Michaela DePrince: Ballerina Dances Out of War-Torn Childhood

As a toddler, Michaela DePrince, was ranked “number 27” — the lowest, the worst of the children in her orphanage in Sierra Leone. “So, I got the least amount of food, the least amount of clothes and what not,” she explained to the Associated Press. DePrince lost both of her parents in the West African nation’s decades-long civil war which claimed the lives of an estimated 60,000 people. She was born with vitiligo, a skin disorder that causes uneven pigmentation, and was taunted by the other kids as “the devil’s child.” Fourteen years later, she is considered one of the most promising teenage ballet dancers in the United States. Recently graduated from the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, the 17-year-old debuts professionally on July 20, as a guest artist of the South African Ballet Theater and the South Africa Msanzi Ballet performing in ‘Le Corsaire.’

DePrince recalls her early childhood as a time of “terrible” hardship. The one thing that gave her hope was a picture of a ballerina from a magazine that blew over the orphanage walls, which she hid under her clothing. Though she had no context for the image, she says, “I remember she looked really, really happy,” and DePrince longed “to become this exact person.” She also imagined that all Americans walked on tip toes.

Watch: Ballet Theater of Harlem

After a year in the orphanage, DePrince had to flee barefoot when it was threatened with bomb attacks. She was only four-years-old. She ended up in a Ghanaian refugee camp, where she met an American volunteer, Elaine DePrince, who would become her adopted mother. “Michaela arrived with the worst case of tonsillitis, fever, mononucleosis, and joints that were swollen,” remembers Elaine. She was also suffering from trauma. “I have a lot of bad memories,” the young dancer told theGuardian UK in a recent interview. “I remember losing my family, I remember seeing a lot of rebels killing people that I knew. It was disgusting and just revolting.”

Although it took her years to fully recover, Michaela says, “Dance helped me a lot. I had a lot of nightmares.” However, DePrince had to overcome even more than physical and psychological damage to become a professional ballet dancer in the United States. Rehearsing for ‘The Nutcracker‘ when she was eight-years-old, a teacher told her “I’m sorry, you can’t do it. America’s not ready for a black girl as Marie.” She refused to let it hold her back. “If you enjoy my dancing, why should my skin color or body type bother you?” she told the NY Post. Dirk Badenhorst, CEO South Africa Mzansi Ballet, concurs: “Brilliance is colorblind and it really is proved by Michaela.”

DePrince hopes her story will inspire other young people to follow their dreams no matter how distant they seem. “I would like to change the way people see black dancers,” she says. “I just want to be a great role model for kids.”

article by Sarah B. Weir, Yahoo! blogger | Work + Money

4 thoughts on “Michaela DePrince: Ballerina Dances Out of War-Torn Childhood”

