Orphan 27

Michaela DePrince’s former name was “Orphan 27” at her orphanage, where she was abandoned by her uncle based on the belief that she was cursed by the devil because of her skin condition, vitiligo.

The workers there told her, “Who would want to adopt a girl who looks like you?” Born in a remote village in Sierra Leone, she was orphaned when her father was killed by rebels and her mother died shortly after of fever and starvation. While in the orphanage, she saw a magazine photo of a ballerina en pointe and she was instantly mesmerized.

When she met her adoptive mother, Elaine DePrince, she gave her the magazine picture of the ballerina, and when her new parents took her back to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where she would become the eighth of their eleven children, her trek to ballerina stardom would begin in earnest.

Her parents recognized her skills and enrolled her in ballet classes. Later, Michaela attended the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre. In 2013, she collaborated with her mother to write her memoir, TAKING FLIGHT, which was published by Knopf. T

he book has been published under different titles in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Brazil, Japan, Korea, and Poland. Now 26, she is a soloist at Dutch National Ballet. 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.

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