17-year-old black ballerina Michaela DePrince defies racial stereotypes

Against all odds, Michaela DePrince, once an orphan in war-torn Sierra Leone, is now a ballerina. The 17-year-old has appeared on Dancing With The Stars and is  featured in First Position, a documentary that follows the pressures faced by six talented dancers as they compete for a spot in an elite dance company or school. DePrince is completing her last year at American Ballet Theatre’s prestigious Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York City and wants to bring more diversity to the ballet world. Teen Vogue has more on the story:

Pick an afternoon on any day of the week, and chances are you’ll find Michaela DePrince in front of a wall of mirrors. It’s not a vanity thing. “I personally hate them,” says the seventeen-year-old rising ballerina, “but they help me focus on every detail when I’m working on technique.” Whether she’s gliding across the floor en pointe in class at American Ballet Theatre’s prestigious Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York City or rehearsing for an upcoming gala performance, she perfects each movement through the looking glass.

Michaela landed a coveted spot in ABT’s preprofessional division in 2010 after making an appearance at the annual Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest student ballet competition—and a camera crew trailed her for an entire year leading up to the big event. She’s one of the stars of the new documentary First Position, which has won multiple awards on the film festival circuit. (For more information on the movie, visit balletdocumentary.com.) Released in select theaters in May, it follows six gifted young dancers who face immense pressure and fierce competition as they vie for a place in an elite ballet company or school. For Michaela, however, the journey to becoming a ballerina at the JKO School is about much more than just hard work and sacrifice; hers is truly an against-all-odds story.

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