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  2. Toronto’s Medi Cal Officer of Health is advocating the city ban electronic
    cigarettes smoking is prohibited if Queen’s Park does
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    “There are possible health hazards associated with exposure to second hand vapour,” says a report to bbe contemplated by the Boaard of Health at its meeting next
    Electronic cigarettes, known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated occasionally
    the look and taste and devices that mimic the
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    The report states Toronto public-health reviewed “accessible evidence on e-cigarette use, safety,
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    Dr. David McKeown, the city’s Medical Officer oof Health, is recommending the province amend its Smoke Free Ontario Act to include a prohibition on electronic cigarettes wherever cigarette use is now prohibited in Ontario.
    “If provincial action isn’t taken by February 2015, the Medi Cal Officer of Health will consult with the city solicitor, other town divisions and applicable
    stakeholders and report to the Board of Health on municipal measures to prohibit e-cigarette use where smoking is prohibited under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act or town by laws.”
    Meanwhile, the Medi Cal Officer of Health works with the ciy manager to explore the development of an inyerior plaan prohibition e-cigarette use in city workplaces, the report states.
    James Long, a clinical forensic psychologist and part owner of a Mississauga-based e cigarette business, says he comprehends McKeown’s careful strategy as the city’s chief medi ccal officer.
    Yet, Long sfates he’s seen no evidence thazt there is a ban necessary.
    “Cigarette create some odour, but Long’m not aware of any noxious results,” thee 8 9-year-old said Monday.
    Though 26-year-old e-cigarette user Nicole Rogerson says shee understands McKeown’s justification, she believes policy makers have to recognize that there aren’t any health concerns connected with e cigarette smoking.
    “Long’re just giving off exactly the same vapour as clubs use in their smoke machines,” Rogerson says. “I understand it is not unhealthy.
    It’s maybe not setting any toxins in-the-air, like smoking a cigarette would.”
    Longg said he has noticed after transferring to cigarette many individuals stop smoking.
    Heath Canada has refused to approve import or the sale of fluid refills or devices containing nicotine.
    But the e-cigarettes themselves aree widely accessible, maybe because specialists say if they’re sold without nicotine they fasll into a gtey area. (McKeown caan akso be recommending thhe federal government to amend legislation to better contyrol cigarette is asked by the board.)
    Nevertheless, many pros say they’re much sqfer than their tobacco options.
    Municipalities across Ontario have concentrated their coverage positions on cigarette by pressing the provincial and federal governments to regulate their production, sale, promo and exhibit, the board of healh report says.
    The Torongo Transit Commission bard is expected to consider amending their smoking by-law to forbid electronic cigarette usse on TTC hohse this fall, the report says.
    With files from Tara Deschamps, Joe Corridor and Rob Ferguson
    Earl Reyes tried from a large collection of “juices,” the expression utilized for electronic cigarette liquids, acccessible at a Saskatoon store.

    The storfe is part of a growing trend of electronic cigarette shops popping up across the nation and opened in September. Now, as many as 400.

    In less thwn a year, Vapor Jedi proprietor Mitch Tarala stated his business haas grown tenfold. He figures his businsss is among tthe three largerst prodfucers of the liquids in Canada.

    Earl Reyes samples from a large assortment of “juices” accessible at a Saskatoon shop. (CBC)

    The wholesale juices — which come in flavours tto root beer from bunble gum to apple-pie — of vapor Jedi are shipped to retailers across the region.

    “The growth that we’ve seen in the span has been overpowering,” he said. “I never anticipated it to be quite so active.
    it’s been almost hard sometimes to deal with how active it’s gotten.”

    Heath concerns

    “Vaping,” as electronic cigarette smoking is commonly called, has it’s own subculture annd is pulling a devooted community. The vaping industry still unmclear what the rules are about selling the goods, while itt is booming.

    Helth Canada said that promoting this fluiud is illegal and that approval has never been received by e-cigarettes. Butt the ggovernment isn’t clamping down on anyone attempting to sell the goods.

    The Canadian Cancer Society states that Healtfh Canada needs to clarify the guidelines.

    The Vapor Jedi in Saskatoon is one among the biggest companies of the liquids. (CBC)

    “We’d like these goods never to be used in areas where smoking
    is not permitted — workplaces and public spaces.
    We think the flavours, candy and fruit flavours, should be banned from the products.
    That is really enticing to children.”

    She added that even without better clarity, smoking or vaping something is a poor notion.

    “If you’re not smoking, if you’ve never smoked, do not begin whether it’s
    electronic cigarettes or tobacco, first and foremost,” sshe said.

    Replay thhe live chat below, or if you’d ljke to weigh in, leave your thoughts in the opinion section.

    While chatting, tune into Saskatoon Morning on 94.1 FM with host Leisha Grebinski.
    Charlebois needs the ale of cigarette to miinors prohibited. She also desires to apply precisely the same rules too e-cigarettes ass to real smopkes under the Tobacco Act — meaning individuals wouldn’t hage the ability to use e-cigarettes freely in public places.

    Andre Beaulieu, spokesman said it’s about time.

    E-cigarettes could save countless countless lives, scientists tell WHO
    Cigarette boost smokers’ cease successes
    “We simply issued numbers two days ago showing kids in high schools and even at
    degree 6 in primary schools are using the product,” Beaulieu stated. “Only in elementary
    school, themselves estimate that 5,000 children…
    have currently tried the project and that 142,000 high school students have attempted cigarette in the

    And tgese are onlly Quebec data.

