You really need to read this NBC News story of Michaela DePrince, a professional ballerina with the prestigious Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam and “every day hero” with Jockey International. Her story starts in war-torn Sierra Leone where she was orphaned by the rebels who murdered her father and then the illness and starvation that killed her mother.
Living in the orphanage was a brutal existence where she was shunned and vilified by orphanage staff as “the Devil’s Child” because of a skin pigmentation condition called vitiligo. Life was incredibly hard and the children were numbered in order of favor with the staff, rather than called by name. When things got particularly hard, “Number 26” and Michaela, known then as “Number 27” would comfort each other and take punishments together rather than allow the other to suffer alone. Michaela, born Mabinty, found a magazine picture of a ballerina who looked beautiful and happy. She clung to that picture through her darkest nightmarish days at the orphanage with the dream that someday she would be as happy as that dancer appeared to be.
Eventually, a family from New Jersey was preparing to adopt “Number 26” (also named Mabinty at birth). When they were asked to choose one of the two girls named Mabinty, they decided to adopt both girls together. They had previously parented three adopted boys who all died of complications of AIDS so a skin condition like vitiligo didn’t feel daunting to them. Their new mother got them involved in dance soon after bringing them home, fulfilling a promise she had made when she arrived in Sierra Leone to adopt them. Michaela was hooked. It was incredibly hard work, with many difficult moments along the way as she came to terms with issues of racism, and her insecurities about her pigmentation condition. To call her an overcomer is an understatement.
Her rise to success and happiness has been one of sheer determination, hard work, and “will to succeed,” according to Dutch National Ballet’s Ballet Director Ted Brandsen. Before being hired by him, Michaela danced for the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City at only 17 years old – the youngest dancer in the company. She was also hand-picked by Beyonce to choreograph a dance solo for the “Freedom” video.
In April, DePrince was also named a new hero of Jockey International’s “Show ‘Em What’s Underneath, Show ‘Em Your Jockey” campaign.
#ShowEm honors everyday heroes who embody the spirit and values of Jockey and the characteristics that make them unique, like perseverance, courage, family and hope.
The entire story is so worth the time to read. The video is particularly moving. We hope you enjoy her story as much as we did!
Photo Credit: PRNewsfoto/Jockey