The 24-year-old Sierra Leonean-American ballet dancer is one of very few black classical ballerinas in the world. She lost both of her parents when she was three years old. Her father was murdered in the country’s brutal civil war and her mother died from fever. She was then put in a shelter with 26 other children in her native Sierra Leone, where adults teased her that she was too ugly to ever be adopted, calling her “the devil child” because of her vitiligo (a skin condition that causes loss of pigment).
But DePrince always believed she was destined for more, telling Glamour Magazine, “I guess I was a little sassy. Whenever people called me things, I would say, ‘I don’t care. I’m going to be someone.’”
With her adoptive mother, Elaine DePrince, Michaela authored the book Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. Michaela has also been a goodwill ambassador with the Dutch organisation War Child, based in Amsterdam.