled her eyes and whined, “If we go, Auntie Fatmata will be angry.”
“She won’t beat me. She’s afraid of me,” I reminded her.
“Ha! Well, she isn’t afraid of me. You are the witch child, not me, Mabinty Bangura.”
What my friend said was true, so I patted her shoulder and said, “You can stay here. I’m not afraid to go alone.” Then I pulled my T-shirt up over my nose and forced my way against the headwind. The particles of sand stung my skin like needles as I raced toward the gate.
I had run far when I heard Mabinty Suma coughing and calling my name. She was nearly invisible in the swirling clouds of dust. I retraced my steps to her, and hand in hand we headed for the gate.
We did not find my papa when we reached the gate. My heart sank as I watched long lines of strangers hurrying by. Men were pushing wheelbarrows filled with all their worldly goods. Women and girls with baskets of their belongings trailed behind them, babies inlapas clinging to their backs.
“Where are you going?” I called out to a girl about my age.
“The war has come to our town. We are running away from the debils. You should run away too,” she answered, and kept going.
I looked at Mabinty Suma and asked, “Should we run away?”
“How can we do that?” she asked. “We have no parents to protect us.”
I peered through the wrought-iron gate, hoping that someone would come to take me away. Just then I was slapped in the face. “Ugh! Trash!” I exclaimed, but it wasn’t trash at all. I had been attacked by the pages of a magazine. The magazine was stuck in the gate, exactly where my face had been. I reached my hand through and grabbed it.
It was filled with shiny pages printed with pictures of white people. I squinted to look at it, though I was nearly blinded by the dust.
I grabbed Mabinty Suma, and together we ran to the shelter of a tree. “Look! This is what white people look like,” I said as I held the fluttering magazine out to her.
“Why are they dressed so funny?” she asked, giggling as she held it inches away from her eyes.
I looked at the cover. A white lady was wearing a very short, glittering pink skirt that stuck out all around her. She also wore pink shoes that looked like the silk fabric I had once seen in the marketplace, and she was standing on the very tips of her toes. “Isn’t that a funny way to walk?” Mabinty Suma asked.
“Hmm, I think that she might be dancing,” I said.
“Dancing! On tippy-toe? It’s impossible to do that!” my friend exclaimed. “Oh no. I think that I could do it, if I tried hard enough,” I said. Then I leaped to my feet and stood on the tips of my naked toes. I dropped back to the soles of my feet, and I twirled around, full of joy, despite the wind that stung my face and blew into my open mouth.
“Someday I will dance on my toes like this lady. I will be happy too!” I shouted into the wind.
At that moment we heard Auntie Fatmata screaming for us to come back. “Hurry! Go. I’ll follow you,” I said. Then I quickly ripped the cover off of the magazine as the wind tried to tear it from my hands, and folded it in half, and in half again. I stuffed it into my underwear, the one item of clothing that I owned. I ran back to the building with the magazine flapping in my hand.
When I saw how angry Auntie Fatmata was, I said, “Look, Auntie Fatmata, I have a gift for you. It’s a white person’s magazine and it has many wonderful pictures.”
Ah, the look of confusion on her face was priceless. It must have been very difficult to allow the words Thank you, Number Twenty-Seven to spill from her lips.
Later I heard Auntie Fatmata complaining loudly to Auntie Sombo. “Number Twenty-Six and Number Twenty-Seven were down by the gate in all of this wind. Stupid girls. Don’t they know that nothing good ever comes of the Harmattan?”
I grinned behind my hands. Then I stood on my toes and tried to twirl around the room, nearly tripping over the legs of the other girls. “Ow! Oof! What are you doing, Mabinty Bangura? You are stepping on us,” Yeabu complained.
“I’m celebrating the Harmattan!” I exclaimed, giddy with excitement, knowing that some good does come from the Harmattan.
(Taken from TeenVogue)
Watch this lovely video her behind the scene shoot with Teen Vogue!