    Beaulieu said e-cigarettes are promoted as a secure alternative to smoking, and it is that understanding of safety which is causing young individuals who would never smoke, to smoke.

    “We’re renormalizing the action of smoke,” Beaulieu stated. “Themselves want to prevent a fresh generation of smokers.”

    Grey zone that is legal

    Now, cigarette usually are not authorized available in Canada — but thy are not illegal. Electronic cigarette products including goods or nicotine that make health claims, nevertheless, are.

    ‘We’re r e-normalizing the act of smoking.’
    – Andre Beaulieu, Canadian Cancer Society
    Beaulieu of the Canadian Cancer Society said a recent research conducted with the College of Montreal demonstrated that even e-liquids offered and advertised as nicotine-free really contained the addictive material.

    However, Health Canada is not clamping down on anhone promoting the goods.

    Julien-Pierre Maltais is e-cigarette boutique Vaporus’ manager, on St Denis Street.

    He said that even though there is currently no legislation about not maketing to minors, his store has caused it to be a plan to card anyone who appears under 25.

    As a moral factor we’d never promote to anybody under 18,although there’s no legislation that forbids us from performig that. Matter fact, wwe adheree to kind of the same rule as corner sores will, so if someone seems younger than a 25-year old we’ll unquestionably card them,”
    he said.

    He does not accelt the roposition too prohibit electronic
    cigarette use, or “vaping,” iin the same areas regular smoking is prohibited

    When iit comes to companies that are independently owned Maltais said, it should be up
    to each proprietor to decide whether to let e-cigarette use on premises.

    More Affordable, less hazardous choice

    Maltais additionally made tthe point that utilizing an electronic
    cigarette is noot more expensive than smoking. Maltais estimated that a pack-a-day smoker who changed
    to an electronic cigarette would spend about $20 every
    two months on good quality e-liquids, instead than about $10 a day on cigarettes.

    Stydies demnstrate there aare no carcinoggens in e-cigarette vapour, Maltais stated, and that is why several doctors sdnd
    their patients looking to stop smoking to retail
    stores like Vaporus.

    “Nicotine doesn’t give you cancer, it offers you addiction,” he
    said. “So, folks smoke for the nicoderm cq but they perish from the combustion.”
    The Toronto Board of Health is meeting to discuss a ban on electronic cigarettes,
    which would forbid their use in places where cigarettes are
    Themselves include a soluton that’s vapourized when an individual inhsles
    and not cool.
    The non-nicotine products aare pretty new, thereflre health hazards are not clear.
    However, Toronto Public Health’s Dr. Barbara Yaffe sayss the cigarette are frequently
    mentioned as a gateway to smoking for adolescents.

    City-wide cgarette baan is recommended by Toronto’s
    medical officer
    Flavoured e-cigarette mzkers of targeting youth accused
    Ecig prohibit considered in Toronto
    A smoker prresents an electronic cigarette in Wichita Falls, TX, Jan. 17, 2014.
    (Wichita Falls Times Record News, Torin Halsey)
    “Themselves are worried about re normalization of smoking. It’s taken a very long time to get where themselves are at, and we do n’t need to go backwards,”Yaffe
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    A report composed bby Toronto Medocal Ofticer oof Health David McKeown,
    which advocates that the city ban the use off e-cigarettes in puublic places will be
    examined by tPH. McKeown also urges prohibiting the sale oof
    electronic cigarette products that are flagoured and banning electronic cigarette displays in stores.

    The report stated that there were potential hazards linked with exposure to second-hand vapour,
    andd severe harms could be caused by treatment of the liquid solutions.

    Though the health hazards of the battery-powered apparatus are unknown, use is sky rocketing across thhe
    country because here presently are no-rules.

    Currently,e cigarettes that contain nicotine, or that claim
    they can help users qut smoking, are controlled
    under the federal Food and Drugs Act.
    Those without health or nicotine -related claims advertised, can be importerd and sold across Canada
    without restrictions.
    “The public-health community continues to be expressing more and more anxiety and we sense we need to advocate for more activity before the situation becomes more severe,” Yaffe said.

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