Originally named Mabinty Bangura, Michaela DePrince was an orphan born in Sierra Leone, West Africa on January 6, 1995. During her early years, her father was killed by the rebels during the civil war in Africa and her mother passed soon after. After her parents’ death, an uncle took the very young Michaela under his care. Eventually, her uncle gave her to an orphanage and never returned.
At the orphanage, she was neglected by her caregivers due to a skin condition called vitiligo, which caused patches of her skin to appear white. Due to her rare skin discoloring, the teachers at her orphanage thought she was cursed and called her “the devil’s child.”
In the orphanage, the children were numbered according to their teachers’ favoritism from number one to twenty-seven. Michaela, being “cursed,” was number twenty-seven, the least favorite. However, God had a different plan for her, giving her courage to continue on.
One day while she stood outside in front of the orphanage, a magazine blew into the orphanage’s fence. On the cover was a woman wearing a strange outfit balancing on the tips of her toes. She asked one of her favorite teachers what was on the cover and the teacher explained that the woman was doing ballet and that she was a ballerina. Taken by the ballerina’s smile and happiness, Michaela swore to herself that she would become a professional ballet dancer.
Despite her poverty and the fact she had no resources for formal ballet training, let alone good food, God paved a way. In America, a lady named Elaine DePrince had a desire to adopt a child from Africa. She planned on adopting Michaela’s best friend also named Mabinty. Because Michaela and her best friend had the same name, Mrs. DePrince decided to adopt them both. As soon as she could, Michaela showed her adopted mother her magazine and told her her dream about being a ballet dancer. Michaela was overwhelmed with joy when she was told by her mother that she would study ballet.
She started her ballet studies at the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. At the age of thirteen, she competed in the prestigious international ballet competition, the Youth American Grand Prix. Through this competition, she earned a scholarship to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre in New York City. After she graduated, she danced with New York City’s Dance Theater of Harlem, Dutch National Ballet’s Junior Company, and later the Dutch National Ballet Company.
During this time, she wrote her memoir in 2014 called Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. Michaela gives other war children opportunities by being an ambassador of War Child. Despite all the adversities she faced in her early childhood and life because of the way she looked, Michaela held onto her dream and accomplished it through God’s intervention. “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” Psalm 139:16.